Issue One Autumn
With guest chef editor
Dave Verheul

Editors’ Letters

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Welcome to the first issue of Rare Medium’s new seasonal emagazine – Autumn Lamb 2018.

Designed to inform and inspire the foodservice industry about Australian beef and lamb from paddock to plate, each issue will focus on a specific protein and be co-edited with a different chef.

Stepping out of the kitchen and up to the plate for our debut issue we are honoured to have Dave Verheul from Embla and The Town Mouse in Melbourne.

When asked why I chose Dave as my first co-chef-editor; it is obvious to say because he is an exceptionally talented chef. His acutely measured, yet seemingly simple approach to food articulates our proteins beautifully and his wood fire cooking is a match made in culinary heaven. And that’s all perfectly pertinent. But in truth, a big part of bringing Dave on board was because of his steadfast sense of self; a unique authenticity that doesn’t waver.

Driven by a respect for produce and a keen desire to understand where that produce comes from – Dave has helped me to shape an honest, insightful and hopefully inspiring expose of Australian lamb in the pages that follow.

Really though, I just wanted him to admit Australian lamb has got it all over his NZ mates across the ditch.

As an industry, Australian red meat is continuing to innovate and evolve with a dedicated commitment to quality, integrity and ethically and environmentally sustainable production systems – we look forward to sharing these stories with you in this and future issues.

I hope you enjoy the debut issue and find something within its pages that inspires you, enlightens you or at the very least, challenges the way you think about Australian lamb.


Mary-Jane Morse
Foodservice Marketing Manager
Meat & Livestock Australia
[email protected]


When MJ asked me to co-edit the first issue of the new Rare Medium emagazine with her back in August, I didn’t know what I was getting myself in to – and at that point I really don’t think she did either. But now here we are and I’m quietly stoked that she asked me to be a part of it.

It’s been both an experience and a lot of fun but what I’ve enjoyed most about the whole process is getting to see a side of the industry that I most likely otherwise wouldn’t. Our trip to Black Springs was an eye opener for a lot of reasons – that don’t include MJ’s ‘questionable’ singing on a six-hour car trip. Seeing the science and innovation going in to Australian lamb and how that’s enhancing eating quality and welfare gave me an even greater respect for the intricacies of what’s happening on farm and how that affects what we put on the plate. Seeing firsthand how some farmers are addressing the sustainability and welfare concerns of myself and our customers gave me confidence that we are getting on the right track in this regard in Australia.

The chance to feature some epic lamb dishes being served up by some of my favourite chefs in the On the Menu section and also to throw the spotlight on my team to highlight the great work they do day in day out is something I really appreciate.

Hope you guys enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed helping put it together.


Dave Verheul
Embla and The Town Mouse


Copyright: this publication is published by Meat & Livestock Australia Limited ABN 39 081 678 364 (MLA).

Guest Chef Profile

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An insight into Embla and the team
that makes it fire.

Australia is one of the fastest changing food markets in the world – a hive of independent outlets with a unique capacity to offer a range of culinary experiences. But the industry is fiercely competitive, the bar teeters on high and the pressure is almost tangible. With a high turnover of venues, the culinary world is small, fast moving and transient; trends come and go overnight and remaining relevant in a sea of comings and goings is just the tip of the metaphorical iceberg.

So is there a secret to success? We delved into the hearts and minds behind one of Melbourne’s most popular venues – that of our co-chef-editor Dave Verheul – to see what makes it tick.

You could measure Embla’s success by the accolades and achievements it has attained in its two-year tenure, or you could simply look to the fact that it is full to the brim and bubbling over every night of the week.

It’s the kind of place that makes you want to stay that little bit longer. Taste another dish, sip another wine and just worry about your worries tomorrow. It’s somewhere you can leave real life at the door, pull up a seat (if you can get one) and escape over what Dave affectionately calls ‘modern rustic wood fired chic’.

It’s actually a pretty apt description of what consistently rolls out of the well-oiled Embla kitchen. Produce driven and seasonally focused, Embla effortlessly encapsulates the primal simplicity of food and fire – with an underlying ethos of thoughtfulness. It’s a holistic ideology that resonates through the entire process.

“We treat food as thoughtfully as possible, having respect for where it’s come from and how it’s been given to us and making sure everything we do with it while it’s with us only makes it better. Sharp knives, clean boards, hot fires – the whole way through, every process must be perfect,” says head chef Peter Cooksley.

