Autumn is the season that is often the most overlooked. Most people have a preference for Summer or Winter, while Spring is celebrated as the season of rebirth and new beginnings. Autumn is not usually revered with the same gusto as the other seasons though. It’s a pity, because Autumn truly is a beautiful season! The hot days and nights are starting to cool down, and with Australia’s scorching summers, this is usually a relief to everyone. For photographers and sightseers, the golden-red hues of fallen leaves and the crisp blue sky make spectacular scenic backdrops around our beautiful country.
Due to the cooler weather and picturesque countryside, Autumn is the ideal time to get out of the CBD to explore your local attractions, and on the Canberra region’s list of ‘must-do’ attractions is the beautiful Pialligo Estate winery and farm. Pialligo Estate has been designed to take full advantage of the surrounding nature and this means that wherever you are on the Estate, you’ll be blessed with views that will take your breath away. For instance, the Pialligo Estate Garden Pavilions are open-sided so that the spectacular views of the surrounding farmland, vineyards, the Olive Grove and Canberra’s distant skyline can be seen from a comfortable, climate-controlled dining area.
Pialligo Estate boasts more than just amazing views though; for instance, their chef-prepared food is simply phenomenal! With their Autumn menu now available, the kitchen uses seasonal produce picked straight from the Estate’s gardens, their own hand-cured meats, local fresh fish, cheeses and eggs, as well as a selection of wines produced at the Estate and beyond, that perfectly complement their wood-fired dishes. To celebrate the Autumn Menu, we spoke to Darren Perryman – Pialligo Estate’s executive chef – to find out about his role and his love of good food:
1) Hi Darren, you’ve been executive chef for Pialligo Estate since 2016. With full access to the Estate’s huge gardens full of fresh produce, I’m guessing it’s a chef’s dream job! Given your selection, what do you consider the best garden produce to work with in the kitchen and why?
That’s a hard question to answer as we have so many wonderful items in the garden to choose from, especially over the past few months. One of my many favourites would be Zucchini Flowers. We pick them very early in the morning while the flowers are wide open. There is a huge difference between the shop-bought flowers and those picked fresh from the garden. If you grow them at home, I encourage you to pick some nice and early, while the bees are buzzing around them. Pick those with fruit that’s not too big, but big enough to have the flavour of the zucchini. Some more favourites would be the endless supply of fresh figs – 3 different varieties – and the large beautiful quinces that come from the orchard.
2) Do you get much of a say in what’s planted at the Estate?
I have a huge say in what we plant in the market garden. John (our head gardener) and I have weekly meetings to discuss what’s going to be ready for harvest and what we are planning menu-wise, so that the planting can reflect that. I also have the wonderful pleasure of being down in the garden every day, checking the produce and being able to harvest when we want to. Pick in the morning, serve at lunch time.
3) Which dish from the Autumn menu do you enjoy preparing the most?
There are so many great dishes on our Autumn/ Winter menu that its hard to choose, but if I could choose two (I know that’s a little cheeky) they would be:
- Slow Braised Organic Brisket, Shitaki Broth
- Pialligo Estate Hot Smoked Trout Salad, grapefruit and Avocado
Both of these dishes use quite a lot of produce from the garden
4) And which dish would you recommend to visitors?
Our Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder or Wood Grilled Chicken
5) I’ve heard you grew up foraging in the woodlands of northwest UK with your grandmother – that’s an amazing skill to learn as a young man. How has this experience influenced your cooking?
Yes, I was very lucky as a boy to have a grandmother that was a great cook. We lived in a semi-rural setting where mushrooms grew in fields and berries, wild garlic and nettles were plentiful. It sure gave me a passion for cooking, gave me a love for harvesting and an appreciation for freshness. I don’t think I realised at the time, but it’s ingrained in my blood. I now do the same thing with my son, who just loves to cook. We are out on the farm regularly and foraging is a huge part of those days.
6) Do you currently use any unusual or uncommon foraged ingredients in your cooking?
Not really unusual; however, there is a natural spring on the farm and we pick a lot of wild peppery watercress that grows in abundance in the crisp, clean water.
7) The Pialligo Estate kitchen produces foods that are designed to beautifully complement the wines on offer – how do you achieve this, in a nutshell?
It’s very easy to make this happen when you have a wonderfully talented sommelier (Pialligo Estate’s Freddie Raimbaud) on site, who also has a great food palate.
8) Is there anything else you’d like to add about working at Pialligo Estate?
Only that Pialligo is a wonderful place to work. My skillset and intellect are challenged on a daily basis, and I am very lucky to be the Executive Chef.
The delicious Pialligo Estate Autumn menu can be viewed online by clicking HERE. If you’d like to experience the joy of dining at the Estate, you can make a booking by clicking HERE, or by calling (02) 6247 6060.
What’s your favourite dish on the Pialligo Estate Autumn menu? Comment below to let us know.