Hot coals and štruklji in Hobart
Ana Roš and The Agrarian Kitchen's winter feast at this year's Dark Mofo
Hobart is one of the great food destinations of Australia. Not only producing some of the most delicious produce and wines, the winter solstice brings big food, art and culture vibes.
“Tasmania is beautiful, it has so much to give and Dark Mofo gives to the darkness of the winter, I find it all incredibly intelligent and welcoming,” says Ana Roš of Slovenia's Hisa Franko. Dark Mofo is the uniquely wild and wonderful 'off season' festival in Hobart created by Mona (Museum of Old and New Art). The festival delves into centuries-old winter solstice rituals, celebrating the dark through large-scale interactive art, music, fire and spectacular light shows throughout the city.
And then there's the winter feast, which Roš headlined this year alongside Rodney Dunn and Stephen Peak of The Agrarian Kitchen with Slovenian-inspired dishes created with uniquely Tasmanian ingredients. A self-taught chef, Roš was in international diplomat in a past life, as well as a national Alpine sports champion, and who speaks seven languages coincedentally. She abandoned the diplomatic career when she met ex-partner Valter Kramar who had a little place in countryside Slovenia, where she took over the kitchen of Hisa Franko, and she learnt how to express her creativity through cooking.
Roš was discovered by the French-Italian food writer, Andrea Petrini who fell in love with her spontaneity and natural expression, and after an appearance on Netflix' Chef’s Table in 2016, the following year she was crowned in Melbourne as the best female chef in the world at the World's 50 Best, and Hisa Franko made it into the top 50 restaurants. Downtown from Hisa Franko in the centre of the village of Kubarid in the Soča Valley with a population of 1000 is Hisa Palonka, the smaller sibling restaurant and inn Roš opened with ex-partner Kramer, both whom share the philiosophy for biodynamic wine, cheese and local producers. It is there that they serve traditional Slovenian cuisine like frica and štruklji.
Light displays and the banquet hall at Dark Mofo (top), The Agrarian Kitchen's lamb on the spit as part of the Winter Feast.
At winter feast Roš cooks the štruklji as it is a dish she knows you can only find in Kubarid. It's not too sweet, sometimes it is served as a side dish traditionally with sausage and saurkraut. The indentation of the fingerprint is the markings of the maker. No one štruklji is the same as the other. "The dough is simple once you understand the flours, the protein level of the flours is different from country to country," says Roš. "We tested the flour in Tasmania to get to the right one. You need a flour which would not develop enough gluten but have enough elasticity, the right amount of flour and boiling water, too." Unlike Chinese dumplings, štruklji it needs to have a bit of bite. And this Slovenian staple is the perfect salty-sweet and winter dessert. Stsrting from scratch with local ingredients, Roš adapted the recipe by leaving the walnuts a bit more grounded, and used Tasmanian honey instead of sugar.
The štruklji (Slovenian dumplings) Roš created for the feast. Ana Roš and Rodney Dunn in The Agrarian Kitchen garden (below).
Dunn and Peak ferment and pickle an abundance from their own garden and local producers, as well as make their own cheese and salumi. They use local grains and milled flours for their bread and in turn for Roš' dumpling dough. Everything they do in New Norfolk is locally produced or grown themselves for the Agrarian Kitchen restaurant and cooking school.
Part of the pop-up restaurant centres around a giant rotisserie, where Lyndall lamb slowly pivots over coals all day before the dark sets in and the crowds appear - the lamb from Lake Meadowbank in the Derwent Valley, right nearby is served with braised whole grains, alongside hibachi-roasted delicata squash from their garden. "We sell so many stories behind the reality," says Roš. "With Stephen and Rodney, it's clear that whatever they say they do, they do. Cooking with fire, from the garden and from local producers - they stick to their story." It may be a year until the incredible winter feast returns, but when it is back you can count on it evoking more dark magic.
Photography Eatable. Light display photography courtesy of Dark Lab.