“We try to cook the most delicious food, quite simply, using the best produce around. There’s a push for perfection and a constant push for the evolution of the food. Some of our best dishes are now off the menu, not because they got boring but because we feel we can do more, we can change, we can keep cooking better and better and better,” Pete continues.

At Embla, the team cook almost exclusively with fire. The custom built blue steel wood fired oven and grill are prominent features of the venue and a key part of the atmosphere and experience. Sitting along the bar of the open kitchen watching the chefs as they pitch food against fire is as therapeutic as it is theatrical – there’s just something about the flicker of flames.

“Using fire is a more direct way of cooking, it’s a bit more fun, the flavour that you get and how you can use that in different ways is exciting. The hard smoke and the slow coal grill through to the really hard burn of things is just an extra element that you don’t get using modern methods,” Pete says.

This very primal approach to cooking certainly plays well with red meat and though we’re all taught from a very early age not to play with fire, at Embla it’s all about playing with fire.

“Red meat plays an important role on the Embla menu – having the wood fired oven and the wood grill, every piece of meat is cooked differently in, on or around the fires depending on the cut and the animal. We tend to use more secondary cuts – at the moment we have a lamb breast which is cooked slower and then finished really hot so it’s crispy but still quite rich and deliciously juicy.”

Embla chef/owner Dave Verheul

The custom built blue steel woodfired oven and grill at Embla

“Red meat plays an important role on the Embla menu – having the wood fired oven and the wood grill, every piece of meat is cooked differently in, on or around the fires depending on the cut and the animal.”

Sous chef Charley Snadden Wilson slices lamb rump for service

And while the food is impeccable in the way it marries flavour and finesse with acute authenticity, what really smoulders at Embla is the team of talented chefs behind it. In the kitchen, there is an air of careful consideration and an ongoing quest for betterment – not only in the food but in each other. And, so Pete tells us, it starts at the top.

“Dave has this really honest drive to make incredibly delicious food that he’s proud of but not for any major notoriety. It’s hard to quantify – he has an undying want to get it right, to have diners excited about the things he does.”

“He’s got a very direct way of running things and an incredible eye for detail. He’s an incredibly driven chef. I love his style of food, the way he cooks and the way he thinks about things.”

Ironically, the food at Embla is actually there to support the wine – which makes sense given it’s technically a wine bar. Dave’s food has just systematically raised the wine-bar.

It’s not a venue you come to just for a meal – you come for an experience, a journey that perhaps you weren’t even planning on taking. And that is exactly what co-owner Christian McCabe had in mind all along.

“Good food and slightly-weird-but-once-you-get-to-know-it- delicious wine are probably the main things we offer – but what I think we’ve tried to do differently from the start is our hospitality style and hopefully that’s what makes us different.”

“There’s definitely a mood we try to create, a feeling of decadence – like you weren’t meaning to make it the biggest night of the week but because you’re having so much fun here, you’re going to push it. We just want it to be a nice place to come to and that’s what a good restaurant should be.”

Christian says there’s no real secrets to Embla’s success – it was just a process of putting good things together; of finding good people and just going for it.

“There’s not really any formula you could necessarily tell anyone but at its core it’s actually really obvious. You just get nice people around and give them a sense of belonging and ownership, like it’s their place and then they treat it like it’s their place, they’re invested.”

He says to run a successful business you’ve got to infect people, customers and colleagues alike, with an energy and in order to do so, for it to be the right type of energy, you have to start with yourselves.

“Dave and I both have high standards and we want to impart those on other people. You can’t just get good at something and then sit there and do nothing. We want to be at the cutting edge of what we do and to be leaders in our industry; we want to be driven by everybody else improving.”

“If you want to be a leader, you have to ensure you improve as quickly as your team, you can’t teach them everything you know and then suddenly they’re better than you. Dave and I have a mutual understanding that we’re going to grow and develop together. We put a lot of time into our staff and hopefully that’s why they like working here and when they leave, they’re better people and better at what they do,” Christian says.

"He's got a very direct way of running things and an incredible eye for detail. He's an incredibly driven chef."

In the midst of opening their third venue, a wine focused set format restaurant, the guys sometimes question what they’ve done and why.

“The stage that we’re at now when it’s getting to the final weeks before opening and we’re starting to feel the pressure and the pain of it and you just think, why did we do this to ourselves? I guess I’m at that stage where I’d say, this is the last one, we’re not going to do it again. But having said that four times already, I know that the voice will come back again soon,” Christian laughs.

Seeing the success these calmly cool kiwis have managed since gracing our shores with their presence, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone to doubt that the next one will be anything short of epic. Pete for one is excited to be a part of the process and is looking forward to the new challenges ahead.

