How the Northern Rivers’ best butcher cooks his steak

WHO’S the best butcher on the Northern Rivers?

There was as easy winner when we posed this question to our readers Ashley Thomson and his team at Alstonville Quality Meats.

He was chuffed to get the title.

“This is great, thanks so much. It’s been an absolutely hectic year,” Mr Thomson said.

“With COVID, at the beginning it was like, ‘wow, what’s going on?’

“But in some ways we’re seeing that people are now actually realising and seeing the value of the butcher shop, that it’s a great place to go to.

“They realise we’re consistent, our service is always 100 per cent.

“It’s come full circle when I was a kid everyone went to the butcher and the baker and the greengrocer.

“People really need to support small business.”

The team at Alstonville Quality Meats.

In the lead-up to Christmas, Mr Thomson and his team of seven have been flat out with customers’ orders.

But he wouldn’t have it any other way.

When asked what his favourite meat was, he said: “I’ve gotta say a good steak, right? That’s my favourite thing. But I’m a butcher, I love all the meats.

“If it’s a big, thick steak, I’ll cook it for a few minutes either side, let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes and then when I’m ready to eat, I throw it back into the pan for a couple of minutes and let it rest again.

“It takes a little time, but it’s worth it.”

Quality is key for Mr Thomson.

And that’s one of the reasons why his customers keep coming back, and why he’s been named our best butcher.

“I don’t cut corners, I don’t want cheap, I want the best,” he said.

“We have a local farmer at Wiangaree we’ve been working with for eight years.

“We use Bangalow sweet pork and Misty Creek chickens.

“I know for me, I want to take something home that I’m going to enjoy.”

The other key to Alstonville Quality Meats’ success is customer service.

Mr Thomson said it was a “huge” focus.

“We do as much as we can for our customers,” he said.

“We have a couple that comes in quite often who always tell us they get a good experience every time; they walk in and know we’re happy to see them.”

Alstonville Quality Meats is located in Main Street, Alstonville.

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AOC rails against $7 minimum wage in ‘shout out to my fellow radicals’ as she cooks Whole Foods

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has given a ‘shout out’ to her ‘fellow radicals’ on Instagram this week, calling for an ‘advanced society’ while preparing salmon pasta from Whole Foods in a $58 shirt she sells on her webstore.

Ocasio-Cortez, 31, hosted an Instagram Live to update people on progress of a second COVID relief bill.

She complained about ‘the system’ of which she is part, and criticized ‘huge conglomerate employers sending you in harm’s way and being completely immune from any accountability for it.’ 

A key sticking point of the bill is whether companies can be held liable if their staff contract COVID at work.

Republicans and Democrats are tantalizingly close to an agreement, but not there yet.

On Thursday night Mitch McConnell’s staff informed congressional leadership offices that Senate Republicans likely would not support a $908 billion bipartisan proposal, according to NBC News.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez staged an Instagram Live on Thursday night about COVID relief

At the end of one hour of 'cooking salmon pasta', the fish was still in its Whole Foods package

At the end of one hour of ‘cooking salmon pasta’, the fish was still in its Whole Foods package

It remains unclear what kind of package could be supported by both the Republican-controlled Senate and Democratic-held House.

The Bronx congresswoman, who by the end of her hour-long video had not even unwrapped her Whole Foods salmon or begun chopping ingredients, expressed her frustration at Republican objections to the bill, and dismissed their objections that it was too expensive.

AOC spoke about the minimum wage and corporate responsibility

AOC spoke about the minimum wage and corporate responsibility

‘A $770 billion defense bill, but COVID checks, rein it back. Unemployment checks? No,’ she said.

‘This really isn’t about fiscal responsibility at all.’

Ocasio-Cortez said that it was not ‘radical’ to demand healthcare and a living wage, noting: ‘When they call you radical – it’s really sad what they call radical these days. We can be an advanced society and not allow people to die in the streets.’

She added: ‘Shout out to my fellow radicals in the United States who believe crazy things like a full-time job should be enough for you to live and believe in crazy radical things like if you kill someone there shouldn’t be impunity.

‘And also who believe really crazy radical things like you should get a stimulus check without having to bail out a corporation for it. Or that you should get a stimulus check without your employer, you know, if you work for one of these huge conglomerate employers sending you in harm’s way and being completely immune from any accountability for it.

‘You know, shoutout to my fellow radicals who think that we should live in a humane advanced society and that we shouldn’t be under the thumb of a $7 minimum wage and racist systems.

