Zin is not just an abbreviation for David’s famous Zinfandel, in Dutch it also means Appetite; Desire; Intent.
Many of you will know that there’s been a bit of drama in and around The House during recent times. Happily community and human spirit overcame evil intent and we’re working towards just getting on with what we do best here, full of Zin.
During the peak of ‘the crisis’ I made a number of promises to myself, the usual stuff when life throws a massive curve ball full throttle at you. Live in the moment, appreciate and spend more time with friends and loved ones, absorb and be aware of the beauty of where we live. And another big one for me, remember that I love what I do for a living.
Of course cooking and Zin is not about ‘a living’, it is simply how I live. So when somewhat out of the blue that was threatened there were occasions when I had to think, what else would I do and where would I do it?
I tried to imagine myself in a little French village, strolling to the markets each day from our stone pension, returning to cook ad hoc for the days guests.
I conjured up a rough black sand east coast fishing village in New Zealand where I met the fishing boats before trecking back up the bush to my white weatherboard pub and making scones and paua fritters.
Yet whatever scenario I created I just couldn’t remove myself, even in my imagination, from Tinja. It wasn’t just bloody mindedness nor age or being set in my ways. It was simply the realisation that we are attached to this place in a way that goes beyond the physical. It is simply love.
You can go anywhere and buy great food, you can live anywhere and make fancy dishes. But it is only when you grow, cook and connect with the land and its community that you imprint it with the energy of care.
So here I am in the kitchen at Zin, on the farm at Tinja, cooking from our garden. And all because enough people had enough Zin.
Thomas’s Lemon Curd Tart
Zest of four lemons and juice of 5
250 grams sugar
Whisk together in a pan over gentle heat until it thickens, add 60 grams of butter and remove from heat.
Put in a blind baked pastry shell and cook at 130 degrees c for 15 minutes.
Optionally top with Italian meringue, brown with a blow torch or pop under the grill.
This January I’d like to invite you on a tour of our edible garden (I’d call it ‘my’ garden but Jackie does all the work).
The plan is for you to join Jackie and I on a gathering stroll in the garden and orchards then retire to the dining room for a meal based on what we’ve found growing.
Given the slight issue of time travel we will have anticipated some of your finds and pre-picked and cooked ahead that morning as well as me cooking from the open kitchen during lunch.
Head chef Jeremy will join us for a demonstration of what he might have done in comparison to some of the dishes I will present – a little Kiwi rustic vs French refined in our Aussie kitchen.
It will be each Monday in January. I learn something every time I’m in the garden and I’m looking forward to sharing the summer pickings, Jackie’s fabulous expertise and a leisurely meal of food that will speak for itself. Can’t come on a Monday? Talk to us about customising your own group or buying a gift voucher as Christmas gifts for the garden obsessed.
But that’s January, a lifetime and Christmas away. And we know its nearly Christmas because I just plugged buying gift vouchers; well now you know I’ve moved into the marketing department!
My heart and that of Zin House remains firmly in the garden. It’s been a big year of recognition for excellence and I like to think also for authenticity. It’s always bothered me when pocket handkerchief gardens feeding 1,000 + covers talk baldly about cooking what they grow. All of us who do the hard yards, and I include our colleagues at Pipeclay Pumphouse here, know what it takes to actually grow the talk.
I remain infuriated with the obsession for how food looks over how it’s grown and how it tastes. The greatest compliment you can give us is to tuck in with lots of yum’s, stretch out over the privilege of a meal that isn’t sandwiched between the two hours most convenient to someones spreadsheet, bring your friends to share a sunset and continue to support our small country restaurant as it grows.
Whilst ‘the marketing department’ may be very happy for you to shoot your meal, I’d much rather you just savoured it.
We know everyone’s a reviewer now, so how lovely when we get a rave review from the country’s leading professional restaurant critic.
John Lethlean writes in this weeks Australian “Pretty much my idea of the ideal regional restaurant: unpretentious yet stylish; warm and hospitable, with service that doesn’t make apologies for the address; food sourced as locally as possible; wines that talk of the region; and a kitchen with really skilful cooking that knows its audience.”
A lovely trial by fire for new head chef Jeremy Metivier, if you haven’t tried Jeremy’s updated version of Zin House cooking then you should.
This brings me to the very challenging juggling we’ve been doing here at Zin between my rustic style, Jeremy’s more refined cooking and our principles of cooking simply, from scratch. I think that we’re both learning to be better cooks as I accept that young chefs might know a thing or two I don’t and the opportunity to cook from a garden rather than a shopping list provides disciplines of creativity courtesy of the seasons.
Or as Lethlean put it in describing one of the dishes “A crimson tide of beetroot and pomegranate seeds tartare style with garden leaves and walnut cream, a marvellously inventive dish made better by rice crips that use zinfandel lees in the batter.”
I’m happy for the food to always have the last word.