“The next couple of years are incredibly exciting – the major focus is making it as good as it can be, applying all the things that we’ve learnt about cooking with fire to push the boat out a little bit on the food and to just keep getting better.”

As they say, where there’s smoke there’s fire, and one thing is certain, the Embla crew are burning hot.

Embla head chef Peter Cooksley

Paddock Story

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Quest for
Eating Quality
Quest for
Eating Quality

Australia’s diverse sheepmeat production system comprises of a variety of breeds raised under variable climatic conditions across this vast country. NSW takes the biggest share of the national flock with approximately 26.7 million sheep and lambs, followed by Victoria with 14.6 million, WA with 14 million, SA with 11.2 million and both Queensland and Tasmania sitting around 2.2 million.

Historically a by-product of the wool industry, the specialist sheepmeat industry in Australia was born in the 1990s when the crash in wool prices saw producers move away from wool toward sheepmeat production. As the development of the industry gathered momentum, the quality of Australian lamb became a key focus and producers began to look to specific sheepmeat breeds to enhance the largely Merino based genetics.

These developments in breed selection and genetics along with improved pasture and on farm management saw Australian sheepmeat producers begin to generate higher carcase weights and lean meat yields – and in turn, deliver a higher quality product for customers. Over the last 10 years, lamb carcase weights have increased to 22.86kg – a growth of 190g/year on average.

With a focus on delivering consistent eating quality, in 2000, Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) with the support of research partners and the industry, developed the Sheepmeat Eating Quality (SMEQ) research program to define best practice through the supply chain to monitor and improve product quality.

Research is based on identifying critical control points in the supply chain and where they impact on eating quality outcomes. By minimising the impact in these areas, improvement in eating quality of sheepmeat products is achieved.

For this issue, Dave and I took a trip to Tattykeel, located near Black Springs in NSW, to experience firsthand some of the innovation in breed selection and genetic development being undertaken by the Gilmore family to address eating quality in their flock.

The Gilmores have been breeding meat sheep in the area since 1959; establishing the Tattykeel Poll Dorset stud in 1964. Focused on continually improving quality and consistency, they utilise selective breeding to enhance the positive traits, and reduce the negative traits, of their sheep. They also operate comprehensive artificial insemination and embryo transfer programs to maximise genetic gains.

Graham Gilmore is wholly passionate about his sheep, his family and leaving a legacy; and it shows. Like many sheep producers in Australia, it is in his blood and each new generation of Gilmores play an important role in the continuance of the family’s quest for quality in Australian sheepmeat.

During our visit in mid-November, Graham tells us that it’s been a pretty average season in the area with only 40% of the average yearly rainfall. The sun beats down over the rolling hills and with its high elevation we slip, slop – and spend a lot of time slapping away flies. Whilst the slapping of flies may seem trivial, it’s actually a fairly pertinent point in this story.

Through rigorous selection and breeding programs, Graham and his family have developed a breed of fleece-free meat sheep that they are calling the Australian White. A derivative of four breeds selected for their specific traits (Poll Dorset, Texel, White Dorper and Van Rooy), the Australian White’s hair is a heterotypic fibre which works like insulation and grows and sheds naturally with the seasons.

Graham says the inspiration for developing the breed came through their extensive research travels overseas seeking ideas, innovation and inspiration in sheepmeat production.

“Through our travels, particularly through South America, we saw haired sheep and decided that we would embark on trying to produce our own version of a haired sheep suited specifically to Australian production. In the industry today, we know that everyone is concerned about costs – a lot of producers don’t want to be shearing sheep or treating for flies and with a haired sheep you don’t have those costs associated with a wool sheep. It’s a much better way of just focussing on producing meat, as naturally as possible,” Graham says.

Due to the historical success of the wool industry, around 70% of Australian sheep genetics are Merino and whilst current research suggests eating quality is not greatly affected by breed specifically; it does show that an increase in the proportion of Merino genes increases the animal’s sensitivity to stress. Stress in turn is a key impactor of eating quality.

One of the most noticeable traits of the Australian Whites that we experienced was their incredibly calm and docile nature. In the paddocks, in the yards and even as Graham held a lamb to point out specific traits – their relaxed nature was paramount.

“Managing stress on farm, in transport and before slaughter are key factors when it comes to eating quality of the end product. These animals are inherently placid – in the paddocks, they don’t scatter and run from you like most sheep do, they tend to gravitate towards you.