‘Because, I don’t know, that just benefits the people who already are in power to be in power.

‘So, you know, shoutout to my radicals.’

The Bronx congresswoman wore a sweatshirt she sells for $58 on her website

The Bronx congresswoman wore a sweatshirt she sells for $58 on her website

Ocasio-Cortez is pictured on November 19 calling on Biden to appoint a corporate-free cabinet

Ocasio-Cortez is pictured on November 19 calling on Biden to appoint a corporate-free cabinet

AOC with fellow 'squad' members Ilhan Omar (left) and Rashida Tlaib (right)

AOC with fellow ‘squad’ members Ilhan Omar (left) and Rashida Tlaib (right)

Ocasio-Cortez has faced criticism from Republicans and some Democrats who say some of her positions alienate moderates.

Barack Obama said earlier this month that the Democratic Party should embrace her and make sure that she has a platform.

‘You give her a platform, just like there may be some other young Democrats who come from more conservative areas who have a different point of view. But new blood is always good,’ he said at the time.

Ocasio-Cortez and her fellow ‘squad’ members – Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan – are getting some new colleagues.

Of the 15 incoming freshmen lawmakers, eight are members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and at least four have ties to the squad.

‘These new, incredibly great leaders are reinforcements coming over the hill,’ said Ed Markey, a Democrat senator for Massachusetts and elder statesman who aligned himself with the young insurgents to overcome a primary challenge this year.

Democrats are on track to initially have as few as 220 seats in the next Congress — barely more than the 218 needed to pass bills — which could give a small groups of lawmakers leverage by threatening to block votes.

Three of the four new ‘squad’ members are, like Ocasio-Cortez, from New York.

The new members include Jamaal Bowman, an African American former school teacher and principal who defeated a 16-term Democratic incumbent and committee chairman in a Bronx-area district.

He has taken up slavery reparations as the issue he wants to try to elevate, like Ocasio Cortez did with the Green New Deal.

‘I was watching it from afar, watching Bernie Sanders run, and then watching AOC and the squad, not just win but truly come in as voices for the underserved, so to be joining them in Congress in 2021 is surreal and exciting, and I think it illustrates a shift happening in the Democratic Party,’ Bowman told NBC News.

Mondaire Jones, 33, a former Obama Justice Department lawyer from New York, challenged a longtime incumbent Democrat in a primary who decided not to seek re-election, which created the opening for a crowded primary.

Jones then went on to win the nomination in the New York City suburbs, and won general election on a platform of Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.

‘We are uniquely positioned to lead the Democratic Party into the 21st century, and I don’t think that has happened yet,’ Jones said of his fellow freshmen.

‘I don’t think that we have fully addressed as a party the unprecedented challenges that Americans now face, such as the student loan crisis.’

Jones, along with fellow incoming new congressman Ritchie Torres, a 32-year-old New York City councilman, will be the first openly gay black men in Congress.

Finally there is Cori Bush, a nurse and racial justice activist who got involved in the protests surrounding the 2014 shooting by police of Michael Brown, a black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri.

Backed by Justice Democrats, the left-wing group that recruited Ocasio-Cortez and others, Bush defeated a 10-term incumbent in the primary and won the November election in the safe blue seat easily.

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The Healthy Cooks – Exciting new TV series


Exciting new food television series  The Healthy Cooks is an eight-part food television series airing for the first time this summer. With the support AIA Vitality, The Healthy Cooks shares recipes, tips and hacks around eating well and being well. It’s making a change for the better. With healthier food choices, exercise and great new recipes, it’s about being the best version of you.

The Healthy Cooks is the newest, high-energy and fun-filled series on television this year. Join four amazing cooks, eight delicious episodes, and twenty-four exciting recipes. It’s just the recipe for everyone to enjoy. You’ll love it, share it and be back for more.

Adventurous, gorgeous and passionate, The Healthy Cooks stars the a super team line-up of Tobie Puttock, Diana Chan, Stephanie Claire Smith and Laura Henshaw from Keep it Cleaner.


It’s brand new and totally fresh, focusing on food health and wellbeing. Each weekly episode rolls out nutritious cooking ideas, with tips, tricks and hacks to creating great recipes and better food choices.

Executive Producer Catherine Gunn says, “We’ve had a tough year in Australia with COVID-19 and we’re all looking for uplifting, fresh and positive entertainment. This food series was created to bring simple changes into our homes and kitchens to make big differences to people’s lives – to create joy”.

