One month in, Zin House is starting to settle into a routine, of sorts. Preparing food is the easy, comfortable part. Getting back into the hang of service, having staff and managing the detail is more daunting.
The real joy remains for me in the growing. I think cooks who also grow are the best cooks.
Jacqui has joined us one day a week and one of my immediate goals is to be able to talk her into working (hence growing) more hours. Being companionable in the garden is quite similar to the kitchen – you need to share a philosophy and a way of approaching things. I know good gardeners are ruthless gardeners (because all my ruthless good gardener friends tell me so) but that’s not for me and I love the way Jacqui saves seeds, breaks up plants and delights in rescuing the self sown. I also love the fact that she sounds like she arrived from NZ five minutes ago and says my name in the clipped Kiwi way my mother approves of.
We’re starting from very little and rely heavily on the established winery beds and growers like Paul Galletti who also brings quail eggs. This week Paul’s garlic has gone into the nectarine bins lining the car park (tradition decrees that garlic is planted after ANZAC day), along with all the winter greens that will need to be planted progressively to keep us going. Access to oodles of biodynamic compost and good mulch is a head start.
Sadly we have served the last golden hornet crab apples (sprinkled with sugar and roasted with rose to serve with pork rillette), so nice to see pomegranates. I have a small crop but those from Clearview Orchard are magnificent and that’s what I’ve used in the salad recipe pictured here.
In solidarity with my Orange friends (Orange Apple Festival just held) I made apple and hazelnut crostata ( Lesley Russell’s fabulous recipe for a free form pie, see her recipes at Orange Regional Cooking School) for dessert last weekend and served it with brown sugar and spice ice-cream. This is the first batch of ice-cream since taking delivery of our friend John Fairley’s cream (Picton Valley) and I had to text him mid custard to tell him how lovely it was to use real cream. ( A basic anglaise 100mls cream to one egg yolk, brown sugar, cinnamon sticks and vanilla bean)
The winery herb gardens pay dividends every day, a simple ravioli filled with High Valley fetta or Jannei fresh curd is bound only with a few of our eggs, seasoning, sauteed onion and a mixture of whatever herbs – usually thyme, parsley, oregano and chives. Topped with thin slices of caramelly roast pumpkin (or the pumpkin in the ravioli as per below) and sage leaves crisped in Pepe Saya butter .
I can see Louie eating pumpkins and ripping up wormwood from where I’m writing, better go.
Pumpkin Ravioli with Mudgee Fetta & Hazelnuts
(Entree for eight or main for four)
250 grams pumpkin
One red onion, peeled and quartered
Three or four cloves garlic
Few sprigs of fresh thyme
Two tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
One cup of High Valley fetta (or Jannei fresh curd)
Zest of a lemon
Half a cup fresh mixed herbs
One fresh chilli or to taste
Gow Gee or Wonton pastry wrappers
125 grams butter
100 grams Mudgee hazelnuts
Handful of fresh sage leaves
Roughly slice the pumpkin. Place in a roasting pan with the onion, thyme and garlic. Season, drizzle with olive oil and roast until cooked and caramelised.
Pulse, along with any juices from the pan, in a food processor until just combined.
Add fresh curd or fetta, 3 eggs and an extra yolk (we need the leftover white), zest herbs and chilli. Pulse again briefly.
Gow Gee pastry wrappers (available in most supermarkets) make great ravioli. Lay them out on the bench, brush lightly with beaten egg white and then place a heaped teaspoon of filling in the centre of each one. Fold in half and press firmly to ensure the seam is sealed.
Place in rapidly boiling water and remove with a slotted spoon when they rise to the surface. Use a little olive oil to avoid them sticking together.
Nut brown butter
Heat the butter in a wok add sage leaves and hazelnuts, move around gently until they change colour, but before the butter gets too brown.
Pile the ravioli in a bowl. Spoon the browned butter, sage leaves and hazelnuts over the top. Top with chopped chives and cracked pepper. Dont wait.