They’re extremely low maintenance the whole way through which means less stress for them and improved profitability for producers. There is minimal intervention in running them – they don’t need shearing because they shed their own hair and they’re not affected by flies so don’t require the husbandry or chemicals to prevent or treat fly strike,” Graham tells us.

From a production sense, the Australian White ticks a lot of boxes – but how does it eat? Well it’s pretty handy travelling with a chef in tow and with an asado cross on loan from Lennox Hastie at Firedoor, Dave had all the tools he needed to do justice to Graham’s lamb.

“Asado is a traditional Argentinean style of cooking over coals and, given the inspiration for the Australian White was born through Graham’s South American travels, I thought it was a good way to complete the story. I had a few challenges, mainly when it decided to bucket down rain for the first time in months, but with a little country ingenuity we persevered and the result was pretty epic.

It was incredible how noticeable the melting point of the fat is in this animal, how it melts and softens. I found when we cooked it that all of the fine layers of fat, when they cooked out, it gave it such a fine, delicate texture. It was incredible,” Dave said.

At Embla, the team try to be as thoughtful as possible about the whole process – respecting how produce gets to them and ensuring they treat it accordingly in its preparation and service.

“I like to work with ingredients that have been produced as naturally as possible but don’t sacrifice on quality. Our customers want to eat delicious food but more and more they want to know that it has also been sustainably and ethically produced.

Seeing firsthand how Australian sheepmeat producers like the Gilmores are addressing these evolving customer needs at the source, while still producing an outstanding end product, was a really positive experience for me,” Dave concluded.

Australian White cooking Argentinean asado style over coals at Tattykeel

Up Front

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Andrew Gale
Grossi Florentino, Melbourne

2017 Appetite for Excellence
—Young Waiter

Andrew Gale’s service philosophy is to always deliver warmth and generosity to all his guests and colleagues and it is certainly something that he seamlessly portrays in his role at Melbourne institution Grossi Florentino.

We caught up with Andrew for a front of house perspective of Australian red meat, how he deals with challenging customers and the importance of synergy with back of house. We also got him to suggest his beverage match for some of the delicious dishes within these pages.

Why do you think it’s important for FOH to understand provenance?


I believe it’s very important for FOH staff to understand provenance of ingredients, techniques and products because FOH are generally the most prominent voice heard by guests. It’s our role to explain and share the knowledge we have with the public. Also having an intimate knowledge of where something comes from, helps build respect for those products and the people who have put in their time and passion to allow a restaurant to create something with it and share it with others.

What kind of questions are your customers asking about red meat?


Customers are generally asking questions in regards to whether red meat is grass or grain fed, where it is grown, if it’s been dry aged and the location of the cut on the animal.

What lamb dishes are on the menu currently and what do you recommend as a beverage match?


One of the oldest dishes still served at Grossi Florentino is ‘Abbachio alla Romana’. The dish has been passed down through generations and is a family favourite. A whole lamb is broken down and wet roasted through, vegetables, white wine, parmiagino, aromats and breadcrumbs.

I would serve the 2012 Foster e Rocco Riserva Sangiovese from Hetahcote Victoria, this wine offers complexity, balance and a firm acid to compliment the rich lamb braise.

Tell us about a challenging customer or situation and how you dealt it?


I think each time I go to work is a challenge – unique and different challenges arise each time. The most challenging situations are generally when the dining room is full and each guest requires a lot of attention; you begin to feel the pressure due to the standards you’ve set yourself. Working well as a team and trusting your instinct is how I manage to get through those situations.

How closely do FOH work with BOH at Grossi Florentino?


The FOH and BOH work hand in hand at Grossi as we are all one team who rely on each other to accomplish the same common goal, which is to deliver a high level, articulate and genuine hospitality experience to our guests.

The kitchen helps to educate the FOH team about food and cooking techniques. It’s the role of the FOH staff to ask questions and take it upon themselves to tap into the wealth of knowledge of the BOH staff. Before every service, the FOH and BOH meet to discuss the plan for the upcoming day – both sides of the business rely on each other to deliver satisfaction to our guests.

Cut Showcase

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Lamb Leg


HAM 4820

Derived from the hindquarter, there are two legs per animal accounting for around 30% of the whole carcase. A traditional Aussie family favourite roasted whole, deboned or butterflied – the leg can also be sub-primaled to reveal a range of smaller roasts and steaks. Consisting of three distinct muscles (round, silverside, topside) and the shank – the versatile lamb leg is tender and flavoursome and suitable for application across foodservice.