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Created and produced by Bengar Films in Melbourne, The Healthy Cooks responds to Australia’s growing health movement, for everyone to share in.

The recipes are designed for all people to enjoy, exploring all types of diets, including plant-based, gluten-free, pescatarian and FODMAP recipes. Series Creator Ben Gartland says, “We’re all addicted to photographing beautiful plates of food and posting for friends to enjoy. This new series taps into what we’re already doing with our mobile phones — sharing food ideas.

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At The Healthy Cooks we think it’s about sharing the goodness of cooking and having a good time doing it. So, we’ve aimed at reshaping the traditional cooking show format, with entertainment which is contemporary, relevant and fun for audiences to follow.

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The line-up of talent for The Healthy Cooks is a tour-de-force of social media prowess, positivity and 2 genuine passion for making healthier food choices. It’s certainly makes sharing food recipes exciting and we’re clearly not taking ourselves too seriously. It simply connects our food choices to feeling good and being happy – and that’s what we all need right now.”


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Tobie Puttock is a professional chef who has cooked around the world and worked alongside Jamie Oliver on projects including 15 and Australia’s Ministry of Food. Now living in Melbourne and with a healthy plant-based food focus, he is sharing new recipes and a healthy approach to the kitchen. Tobie has featured in the Channel 10 hit series, Jamie’s Kitchen Australia (2006) and Lifestyle’s FOOD TV series, Tobie and Matt – Europe and Asia (2008) as well as several years as a Guest Judge with Channel 7’s ratings hit My Kitchen Rules.

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Steph Claire Smith and Laura Henshaw are the founders of ‘Keep it Cleaner’ (aka KIC), an online lifestyle program that helps you live a better life, without the fuss. Their combined passion for wellbeing and health, led them to publish a healthy eating cookbook, ‘Keep it Clean’ in 2015. The book was super-successful and led to the launch of the KIC website early in 2016. The site has since become one of the fastest growing fitness subscriber sites in the country. Stephanie and Laura also have expanded ‘Keep It Cleaner’ into a food product range which is available at supermarkets nationally.

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Diana Chan was a contestant on MasterChef Australia’s 9th season and took out first place, which attracted a huge following of fans who love her style, passion and honesty. From a very young age and Diana learnt to cook from her parents, but it was only when she moved to Melbourne that her interest grew as she discovered the farmers’ markets that supplied plenty of fresh and local produce from around Australia. Diana is currently working with children through food education via the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program and is pre-production of Season 2 of her very popular food show, Asia Unplated on SBS Food. 

Are you ready? Then get your skates on and join us at The Healthy Cooks, premiering 1pm (AEST) Saturday 7th November on Channel Nine.


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11 best gifts for home cooks, bakers, and food lovers 2020

This season, we might not be able to sit down for that sumptuous holiday feast with all our closest friends and family—but when it comes to gifts, delicious experiences can still be had. For the gourmands, culinary masterminds, and just plain hungry on your holiday shopping list, we rounded up a collection of top treats, smart gadgets, and well-designed dining accessories. Our picks, which range from a 60-second pizza oven to retro-inspired cookware, are sure to please anyone with good taste.

Usual Wines Mixed Pack
Fast Company deputy editor David Lidsky loves Usual Wine’s “high quality, generous” single-serving wines and the stylish, beautiful bottles they come in. A Mixed Pack makes an excellent stocking stuffer, with Californian Red, Rosé, and Brut wines. The individual 6.3 oz glass decanters are perfect for spur-of-the-moment sipping, on-the-go celebrations, or an after-work treat for the wine lover in your life.

Burlap and Barrel
Burlap and Barrel’s beautiful spices are sourced equitably from all over the world. Bring new life to your favorite quarantine chef’s dinners with the six-jar Weeknight Dinner Collection, which includes Turkish Black Urfa Chili and Cured Sumac, and New Harvest Turmeric from India. Shopping for a more advanced palette? The Complete Collection includes 28 gourmet spices from all over the globe. In a year with so much time at home, Burlap and Barrel’s beautiful collections are a great way to feel like you’re getting a little taste of global cuisines in your own kitchen.

[Photo: courtesy Great Jones]

Great Jones Bakeware
The colorful cookware startup recently revealed its collection of retro-inspired baking dishes, sheets, and pans. We like the Hot Dish—a rectangular ceramic casserole pan named for the famed midwestern pot luck staple—and the Holy Sheet, a ceramic-coated half-sheet in two bright, funky shades, Blueberry and Broccoli. For the baker in your life, these technicolor staples are sure to bring a little pep to the kitchen.

