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The Rees Hotel & Luxury Apartments' Te Mata Wine Dinner photoset The Rees Hotel & Luxury Apartments' Te Mata Wine Dinner photoset

Friday, 22 February 2013

Belgian ‘Ambassadors’ & the Latest ‘Inventions’ in the Kitchen

Recently I was asked by NZ Venison to show around a group of Belgian chefs. I wanted to make a good impression so they could take word back to Belgium of Otago’s wonderful produce!

We started with a visit to our suppliers and a few favourite wineries along the way, before cooking them dinner in the evening.

Their epicurean tour of the Southern Lakes commenced with 'olives & greens' splashed with Cairnmuir Olive Oil, kindly supplied by Bob at ‘Basil, Parsley & Partners’ and David at ‘Goodies from the Gorge’.

Wineries from our region were ticked off next with a visit to Surveyor Thompson Vineyard and Northburn Station - where we also stopped for lunch and admired their kitchen, gardens and winery!

Our visiting chefs then enjoyed a dinner at True South Dining Room, which was the perfect end to their Queenstown visit.

Tiki-touring around the Southern Lakes is not all I’ve been up to, it’s also been a busy time in the kitchen conjuring up new recipes.
True South Dining Room was recently awarded a 2013 Beef and Lamb Award of Excellence – that is now the second year running! The dish we created for the entry is a Merino lamb neck fillet rolled in apricot glaze, coated with saffron cous cous. It’s then laid on a bed of broad beans with cos lettuce and pesto. On the side are cherry tomatoes stuffed with goats cheese, saffron polenta, tomato chutney and a ‘Toulouse’ style sausage made up of minced lamb shoulder with thyme, garlic and paprika – it’s truly delicious!
This lamb dish is currently available in True South and is also entered in another component of the Beef and Lamb awards - basically a ‘People’s Choice’ award, with guests being able to fill out a review post-meal.

Also new on the menu is a dish made of Nelson scallops with homemade black pudding, curried corn puree, fresh corn with apple, red pepper and lime leaf sauce, red pepper glass (dried red pepper to make a biscuit) and curried popcorn.


When creating the black pudding I made 2 ‘prototypes’ - MK1 and MK2. They were from two different recipes that I found and added my own tweaks too. The kitchen team voted and MK2 won out in the end, thanks to it’s superior flavour and texture.

Last but not least is an heirloom tomato dish – an ode to the season! Fresh, seasonal (and delicious!) heirloom tomatoes are drizzled with a dressing of tomato, olive oil, lemon verbena and basil. It is accompanied by basil oil, cucumber and lemon verbena sorbet, lemon verbena meringue, black olive biscuit, tomato liquid sphere and Blue River Vintage Feta & red pepper mousse. Thanks to both Goodies from the Gorge and Aspiring Organics, we are able to source the hefty supply of these rare tomato treats.

For the heirloom connoisseurs who were wondering, the varieties we have at the moment are black Tula, San Marzano, Potente, Yellow Yummies and Golden Nuggets.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

So, Where Do Chefs Eat?


About a year ago I was approached to contribute to a restaurant guidebook 'Where Chefs Eat'. This month the book was finally published and is available at most bookstores!

The recommendations range from hard-to-find 'hole-in-the-walls' to internationally-lauded Michelin-starred restaurants. It includes my top picks of places to eat, along with the recommendations of 400 other top internationals chefs. It's one of the most comprehensive guides of it's kind and the #1 tool to have if you plan to eat your way around the world!

Here is the inside scoop on why I chose this selection ...

@thai - Queenstown, NZ
Cheap eats! Good value, as its a good standard of food for very reasonable prices.

Atlas Beer Cafe - Queenstown, NZ
This is Queenstown's home of craft beer. But quite simply, it's my favourite refuge away from it all. We go here to chill out after work for a beer or after a bike ride ... or, of course, for no reason at all!

The Cow - Queenstown, NZ
One of my favourite buildings in town, it's has such a cool atmosphere/surroundings and the pizzas are good too!

The Fat Duck - Berkshire, England
Heston Blumenthal's 'The Fat Duck' lives up to it's world-renowned reputation. Here I experienced the most perfect meal I have ever eaten!!! If you ask our CEO and resident foodie, Mark I think he would definitely agree!

Fergburger - Queenstown, NZ
This place has made it into Lonely Planet - say no more!

Fishbone - Queenstown, NZ
Always reliable,always reasonable and always friendly. It's a safe dinner choice you can count on to deliver.

Fleurs Place - Moeraki, NZ
Full of character, it's in an amazing location and is a MUST for travellers!

Hikari - Queenstown, NZ
For the sushi-lovers! They make some of the best sushi in town.

Hopgoods - Nelson, NZ
Basically just a pleasant, enjoyable meal. If you are in the area, it's definitely a safe bet so check it out.

Kappa - Queenstown, NZ
This is probably my most-eaten-at restaurant. I just love the Japanese food and the quirky décor is a bit of fun.

