A family tradition of holidaying by the Great Ocean Road resulted in a special venue for sharing good food with friends.

Aireys Inlet is a delightfully uncorrupted little seaside haven 90 minutes west around the coast from Melbourne and sits on one of Australia’s most iconic tourist attractions, the Great Ocean Road.

The dominant landmark at Aireys Inlet is the Split Point Lighthouse, known locally as the White Queen. It still functions out on the point as a reminder of the days when shipwrecks were common and safety was not taken for granted. It also acts as an educator for coastal conservation. A guided tour to the top will have you look down on the lighthouse keepers’ cottages, which sit closer to the cliffs at the base of the lighthouse. When the cottages came up for lease a couple of years ago, Anna Kelly’s family couldn’t get there quick enough.

For Anna, Aireys Inlet is the calming countermeasure to her weekly life, which revolves, at a dizzying pace, around her love of farming and food. She is a lamb farmer who produces, markets and distributes her own product.

It all began when she decided to quit the city life to go home and help her father run the family’s 700-hectare farm near Mathoura on the edge of the Riverina Merino district. The 10-year drought put paid to her wool-growing ambitions however, when she realised that the land could neither support an extra farmer, nor sustain the sheep required for growing wool. After a time helping her father with cattle and cropping, it became apparent that Anna needed her own direction and conditions forced her to rethink tradition. Rather than try to force the landscape into productivity, she found produce to suit the landscape.

With a desire to marry her love of the land with her love of food, research soon revealed that the ideal meat sheep for the conditions was the Dorper, a South African breed which had recently been introduced to Australia. And so Anna sidestepped into Dorper lamb production and created Plains Paddock Lamb.

Anna recommends cooking over coals and if a spit is not available, then maybe use a mesh or grill. It produces a much nicer result than using flames or gas. If the domestic situation doesn’t allow for the luxury of an outside fire and hot coals, she suggests lamb shanks in a white wine, slow-cooked lamb roast or family roast with a twist. “I have Mum’s clay pot that came from France about 40 years ago and is great for slow cooking,” Anna says. “The clay pot holds in all the moisture and produces a beautiful and tender result.”

This story was originally published in the September 2015  issue of Australian Country. Order the back issue here.

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Words Kathy Mexted
Photography Kim Selby