australiacooksFor our Graze section in this special launch edition, we’ve chosen to celebrate two local contributors to national recipe book “Australia Cooks”. 

Boree Creek’s Amanda and Graham Strong highlight the exceptional eating qualities of saltbush lamb grown on natural pastures at their property “Oakdale” and how other local ingredients were also used to create a sophisticated dish sure to become a family favourite. 

Australia has been renowned for its quality sheep meat industry, and for Arcadia Saltbush Lamb producers Graham and Amanda Strong of Boree Creek in the southern Riverina region, they have chosen to deviate from the trend of predominantly dryland cropping operations of their district to concentrate on running their flocks on pastures that include Old Man Saltbush and Acacia shrubs.

They say the saltbush plants covering 400 hectares, grow well in their natural environment, and provides drought tolerant foliage. Meat produced from animals run on saltbush has great tenderness, moisture retention, a subtle flavour, and a clean non-greasy fat profile.

As their motto suggests – natural, happy, delicious.

It was her passion for cooking, entertaining and experimenting with using different cuts of lamb and produce from her abundant farmyard orchard, that initially influenced Amanda Strong to develop her recipe using this high quality meat – Saltbush Lamb Rack with Pistachio, Apricot, Orange and Sage Crust.

After having created the recipe originally for a winter solstice meal, Amanda has been excited about the opportunity to showcase local produce through the “Australia Cooks” publication.

The other ingredients in the recipe – Harefield Pistachios are grown at Junee and are known for their freshness and full flavour, the Tanta Gold honey is produced at Narrandera, while the apricot, orange, sage and vegetables served with the dish can be found through trawling local growers’ markets.

“I really enjoy cooking and I like to experiment using fresh produce and all the different cuts of lamb. I actually developed a small recipe collection for those buying our lamb through bulk orders to help people understand how to prepare the various cuts,” Amanda tells me.

Walking through the orchards at “Oakvale”, it becomes obvious where Amanda’s love for fresh ingredients has stemmed from, with thriving lemon, mandarin, apricot and olive trees, and almonds, walnuts, zucchini, pumpkin, silverbeet, cabbage, lettuce, cherry tomatoes and peas are also grown. Amanda also regularly collects chicken and duck eggs with her young son Geoffrey, (1), too.

“It’s been really good to be able to grow my own produce so I know the origins and that there has been almost no chemicals used,” Amanda says.

Ecological sustainability and animal welfare is an important part of the farming philosophy for the fifth generation farmers on the 1830 hectare property.

“We run plain bodied dual-purpose Merinos based on SRS stud bloodlines. They have high lambing percentages, soft fine wool, great meat frames and they do not need mulesing,” Graham says.

“Our lambs are introduced to browsing shrubs very early in life while on their mothers and through weaning, so when we want to finish them at 6 to 11 months of age they are already fully conditioned to eating saltbush.”

Graham went on to say that the finishing program of six weeks continual access to Old Man Saltbush includes last 30 days of barley at 200g/day ad-lib from lick feeders. He says the small amount of barley ensures that the lambs are receiving enough carbohydrate to balance the high protein of the saltbush and also assists in guaranteeing the perfect amount of intramuscular fat for lamb tenderness and flavour balance.

Lambing occurs twice a year to ensure consistent year-round supply and there is a focus on a constant growth ra
te, improving lamb survival, good animal husbandry and exceptional eating quality. Ewe lambs are classed to select new breeding stock.

All the lamb produced is currently supplied to Knights Meats & Deli in Wagga on a fortnightly basis which enforces the Strong family’s passion for maintaining a regional focus and building relationships within local family-orientated enterprises.

Words: Rosie O’Keeffe