Two Under Ten

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With Peter Cooksley, Embla
and Jasper Avent, The Town Mouse

Rising food costs and operational overheads are a constant challenge for foodservice operators and planning menus that balance expectations with budgets, to please diners and the bottom line, is no easy task. Changing the way you think about lamb – exploring different cuts, experimenting with techniques old and new and considering seasonality of accompanying flavours can help with profitability.

We threw out the challenge to Dave’s head chefs at Embla and The Town Mouse to curate a dish for under $10 using a cut derived from the lamb leg – two different cuts, two different methods, two delicious dishes.


Poached lamb silverside

chicory and capers


Peter Cooksley
Head Chef, Embla



Occhipinti SP86 Rosso 2015, Sicily

A blend of Frappato and Nero d’ Avola that undergoes a full natural wine making process with minimal intervention. This wine has great minerality from the volcanic soils of Sicily. The wine has a great fresh acidity that cuts through the richness and a salty edge that will match up against the capers.

For my dish, I selected the lamb silverside, a set of muscles from the leg which provides a good balance of flavour and tenderness. I chose to poach the lamb to keep it light and clean. Quite often, poached lamb is served with a white sauce made with the poaching liquid and capers.

I decided on a lighter sauce for this dish, still using the poaching stock and capers, but making it more like a salsa verde. I chose chicory to accompany for its bitterness to cut through the richness of the lamb.


Lamb silverside
Olive oil
Salad onions
Sherry vinegar

Total cost — $6.40


Lamb rump

charred zucchini and olive

Jasper Avent
Head Chef,
The Town Mouse


2012 Domaine Matin Calme Sans Temps, Roussillon France

This wine is a blend of carignan and grenache that is grown on 100-year-old vines at 500m above sea level. The wine has a vibrant acidity that will cut through the fattiness of the lamb. A mineral driven flavour profile will pair up nicely with the olives and Mediterranean herbs.

  I chose the lamb rump for my dish – as a working muscle it has a satisfying chew but is still pretty tender with loads of flavour and a nice layer of fat that renders and crisps up nicely.

I prepared the lamb above the fire, allowing it to gently cook in the smoke away from the fierce heat then rendered the fat in a pan.

Zucchini, green olive and oregano are pretty standard Mediterranean flavours that go well with lamb – I just prepared them in a less conventional way to make it a more interesting dish.


Lamb rump
Zucchini flowers
Olive plant
Charred zucchini
Hung yoghurt
Olive oil
Lemon juice
Charred zucchini skins
Dried oregano
Vegetable oil
Reduced lamb stock
Green olive brine

Total cost — $8.23

On The Menu

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Currently in Australia there are 17,983 lamb dishes on menus in 654 cities and towns from Byron Bay to the Bogan Shire, Nevertire to Newcastle, Gin Gin to Geelong. Traditional favourites, modern classics and impressive innovations celebrate the diversity of Australian lamb – here are six of our favourites.

Lamb Tomahawk


Anchovy, Richmond VIC

Thi Le

Thi’s lamb tomahawk is cut two ribs wide from the loin all the way down the rib with the belly attached. The trim is used to make a lamb fat relish which is cooked out with lemongrass, dried chilli, garlic, palm sugar, shallots, fermented soybeans, dried prawns and a tamarind dipping sauce. Cooked over the hibachi grill, the meat is continuously glazed, taking on the smoke flavour as it cooks. It’s then well rested, finished with chiffonade perrilla and served with sticky rice and spring onion oil.

2009 La La Syrahmi Shiraz, Heathcote, Victoria

A single vineyard shiraz from exciting winemaker Adam Foster. This wine is strong enough to stand up against the complexities of the dish, while still expressing its own delicate spice and velvety tannin. The wine is whole bunch pressed giving it richness and depth of flavour.

Lamb Leg Ham


LP’S Quality Meats, Chippendale NSW

Luke Powell

For this boneless lamb leg ham, Luke uses a brine of 5.5% salt and brown sugar – advising the sugar offsets the saltiness often attributed to cured small goods. He adds a range of spices and aromats and cures for one week. It is then trussed and hung in the fridge overnight to develop a ‘pellicle’ which helps absorb the smoke. He then smokes it at 80c until the internal temp is 70c, then shocks in ice water to reduce the temperature as quickly as possible.

2016 Paltinieri ‘Radice’ Lambrusco di sorbarei

The misunderstood variety of Emelia-Romagna home of parmigiano and prosciutto. This slightly fizzy, highly acidic variety leaves flavours of wild berry and citrus. The aromas the dish contain will be lifted and expressed greater through this aromatic wine, a great aperitif.

