collaboration

Ferment on this by Jess Miller

Miso tastes bloody awesome and is pretty darn good for you too, it’s all about the ferment. Fermenting is so hot right now.

The other thing that is always hot in my book is collaboration, it makes things work…mostly. 

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It also makes things more fun when you can throw ideas around, watch someone with skills and toys you don’t have throw their creative flair into the mix and see what bubbles to the top. The food scene in Tasmania is ripe with great people who have chosen to live here because we have the space and a growing culture of collaboration to do things a bit differently. 

So where am i going with this whole ferment and collaboration? Insect garums.

Late last year I was invited to a food innovators briefing at Enterprise Tasmania presented by two people I’m lucky to have as collaborators and mentors in Dr Tom Lewis (RDS Partners) and Kim Seagram (Stillwater Restaurant, Abel Gin Tas Black Cow Bistro *overachiever). They are steering FermenTasmania and the Northern Tasmania food hub project. I turned up knowing the content would be brilliant, but not sure who else would be in the room. Fully expecting that awkward networking around the drinks table doing introductions.

Thankfully awkward is not how the evening went. Tom and Kim hosted the event like pros and introduced folks to each other with a stirling overviews of what we were all up to. It is from that introduction I started talking with Meagan and Chris DeBonno of Meru Miso about what happens when you ferment insects. Which led to how could we get some trials going where i supply the bugs and add the culture, the 3-6 months of brewing time and the tech to try out Tasmania’s first insect garum.

Insect garam is not a stock standard kitchen habit just yet. Or something that frequents the menu of Tasmanian restaurants, just yet. Lars Williams of the NOMA Nordic Food Lab fame started experimenting with it and sharing his results in 2009 using grasshoppers. HIs recipe and tasting notes are worth checking both online and in the sumptuously laid out ‘On Eating Insects. Essays, stories and recipes’ from the NOMA chefs. 

Seriously the pics are next level and their politics and practical myth busting about insects being the food source that can feed and save the world are timely. I digress; bringing it back to Tasmania, and collaborations. 

After a few conversations with Chris about our joint lack of practical knowledge in creating insect garums we went off and did a bit of research. I did a bit of bespoke insect rearing for garum goodies, and then in late December 2017 delivered a couple of kilos of mealworms and wood roaches to begin the trials. No crickets in this consignment as we had a feature event earlier in the month which had us down to breeding stock. Early this year we can start the cricket garum trials.

Where does this story lead? Not that far at this point, as it takes 3-6 months to allow the fermenting to do its work. To gauge how the ferments are going and then by June/July we will have matured samples to see if the umami is righ, and if the garum is go.

Who knows, by end of this year we could have Tasmanian insect garum as a feature of the Meru Miso range. There’s a bit of learning and tweaking to do before that point though.

Onwards and upwards with finding new ways to create foods #TassieStyle