Around two years ago Dave Roberts began experimenting with recipes for Spanish-style sausages. He was working full-time at MoVida (he was head chef of the original restaurant in Hosier Lane for eight years) and wasn’t happy with the quality or consistency of the smallgoods being supplied to the restaurant.

“The difference from batch to batch was often too great – the textures weren’t quite right and sometimes it would come in not cured enough to my liking,” he says.

He had noticed, in his trips through Spain, the considerable variation in smallgoods in each region. Many had a unique spin on a particular embutido – Spanish for cured sausages – and each thought their version was the best.

In February 2015 Roberts started his company Carne-Sal-Tiempo. It means “meat-salt-time” in Spanish – the key to success for Roberts’ products. The recipes and techniques he uses to make his embutidos are inspired and informed by numerous trips to Spain, and 13 years with MoVida.

From the beginning, Roberts has worked with Spanish deli Casa Iberica, which has a smallgoods factory in Alphington. He tightly controls production, and guards his recipes closely. Whenever a new batch of sausages needs to be made, it is him and only him who prepares the dry ingredients. The team at Casa Iberica then combine Roberts’ spice mix with locally sourced pork. He visits the factory at least once a week to test the products and ensure they are maturing correctly.

“I began quite slowly, making sure the products were right and making sure there was a market,” Roberts says. “It started off not about making money, but about making a great product and getting it out there and being proud of it.”

We’re in his home kitchen, and he is making a cured sausage. He mixes coarsely minced pork with fennel seeds, salt, spices, and a culture to begin the fermentation process. It’s then stuffed into natural animal casings before curing for two to three weeks.

Currently, Carne-Sal-Tiempo produces five types of sausage – fuet (a classic Catalonian sausage), fuet anis (the one with fennel seed and Roberts’ favourite), chorizo (flavoured with fino sherry and paprika), chorizo picante (a spicier version), and a larger sausage with pepper and nutmeg called salchichon.

Originally appearing on cured meat plates at the MoVida restaurants, it wasn’t long before others, including Embla, The French Saloon, Hotel Lincoln, Naked for Satan, and Boilermaker House, also put Roberts’ sausages on the menu. Roberts still has a managerial role with the MoVida group, but isn’t in the kitchen day-to-day. (Carne-Sal-Tiempo is separate from the MoVida group, but MoVida founder Frank Camorra has been supportive of Roberts’ business, acting as a sounding board and taste-testing early batches.)

Iain Ling, who owns Hotel Lincoln in Carlton, has been using Carne-Sal-Tiempo products for about one-and-a-half years. “They’re bloody delicious, locally made and good quality,” he says. “We source a lot of our beers and wine from small producers, so it’s great to extend that to the food.”

Until now, you’ve only been able to eat Carne-Sal-Tiempo sausages at venues Roberts supplies on a wholesale basis, but he intends to put the product in retail outlets in the new year. To test the market, he’s selling special hampers, with chorizo, fuet anis, a knife, chopping board, and guindillas (small pickled peppers), in the lead-up to Christmas.

In addition to expanding into retail, Roberts also wants to launch a “salami of the quarter club”, where subscribers are sent a different cured sausage every three months.

Further down the track, he plans to add other products to his repertoire, such as the Spanish blood-pudding morcilla, and a larger, more textured smoked sausage called morcon. Also on his to-do list for 2017? Roberts intends to go the whole hog – he’ll try making jamon.

Carne-Sal-Tiempo hampers cost $55 plus a delivery fee of approximately $10 in metro Melbourne. They are available for purchase by contacting Dave Roberts – dave@carnesaltiempo.com.au or 0408 343 615.

carnesaltiempo.com.au