Braised & Grilled Lamb Ribs


Longsong, Melbourne VIC

David Moyle

Lamb ribs derived from the breast are delicately braised in 50/50 plum wine and fish sauce for about an hour and a half at 120 degrees. Next Dave hits them with heat, grilling over coal and glazing with the braising juices as he goes. The dish is finished with capers made with salted nasturtium buds and bitter grilled chicory to cut through the sticky richness of the ribs.

2015 Billy Button ‘The Elusive’ Nebbiolo, Alpine Valleys

A high acid and tannic wine that yearns for a rich spice driven dish. The acid in this wine should cut through the richness, allowing the tannin to leave you salivating for the delicate rose petal and herb aromatics to come to the fore.

Pickled Lamb Heart


Mr Liquor’s Dirty Italian Disco,

Mascot NSW

Mike Eggert & Jemma Whiteman

The lamb heart is rubbed in a sugar and salt spice rub and left to marinade for 24 hours then gently poached in a vinegar and white wine stock. Sliced thinly for serving, the meat is perfectly tender with a firm texture and a sweet flavour. Mike says it’s super lean and pairs perfectly with rich oil based dressings, aioli or herby dressings and that it loves a good pinch of salt.

Fino Inocente (Valdespino)

From the oldest Sherry Bodega, this highly complex sherry offers notes of green olive and dried hay. It has a wonderful minerality and saltiness that sits with the saltiness and intensity of the vinegar.

Smoked Lamb Neck


Monopole, Potts Point NSW

Brent Savage

Whole lamb necks are first brined and then rubbed with a dry spice and malt syrup before hitting the smoker. Brent says they go hard on the smoke for the first hour and then back it off for a total of about four hours – the result is a crispy, blackened outer and a succulent pink and tender centre. Served with a wakame broth that delicately coats the lamb and perfectly balances the dish.

Mars Maltage ‘Cosmo

A blended whiskey containing a single malt Scottish whiskey, is distilled in the village of Miyata by a small distillery named Shinshu. The whisky carries a slightly sweet smoky aroma and a stewed fruit characteristic. The smoke aspect pairs perfectly with the charred meat and the intensity of flavour from the smoker.

Lamb Cotoletta Arrow Black


Park Street Dining, Carlton VIC

Jesse Gerner

Traditionally made with veal, Park Street’s cotoletta is adapted to take advantage of the full flavour of lamb. Racks are sliced into cutlets then crumbed with a mixture of breadcrumbs and lots of fresh basil, mint and parsley. It’s then quickly fried in olive oil for a crispy outside crust and a nice pink centre and served with caper aioli and fresh lemon.

Bridge Rd Chevalier Saison, Beechworth, Victoria

A blended whiskey containing a single malt Scottish whiskey, is distilled in the village of Miyata by a small distillery named Shinshu. The whisky carries a slightly sweet smoky aroma and a stewed fruit characteristic. The smoke aspect pairs perfectly with the charred meat and the intensity of flavour from the smoker.

Global Spotlight

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“Sumimasen —
lamb kudasi”
“Sumimasen —
lamb kudasi”

(“Excuse me — give me the lamb”)

On an Autumnal adventure of Japan in October, I explored some of the ways Japanese foodservice are using Australian lamb on menus. From heritage and history in the north to luscious lamb takes on traditional Japanese favourites in Tokyo; Aussie lamb is the little protein that could, and by all accounts, is only just beginning.

Whilst lamb may appear to be but a small fish in consumption terms (annually per person, the Japanese eat 200g lamb, 6kg beef and 27kg seafood) – it is steadily gaining popularity amongst consumers and chefs alike. As a trusted country of origin, Australia rates second only after Japan, helping position Australian lamb as the superior choice and driving an emerging foodservice trend of Australian lamb on menu as a point of difference.




Japan is the largest market in Asia for Australian chilled lamb
68% of Japan’s lamb imports come from Australia
Main use of Aussie lamb is for Genghis Kahn restaurants on Northern island of Hokkaido

Genghis Kahn

You know you’re in Jingisukan (Genghis Kahn) country when the strong, sweet smell of lamb cooking on piping hot cast iron snakes through the streets and permeates your senses in a swirl of sticky smoke.

Known as one of Hokkaido’s ‘soul foods’ and recognised as an official Hokkaido Heritage food, locals began eating this traditional BBQ style dish around 1936. Genghis Kahn takes a variety of forms but one thing is always consistent – the use of lamb or mutton; 70% of which is Australian.