Ooni Koda 12 Gas Powered Pizza Oven
These slender, easy-on-the-eyes pizza ovens can flash-bake a pie in under 60 seconds. They’re portable and gas-powered, and they can reach 932°F in 15 minutes. Bon appétit!

[Photo: courtesy Milk Bar]

Milk Bar Pie
Could this be any more delicious? Fast Company senior editor Amy Farley raved about the surprise gift of a Milk Bar Pie she received this fall, and we think your friends and family will, too: “I can’t even begin to describe how good it is: a buttery sweet (but not too sweet) center and a hearty oat cookie crust.”

Snowe Marble Wine Cooler
This understated wine chiller is the perfect gift for the host or hostess in your life—even if they won’t be having any parties this year. In three chic stone shades, it’s sure to elevate even the cheapest bodega bottle. Send in hopes of being reunited soon.

Breville Bambino
For espresso lovers, the Breville Bambino line is unbeatable in its ease, smart design, and rigorous quality testing methodology. Staff writer Mark Wilson, who tested the Plus version in November, summed it up best: “Less than 20 seconds later, I take my first sip, expecting swill since I’ve never pulled a shot before. That’s when I realize, I’m sipping a respectable, surprisingly satisfying cup of espresso—toasted but not bitter, and topped with a gorgeous crema.” For anyone missing their daily jolt from the local café, this gift is a godsend.

In Good Taste Wine Flight
Come for the wine, stay for the aesthetically designed labels and the wine. Gift a handpicked tasting of eight unique, balanced wines with 6 oz. pours from family-run, boutique vineyards across the California coast.

[Photo: courtesy Our Place]

Our Place Drinking Glasses
Our Place is best known for its do-it-all, 8-in-1 Always Pan (also a stellar gift), but its new, multicolored, mineral-dyed Drinking Glasses are perfect for your favorite hostess, barkeep, or spirits connoisseur. Like their predecessor, they are designed to be multifunctional (serving as ice-cream coupes, lowballs, or whatever else you need them for) and are both stackable and dishwasher-safe.

Mouth Gift Boxes and Kits
Mouth’s clever cocktail and snack kits allow you to send a curated collection of gourmet treats to anyone in your life. For the festive friend, try the Just Add Champagne basket of bitters and fruity accouterments for batches upon batches of fizzy drinks. Savory snack seekers might enjoy the Holiday Pickle Dill-ights Box, while sweet tooths will love the decadent Chocolate-Covered Deliciousness set. For thrill seekers, a Hot Hot Hot Sauce set might just spice up their holiday. No matter which delightfully curated box you choose, your delicious gifts will be sourced from small-batch makers across the country—so they’ll be full of that homemade care and love.

Fast Company may receive revenue for some links to products on our site.

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Damien Cook’s fitness crucial for NSW Blues due to depleted dummy-half options

When asked about the rake replacements after training on Monday, Cook nominated Parramatta’s Brown.

“‘Browny’ could probably jump in there, and he is built low to the ground like me,” Cook said.

Who replaces Damien Cook should he go down injured?Credit:Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

“He might have been told that. All the bench players have been told to be ready for anything. I think Browny may have even spent a bit of time there for City [Origin].

“The other option is to put Cody at dummy half, move Jack to five-eighth and Isaah Yeo into the centres. There are a few options.”

Cook is regarded as one of the fittest players in the game and among the most durable. He felt no extra pressure to stay healthy given how quickly the dummy-half stocks thin out.

Fittler knows he can cover every position – Wighton can play in the halves, Clint Gutherson can play fullback, even Angus Crichton played a World Club Challenge clash as a centre – but the No.9 is precious cargo. Murray was always considered the contingency plan, but injured his hamstring in Adelaide.


Such is his faith in Cook that Fittler ignored picking Penrith’s Api Koroisau in the extended squad with Cam McInnes the only recognised dummy-half in camp, but also someone who has been used more as a lock forward in recent times.

“I get a lot of confidence and belief out of the guys around me,” Cook said.

“I’ve simplified my game plan a lot. I understand I can use everyone around me. If you look at the talent here, my job is based on defending well, good execution, and if I see an opportunity to back myself. I’ve simplified that part of it.