Merediths - Auckland, NZ
I think I can go on the record to say that I had the best meal I have eaten in New Zealand here, so it is DEFINITELY worth a look!

Pescatore - Christchurch, NZ
I stumbled upon this place when I got a bargain $2 flight to Christchurch. I wasn't expecting much, so it came as a real surprise to me when it more than met my expectations and turned out to be very nice.

Vudu Cafe - Queenstown, NZ
Has the best coffee and one of those food cabinets where you just want to devour the lot!

WD-50 - New York, USA Fun and amazing at the same time, it would be in my top 3 best meals of all time. So casual, so unpretentious, yet so clever and awesome at the same time! I haven't had a meal that good since The Fat Duck.

Yakitori Daruma - Queenstown, NZ
A nice place at night to sit, having a beer and some nibbles. The room has a good atmosphere too.Solera Vino was also on the list, but unfortunately is now closed.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Perfectly Inspired By Pure Wasabi



Many people don't realise this, but you are often getting an imposter alongside your Japanese meal! The wasabi paste that's alongside your sushi or in a tube from the supermarket shelves is unlikely to be ‘real’ wasabi. Pure wasabi can be quite expensive, so more often that not it's  just horseradish, alongside with synthetic colour and flavour. Did you also knoiw that if you're not using pure wasabi, there are no guarantees against toxic pesticides and other harmful sprays.

At True South Dining Room we've recently started using Coppersfolly Pure Wasabi. Pure wasabi paste is the ground root of the wasabi herb plant. It is sometimes known as ‘Japanese horseradish’, however it is not actually part of the horseradish plant family. It has a similar hotness to horseradish, but what really sets pure wasabi apart is the aromatic flavour!

Once you try the REAL wasabi you won't want to go back! It opens up a whole new world on your palette. So much so that it inspired me to create a fantastic 
monkfish dish, made using BBQ Monkfish, oyster, Coppersfolly Wasabi, soy beetroot. rice cake and dashi.

First I cooked the monkfish sous vide in a Teriyaki-style glaze. 

Next up for seafood, a Bluff oyster is poached in dashi stock. The stock is then strained and poured over the dish at the table. I used our supplier Stewart Island Oysters, as their Bluff oysters from Stewart Island are MASSIVE, fresh and delicious - basically a superb product!

For the vegetables, I marinated red and golden beets in soy, soy beans and spring onion.

Then I really got creative! I made a of panna blancmange using rice milk, tofu and Coppersfolly Wasabi. Experimenting even further, I made a variation of rice cake using rice mixed with egg white and rice flour before cooking. 

I finished it off with some toasted sesame seeds and voilà! The dish to showcase authentic Wasabi is complete!

Friday, 24 August 2012

When You Cross Southern Lakes with Scandinavian


Scallop season fast approaching- have you checked out the new Winter menu? You may have even noticed a slight Scandinavian influence …

... well, I recently got back from a Scandinavian holiday, where we ate out at some Michelin-starred restaurants in Copenhagen and Helsinki. Although different countries, there were similarities in the flavours used and I came away with plenty of inspiration!

When I got home, the first dish I came up with was a venison dish. Common flavours that I found were malt, liquorice, chocolate, rye bread, wild berries and herbs, milk (they drink A LOT of milk!) and reindeer. So this dish has aspects of those except the reindeer (unless you know a supplier) that is replaced with venison.

It consists of braised venison osso bucco with a dark malty beer, wrapped in chocolate pasta, with braised lentils beneath. Around the outside is malted parsnip puree, licorice puree,ground cocoa nibs and crispy chervil. On top are parsnip crisps and the foam is made using milk, the braising liqueur from the venison and licorice root and malt extract. It tastes delicious, even if it does look like a cigar!

Coming soon will be the second of my Scandinavian/girlfriend-inspired recipes. I gave a little preview teaser at the Rural Women demonstration. Based on a common Finnish snack called Karelian pies (obviously that has been translated!) which come from the Karelia region on the Russian border (this is a bit controversial, as the area was Finnish but they lost parts of it to Russia in a war).

My girlfriend made these for me at home saying I would never like them, but I loved them! In Finland I ate plenty and got very well acquainted. Basically, they are savoury rice pudding but using pearl barley (they call it porridge in Finland). This is then semi-wrapped in rye pastry and baked- they look a little like moccasins. Most commonly served with egg butter (boiled eggs mixed with butter).
Get the full recipe here!

Along with our Pastry Chef, Ben we have developed a dessert version using rye pastry to make a tart and filled it with a sweet creamed pearl barley (like rice pudding), flavoured again with malt and vanilla. Basically a sweet version of Karelian pie! We will be serving this with rye friands, rhubarb and beer ice cream (beer is also popular in Finland).

It's All About the Cheeks for the Country Connoisseurs


Last month, as part of my New Zealand Beef + Lamb Ambassador role I was part of a food demonstration for the Winton branch of Rural Women New Zealand – they have the Ambassadors do this annually.

