Milking a Mudgee getaway

A weekend escape to Mudgee reveals a vast range of cheese styles produced with local know-how.

Australia's favourite food blogger, Not Quite Nigella, follows the cheesemaking process from paddock to plate.

On the second morning of our Mudgee adventure we get up earlyish to make our way to the Leaning Oak Dairy where Gloria and Alan Cox make a delicious range of goat and sheep’s milk cheeses. The size of their land didn’t allow for cows to graze so they chose goats and sheep instead. Gloria favours the goats ("goats are adorable,” she says) while Alan prefers the sheep. They have several varieties of goat including white saanens and anglo nubians – Gloria tells us that saanens produce a lot of milk but anglo nubians produce a creamier milk.

Julia Gillard is in the paddock with a red collar around her neck and she looks to be happy and separated from her twin Tony Abbott. I haven’t gone mad although I realise I should explain what I am talking about. Julia Gillard is a black anglo nubian goat who, along with her twin Tony Abbott was born on the 21st of August-election day. "Julia’s a good milker” Gloria says.

The Coxes started their dairy farm four years ago after visiting Italy, Spain and France and seeing the way they the small farms operated and thought that the idea was quite romantic. Gloria laughs "It’s really bloody hard work… I don’t need a gym membership anymore.”

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Once a day the goats get milked – twice a day would be ideal but they simply don’t have enough time to do it more often. The goats produce anything from 1 litre to 9 litres of milk per goat and they’re habitual creatures and like to stick to routines.

We watch the goats being milked and it only takes a few minutes for the automated milking to be done on each goat. While they’re being milked they feed on hay. The tubes attached to the teats are described as like vacuum cleaners but with a pulsating motion rather than a constant sucking or drawing motion.

We go inside to try some of the cheeses which are all made using a vegetarian rennet. There are a range of fresh cheeses including a Goat Saint Maures which is a French style cheese with a mold. This comes in several varieties apart from plain, including a sweet honey one, a garlic and chive one. The cheese is mild and creamy with a distinct tang to it.

Some of the cheeses have a stronger 'goaty' flavour to them which Gloria says that Australians don’t tend to like as much whereas the French love a strong cheese. They actually make a cheese to cater for those that like the stronger cheese. "The best name for that is smelly goat’s cheese” Gloria says and they recommend ageing a cheese to allow it to ripen further if you like a stronger flavour.

They also make a goat’s feta (a delicious pesto one), a nutty goat’s brie and goat’s blue along with their sheep’s milk cheeses, all priced at between 410-$12. They sell their cheeses at local markets as well as ones in Warwick Farm, Camden, Thornleigh, Warriewood and the Central Coast and produce about 400 cheese a week.

Oh and Tony Abbott’s (the goat’s) fate? He now lives at a service station!

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We take a drive into town and as the shops were shut yesterday we decided to do a bit of a nosy around to see what retail mischief I could get up to. "Research honey, research” I told Mr NQN.

We pop into Red Cherry and Juliet Horsley homewares as well as an unassuming looking bookstore called Little Lane Books with rare and out of print books where I spy some of my favourite things ever-tin toys! I buy a couple – they’re quite boy oriented toys here but I can’t help myself. One day, when I have a big enough space I may start a collection. Mr NQN wouldn’t let me buy the fire engine though – party pooper!

We make our way to lunch – we were too full from the night before to contemplate a proper breakfast and with some cheese for breafkast (no one’s complaining here) we were hungry for lunch. Chef Aaron Cole’s focus is on local produce with at least 90 per cent of the products featured on the menu being local. The menu changes regularly, daily even, and his local suppliers may turn up with a range of items and they’re often a complete surprise. In exchange they trade bread (he makes his own sourdough which sells well) or other items with him. He tells us that this way of supply makes him think about produce an entirely different way.

His suppliers are people that grow and produce food for themselves and their family and he gets the extras.

The pork cutlet comes out with some lyonnaise potatoes, a dressed salad with some dijon butter. The pork needs nothing else but simple preparation and as I’m eating the second mouthful I tell Mr NQN that if I can’t have the firetruck I want to buy some pork so we put the American ribs on hold (which I later made into marmalade ribs). I don’t think I even needed the dijon butter but the potatoes and salad were eagerly eaten.

...Back at Trelawney Farm, we spent an afternoon doing work and then a bath with Chippy the waterborne chipmunk bath toy was the perfect way to relax. It was only when we spotted the time at 5.50pm and we weren’t even dressed that we spring into action. We were expected at Lowe wines for twilight tapas.

Rushing to get ready we were sidetracked by this little guy trying to cross the road. And of course our excuse was "sorry we were late but we just wanted to make sure the turtle crossed the road, okay!”

We arrive at Lowe wines which is at the end of Tinja Lane. The building is eye catching and we take the runway of grass up to the winery and cellar door. For the last few weeks they’ve started twilight tapas dinners which have been incredibly popular and have sold out every night. The tapas set menu was created because there was some confusion with locals and the concept of the smaller plates. For the very reasonable price of $33 per person you get six courses of Spanish tapas plus one glass of complimentary wine (pinot grigio for us).

Lowe Wines have three growing locations, the vineyard here is organic and there is also one near Rylestone and Nullo Mountain the last with similar conditions to Germany. Owner David Lowe is the president of the winemakers association. When he was studying wine, they were the first to study "hom0clime” which involves identifying similar climatic regions within the world and this helps with matching wine regions in Australia to those in Europe.

David, who is very friendly and loves to talk wine comes over and gives us a taste three of the Nullo Mountain wines. The Nullo Mountain late picked Riesling 2006 and 2010 is a favorite of mine as it is sweet and delicious. I’m not sharing my glass of this and that’s rare!

Chef Lindl Taylor carries past some produce and many of it is picked fresh from the garden outside just an hour or so ago.

There is a loaf of soft, tender potato bread (always a favourite for us) and this is served with just pulled garden fresh radishes. The white anchovies give the crisp radishes an acidity and the salad made up of sweet tomato, red onion and cucumber is fresh with herbs and vinaigrette.

Arriving sizzling on a cast iron pan there is a large corn fritter, soft, moist and eggy (rather than a floury beast). On top of this is a grilled portobello mushroom, hotly spiced which is pleasing to both of us. And on top of this is some thyme goats curd peeking underneath the crispy pancetta.

The leather jacket comes out simply grilled with slices of lemon and a lemon aioli. The fish has a good taste of char from the grill and retains a good moisture within.

Mr NQN who likes red wine, tries three Lowe reds, all organic, including their multiple award winning Zinfandel.

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