“I’ve been pretty good [health wise]. I got a good whack to the nuts last week, but that was it. Munster scored a try, so it hurt even more. His ankle flicked up and got me.”

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MasterChef cooks up a return to past glories in finale

MasterChef went out with a bang, bringing in 2 million viewers and revitalising the fatigued actuality structure.

Masterchef Australia (Impression: Ten)

MasterChef’s revival in Australia was verified previous evening with a gorgeous surge in viewers to amounts that reminded of past glories. Two million men and women watched the winner’s announcement. The direct up — the ultimate cooking organization — also rated solidly with 1.64 million nationally.

The system did nicely in the metros with 1.52 million for the winner and 1.26 million for the cooking guide up.

The winner’s announcement was the most-watched method on the evening with an audience practically 700,000 more than 2019’s lacklustre 1.3 million. The winner’s announcement and lead up were the leading two courses in metro marketplaces.

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Masterchef cooks up bragging rights for Ten

Masterchef tops the non-news rankings, delivering the night for Ten.

Masterchef Australia (Image: Ten)

Masterchef Australia up on last week (1.30 million nationally, and bragging rights on the night for Ten), The Voice, down on last week at 1.26 million for Nine; Big Brother third in the reality rankings and up over one million national viewers for a program average of 1.08 million.

But the lead up to the eviction averaged 1.09 million, 32,000 more than the highlight, the actual eviction. A worry if it becomes a trend.

This is the first time Masterchef has topped the non-news rankings when The Voice and BB have also been in rival schedules. So bragging rights to Ten, and Seven which dominated the demos.

All up more than 3.6 million people watched the three ‘reality’ programs — that’s still impressive.

The afternoon battle of the codes saw very low figures — just 319,000 national people for the AFL game on Seven and just 462,000 for the NRL on Nine. That’s a long way from the opening games of the season restarts and their million plus totals.

In the regions, Seven News, 555,000, The Voice, 390,000, Nine News, 389,000, 7pm ABC News, 382,000, Big Brother, 340,000.

Network channel share:

  1. Nine (28.5%)
  2. Seven (28.3%)
  3. Ten (21.7%)
  4. ABC (15.2%)
  5. SBS (6.3%)

Network main channels:

  1. Nine (20.5%)
  2. Seven (19.0%)
  3. Ten (16.6%)
  4. ABC (11.0%)
  5. SBS ONE (3.7%)

Top 5 digital channels: 

  1. 7mate (5.3%)
  2. 10 Bold (3.5%
  3. GO (3.3%)
  4. 7TWO (2.7%)
  5. ABC Kids/Comedy (2.1%)

Top 10 national programs:

  1. Seven News — 1.74 million
  2. Nine/NBN News — 1.41 million
  3. Masterchef Australia (Ten) — 1.30 million
  4. The Voice (Nine) — 1.26 million
  5. Big Brother (Seven) — 1.09 million
  6. 7pm ABC News — 1.09 million
  7. Big Brother — Eviction (Seven) — 1.06 million
  8. 60 Minutes (Nine) — 850,000
  9. Grand Designs (ABC) — 725,000
  10. Operation Buffalo (ABC) — 703,000

Top metro programs:

  1. Seven News — 1.09 million
  2. Nine News — 1.02 million

Losers: A lot for everyone last night

Metro news and current affairs:

  1. Seven News — 1.09 million
  2. Nine News — 1.02 million
  3. 7pm ABC News – 708,000
  4. 60 Minutes (Nine) — 561,000
  5. The Project 7pm (Ten) — 501,000
  6. Nine News Late — 339,000
  7. 10 News First — 338,000
  8. The Project 6.30 (Ten) — 355,000
  9. SBS World News — 185,000

Morning (National) TV:

  1. Insiders (ABC, ABC News) — 666,000
  2. Weekend Sunrise (Seven) – 476,000
  3. Landline (ABC) — 443,000
  4. Weekend Today (Nine) – 308,000 
  5. Offsiders (ABC) — 296,000
  6. Sports Sunday (Nine) — 222,000

Top five pay TV programs: 

  1. NRL: Canberra v Melbourne (Fox League) — 241,000 
  2. NRL: Cronulla v Canterbury (Fox League) — 222,000
  3. AFL: Gold Coast v Adelaide (Fox Footy) — 165,000
  4. AFL: Bounce Ep 14 (Fox Footy) — 155,000
  5. NRL: Pre-Game (Fox League) — 147,000
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