Why it bears the name of the famed Mongolian ruler is hazy at best; one popular theory is that Genghis Kahn took sheep on his campaigns and sometimes used his iron helmet as a pan for cooking – as such, the modern skillets are reminiscent of an old Mongolian helmet.

Hokkaido’s capital city Sapporo hosts an annual Genghis Kahn rally in Autumn – a month long challenge to eat the dish at as many participating restaurants as possible. I hit Sapporo for less than 24 hours, experiencing my first Genghis Kahn for lunch and polishing off another three that evening. Gluttonous? Perhaps. Repetitive? Surprisingly not. Delicious? Oh, you know it.

Genghis Kahn is essentially lamb or mutton grilled together with vegetables on a cast iron skillet at the table. There are two main varieties – marinated and non-marinated. Synonymous with barbeque in Hokkaido, it is enjoyed outside in parks, on the beach and when camping and is a family tradition at home. Whilst popular with consumers, there are also over 200 Genghis Kahn restaurants in Sapporo alone.

The custom skillets are sloped, allowing the juices and fat to pool at the bottom to cook and flavour the vegetables. Heated by gas or binchotan coal – the gas version is similar to a hot plate while the binchotan variety is more like a grill plate; allowing the juices to drip through onto the coals and the smoke to further flavour the meat.

How to Genghis Kahn


1. Fire up your skillet in the centre of the table

5. Add your lamb — turning once

2. Select your cuts — common cuts include thinly sliced rolled shoulder, chunks of leg and fillet

6. Eat — marinated is enjoyed straight from the skillet while non- marinated is enjoyed via a dipping sauce

3. Grease the skillet with fat — in Japan a chunk of Wagyu fat is used

7. Repeat

4. Add your vegetables — usually a selection of onion, bean sprouts, cabbage and pumpkin

The picturesque Sapporo Beer Garden & Museum in Autumn

I conquered four Genghis Kahn restaurants with my team of warriors – Ryoichi Hiyoshi from key Australian lamb importer Top Trading; Hidemi Sato from Sorachi, one of the most famous Genghis Kahn sauce companies; and Kazu Mitsuhashi, MLA’s Foodservice Business Development Manager in Japan.

Each restaurant offered a different style, and as such, was an experience in itself – but the smoke was consistent and relentless. All restaurants provide plastic bags, lockers or cupboards for coats and jackets to lessen the lingering essence of lamb that sticks with you long after you leave. To be honest, I think it’s still in my hair.

Sapporo Beer Garden


  • $30pp all you can eat Genghis Kahn at a heritage beer hall with 100+ seats
  • Two cuts – chuck roll which has been par-frozen and sliced paper thin and slightly thicker slices of shoulder
  • Bean sprouts, cabbage, onion and pumpkin
  • Gas fired skillet – vegetables cover the skillet and non-marinated lamb is placed on top; this technique slightly steams the lamb as it cooks
  • Served with an apple and lemon dipping sauce



  • The most famous marinated style Genghis Kahn restaurant with 90+ seats
  • Cuts include shoulder, leg and chuck roll
  • Vegetables include bean sprouts, carrots, pumpkin and onion
  • Gas fired skillet – vegetables in first with a space at the top for the marinated lamb
  • The marinade drips down the skillet and onto the vegetables resulting in delicious sticky goodness



  • The only Genghis Kahn restaurant to be awarded a Michelin Star
  • Tiny space – sit at the bar with binchotan fired skillet in front of you
  • Skillet is more like a grill – fat and juices drip through onto the coal and flavours the meat
  • Australian lamb and chilled mutton featured and only onion for vegetable
  • Dipping sauce is more soy than fruit based – little pots of salt, garlic and chilli are also provided



  • A popular GK restaurant offering both marinated and non-marinated style
  • Menu also included grain fed lamb, lamb bacon, lamb prosciutto and lamb tartare
  • Two grills provided – the GK skillet and a grill plate, both over bincho
  • Vegetables included shallots and onion

Chef Profile

Koji Fukuda

Koji was born in Osaka and after graduating high school, commenced his culinary career at the Hilton Osaka. At 26, Koji headed to the Auckland Hilton as a founding team member of Luke Mangan’s first restaurant, White. He then went on to become Executive Chef at Otto’s in the Metropolis Hotel, Auckland.

In 2006, Koji returned to Japan as Sous Chef at Mangan’s first Asian based restaurant, Salt Tokyo, before spending time at Glass Brasserie in Sydney and at the opening of Salt Grill in Singapore.