The brief I was working to, was a three course menu themed ‘restaurant food at home’, which of course had to use beef and lamb. I had to devise three dishes, recipes and tasters for all the ladies on the day.

It was a lovely drive to sunny Winton, where the demo was held. Firstly, I had to set up my section and get ready to serve the tasters. I was lucky to have two enthusiastic ladies assist me. Finally, it was time for the much-anticipated show, with plenty of entertainment. We didn’t take things too seriously and it seemed everyone enjoyed themselves.

Last but not least, I did plenty of advocating for the Rural Women’s
‘A Good Harvest’ preserving book. I may not have been the best ‘promo boy’, but it really is an essential book that ties in nicely with my belief of knowing where your food comes from. Better yet, grow your own and preserve the excess!

We had a great response, with lots of positive feedback and even some positively glowing letters! Even though the women have homekill meat, some of them had never eaten beef cheeks! It was great to introduce them to such a delicacy.

It's always enjoyable sharing my knowledge with an audience of foodies. In exchange for my time up the front, I received an awesome present of red and black merino socks knitted by some very kind rural women (for the Christchurch earthquake charity, 'Aftersocks').


Wednesday, 23 May 2012

What To Do During the Humble Fig Season


Figs are a bit like nature’s equivalent to Marmite; you either love them or hate them!
 
Down here in Southland, the fig season only runs for a few weeks and that short run is coming to a close now but that doesn't deter us because figs are a great ingredient to use, as match well with both savoury and sweet foods. Unique and very distinctive in both flavour and texture, they make for a very interesting piece of ingredient to use.
Our True South Dining Room kitchen’s supply of figs comes from two of our favourite produce suppliers; Goodies from the Gorge and Aspiring Organics. This gives us the luxury of being able to source two varieties; Brown Turkey and Adriatic.

Because the season is so short, it makes sense to use various way to preserve some of the figs, so we can extend the season a little bit longer for many of our guests to enjoy when they come into the especially restaurant.Our answer to this has been to dehydrate them, but if you are looking for a far longer shelf life then poaching and preserving is definitely the way to go.

From the dehydrated figs we've create 'Baked Alaskas', which can then be frozen. This basically involves taking the top off and carefully scooping out the middle pulp and filling it with ice cream them putting the top back on and freezing. We then cover that with Italian Meringue and bake. Truly delicious!

They're on our Tasting Menu over the next fortnight for a limited time, so be in quick all fig lovers!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Day in the Life of a TV Chef

A lot of pre-planning goes into a TV appearance for what often turns out to be a few minutes airtime. I think my own personal record was a total of 6 hours filming to get a four minute film segment. Luckily for me, today's appearance on TVNZ Good Morning went smoothly thanks to a lot of prior planning and the great crew that looked out for me.

I arrived in Auckland late last night, with a chilly bin full of local produce, pre-prepared in vacuum-sealed bags and ready to go for the big morning ahead of us. Being a chef, I tend to run on a late-night schedule, so the 8am start was a bit of a shock to the system.

Fiona welcomed me in to TVNZ's Good Morning Show in Auckland, showing me the Green Room (still not sure why it's called that!), Studio and Prep Kitchen. There was no shortage of helpers and most of the hard yards had been done in the True South kitchen, so I had plenty of time to kill before I would be showcasing my Taco dish in the first of three segments in the show.

After a quick once over in the make-up chair and having a microphone fitted, I was in the studio with host Jeanette, showing her my canape rendition of Crisp Lamb Tacos with Blue River Vintage Feta and Red Pepper Mousse & Greek Salad. Aside from a bit of getting used to the induction stove, the dish went well. The crew behind the cameras were enticed over afterwards by the delicious smell of Cardrona Merino Lamb.

I had another 40 minutes break so finished off what little prep was left and had a much-deserved cuppa. After that I was chatting to host, Matai, about our Lap of Luxury competition and the Tasting Menu at True South Dining Room. I prepared Smoked Southland Venison with Cucumber, Gin, Beetroot& Dark Chocolate Oil, a similar but simpler version of one of our Tasting Menu dishes. Having previously been accustomed to the strong, gamey venison in Scotland; the subtle, milder flavour of the Invercargill kind is a refreshing change. I think I even managed to bring Matai over to the venison-lovers side with that one, as he previously was not a fan!

After a quick touch up in make-up, my final slot was up with host, Rod. He must have been the third person that day to identify my Bristol accent - it seems more Kiwis are familiar with Bristol than the average Briton! The finale was a Frangelico Pana Cotta. Frangelico is a hazelnut liqueur from Northern Italy, so it seemed fitting to add some rougly-crushed hazelnuts into the mix. Add to that warm Golden Queen peaches caramelised in honey and it was the perfect mix of hot and cold on the taste buds.

While the viewer at home only sees twenty-four minutes of you on-screen, hours and hours of creating recipes, planning logistics and doing prep goes on behind-the-scenes every time you see a chef on TV. For me, it can be a lot of fun, I have met great teams of people and it is always worth it when you hear fantastic feedback from the viewers!