If you’re a passionate vegetable or fruit grower living in Australia, you might be aware that this summer’s erratic climate has played havoc with vine maturation of gourmet tomato varieties. With a mix of hot and dry days, plus variants of cold and warm days, with higher than average humidity in the southern states, ripening of this versatile fruit has come late for many.

In Victoria’s Yarra Valley, Mark Ebbels, head chef of Yarra Valley’s TarraWarra Estate restaurant has experienced the same challenging growing conditions within the property’s expansive kitchen garden; with the best range of organic tomatoes beginning to ripen toward the end of summer.

Mark Ebbels – vegan head chef at TarraWarra restaurant

Mark is unique in that he’s a vegan chef, tiny house owner and plant-based recipe creator, treating vegetables with care, cooking them with the same degree of detail as most would fish and meats. He does things a little differently, with a focus on food ingredient and environmental sustainability a big part of his restaurant menu and overall lifestyle.

With a detailed level of training in molecular gastronomy due to time abroad honing his craft learning from some of the UK’s leading chefs; when it comes to finding new ways to cook, ferment, emulsify, deconstruct and reconstruct vegetables, legumes, ferments and fungus, his efforts in our view, surpass many of contemporaries.

Making the best of his late season gifted arrivals, is his delicate and beautiful (now) autumn tomato tart. A flaky cashew puff pastry disc sits atop an olive olive tapenade surrounded by a creamy and softly salty/tangy macadamia fetta and potato mousse. This is further painted with a bright green ring of fresh Italian basil oil. A medley of tomato fruit tops and colours the dish – blanched, skins removed and cooked in various way including: pickled tomato in Chinese rice wine and garlic; confit tomato in thyme and garlic extra virgin olive oil; and semi dried tomato with thyme.

A layer of clove and tomato jam is added to the puff pastry disc adding a further depth of flavour and helping to hold the baby tomatoes in place. Tiny basil and thyme leaves add a delicate garnish; and a touch of nutmeg provides a rounding palate depth, balancing the texture and taste of the macadamia fetta and potato mousse. All together it’s a marvellous creation and shines a light on just how wonderful carefully created vegan/plant based meals can become.

There are warming aromas, sweet juicy tastes, sour and salty elements and the buttery richness you’d expect from a puff pastry – yet there’s no dairy to be found. We think its one of Australia’s best culinary plant based meal experiences.

TarraWarra Estate 
311 Healesville-Yarra Glen Road, Victoria
Tel 03 5957 3510

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