In 2011, Koji was appointed Executive Chef at Salt Tokyo where he remained until 2015 when he left to pursue his own dream of opening a restaurant.

Terra Australis opened on Australia Day 2016 to give Tokyo a taste of Australian sophistication from paddock to plate. Drawing upon the finest local and Australian ingredients, Koji presents a contemporary fusion of styles that reflects Australia’s multicultural culture with elements of Asian, British and French cuisine.

In 2017 he opened two more restaurants in Ebisu and Shinmarunouti.

Koji has been an official ‘Lambassador’ since 2015 – a joint Government and Meat & Livestock Australia initiative that boosts Japanese interest in Australian lamb.

Koji’s Australian lamb cutlets with coconut yoghurt and jalapeño mole at Terra Australis

Quick Fire Five


Best thing about Aussie lamb?

It stands out for its quality and flavour


Favourite cut

Rack of lamb, you can never go wrong


Next big food trend in Japan?



Best advice you’ve ever recieved?

It’s never too late to be who you might have been


Your chef idol?

Marco Pierre White – he is the man!

Lamb Love


Lamb Shabu Shabu


Shabu-shabu translates to ‘swish-swish’ and refers to the dipping and stirring of thinly sliced meat and vegetables in boiling broth. As the name suggests, at Meri-no in Chiyoda, the order of the day is all you can eat lamb shabu-shabu. The process begins by dropping a soccer ball sized ball of spun sugar into a dashi based broth, then adding mushrooms, onion, pumpkin and shiso. Chopsticks at the ready, paper thin slices of rolled lamb shoulder are swished momentarily in the broth, swiped in your choice of dipping sauce and down the hatch it goes. Eat and repeat.

Lamb Ramen


Tomoharu Shono opened his first ramen shop in 2005. Extremely passionate about ramen, Master Shono now manages over nine shops in Tokyo and one in San Francisco – each with its own unique theme, menu and handmade noodles. At Mensho Tokyo, that theme is lamb. The rich, full flavoured broth is made from lamb and pork bones and topped with smoky lamb chashu. The constant line snaking out the door and down the pavement suggests that Tokyo has embraced this lamb loaded spin on one of their most famous and traditional dishes.

Lamb ramen topped with smoky lamb chashu at Mensho Tokyo

Tokyo Lamb Festival


The Hitsuji Festa is a festival of lamb and mutton hosted annually in Tokyo by a private organisation consisting of members who love lamb and mutton. The event introduces locals to lamb with 14 pop ups from popular local restaurants. The 2017 festival, held the first weekend in November, attracted 30,000 visitors over the course of the weekend. On the menu were cutlets and skewers artfully twisted and turned over the smoky robata grill, the northern Hokkaido dish of Genghis Kahn, lamb dumplings served in a light lamb broth and our very own Lambassadors firing up the BBQ with Aussie lamb cutlets served with a choice of sauces.

Chef Koji preparing 2000 lamb cutlets for the Australian Lambassador pop up at Tokyo Lamb Festival

Fast Facts

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Fast Facts

17,983 lamb dishes on menus in Australia

Australia is the world’s second largest exporter of sheepmeat

Australia produces 8% of the world’s lamb and mutton supply

Australia has 31,136 agricultural sheep/lamb businesses

67.5 million sheep call Australia home

Chef Handover

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Chef Editor

So we had this bright idea that to wrap up each issue we’d include a fun cultural style handover from the current chef editor to the incoming chef editor. The thought was that Dave (current) would demonstrate a traditional cooking method to Duncan (incoming) that represents his heritage.

Given that Dave is a Kiwi, we thought a Hangi would be fun. A Hangi is a traditional Maori method of cooking using heated rocks buried in a pit oven. Turns out Duncan knows more about Hangis than Dave – or maybe he just likes to talk more. Here’s what happened.

Next Issue

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Our next issue, Winter Beef with guest chef editor Duncan Welgemoed from Africola in Adelaide, will be available April 2018.

A very special thanks to the team at the projects* for bringing the vision to life; the Gilmore family and Tim Leahy for hosting us at Tattykeel; the Embla crew for letting us crash your kitchen; Andrew Gale for being awesome; Pinbone legends Mike & Jemma, the royal David Moyle, Brent Savage, Thi Lee, Luke Powell and Jesse Gerner for their mouth-watering On the Menu contributions; Duncan Welgemoed for being a constant source of entertainment; and finally Jana Langhorst and Jason Loucas for their stunning photography.