The time has come to get Zin back into the swing of providing great regional dining.
There are superficial changes that many will notice immediately but the heart and core of The Zin House philosophy is unchanged.
We remain proudly and stubbornly set menu, set price, communal dining. I know its not everyone’s cup of tea but there are other pots in other places.
We remain focused on our garden, on regional produce, excellence, generosity and on cooking great unfussy food from scratch.
You will meet some new people in our team and experience some new formats. Our chefs will work hand in hand with waitstaff to present and explain your food and during Saturday lunch the wine offering will be even more integral.
Alexander Lowe will be back to ensure a cheeky and family orientated wine overview and David threatens regular appearances (hang onto your bread roll). The three of us have talked for months about indulging diners with a new way to experience and enjoy wine over a meal. You’ll have to come to Saturday lunch to see what we’ve come up with.
Reflection showed that Evenings at Zin many people were looking for a slightly more condensed experience and that is what we will now provide. Bronte wouldn’t let me write on the website that these evenings are ‘Date night, not a late night.’
I’m diving back into my love of charcuterie with the garden and three vegetarian kids influencing some alternative styles. Regional cheeses will star in the lunch menu alongside many of the preserves that ‘idle’ months have allowed me to concentrate on.
Basics stay on as backbones – sourdough, cultured butter, pasta and ice-cream from our own eggs. The salad of bitter greens that almost every Italian loves and the occasional Anglo loathes.
Meat is a real mission for me this time round. Magnificent Grasslands Poultry free range chickens will appear fortnightly and I’ve worked with our butchers (shout out to Clint and Arnaldo) and my son Clancy who produces magnificent Angus on our doorstep, to ensure every piece of meat we serve is as ethical as it is tasty and local.
Numbers will be more limited than in the past, lunches capped at just 40 people. Zin won’t be open on Sunday (but the new Pavilion@Lowe will be and the three course buffet format will be a crowd pleaser) The popular Kitchen Garden Mondays have been retained with a greater emphasis on foraging and demonstration cooking from the restaurants open kitchen.
I am very conscious, and flattered, that Mudgee has missed Zin these last months. I am excited and proud to be back. Thank you for waiting.
Some people feel guilty about things they have or haven’t done in life – the big stuff.
Me, I feel racked when I realise the last of the peaches fell to ground, there were figs I missed spotting or the birds beat me to a particularly succulent bunch of grapes.
My confession – I adore filling jars, and everything that goes with preserved food – safe from decay, wildlife or neglect. Squirreling.
This weeks race against the sin that is waste (Aunty Isabel lived through the war and “Waste is Sin” was one of her favourite sayings) has had me drying figs, jellying crabapples, jamming plums, relishing tomatoes and roasting peaches.
My Grandmother (and Aunty Isabel) would have been horrified at the use of such perfect fruit as these peaches in crostata, pies were a place for less than perfect fruit.
I roast fruit in a single layer sprinkled with sugar and dotted with butter, cooking in a moderately hot oven until just bursting.
The restaurant menu also saw hour old kipflers simply dressed with olive oil, fresh mint, basil and parsley, a little seeded red chilli and salt. Yum with fresh curd cheese and black olive tapenade.
A salad of rocket, endive and sorrel had tiny barely ripe port grapes scattered through – the effect like balls of vejuice bursting in the mouth.
A rainbow of colours in the heritage tomatoes not only looks pretty but presents a spectrum of flavour, every variety having different levels of sweetness and acidity.
Spinach went into a savoury crostata with three types of cheese and eggs collected that day.
Seasonal cooking begs for restraint. Kind of ironic when nothing else is showing any.
Make a syrup by boiling 1 litre of water (or wine) with 1 kg of sugar.
Pop the whole figs (stalk intact) in this syrup and simmer very gently for about an hour.
Remove from the syrup and lay figs, allowing a little space, on trays. Place in the sun to dry for three days or until dried to your liking.
Keep the syrup and reuse for this purpose or reduce and pour over ice-cream.
The New Year media is so predictable, those lists – so irritating, so irresistible.
Advice has been coming thick and fast as an RSL club steak sauce about which restaurants got it right, which trends are on trend (when is a trend not trending then?) and which would you certainly not want to be caught dead in or simply need to die for?
The Daily Telegraph today included a deep fried mars bar in its top 100 dishes list.
John Lethlean (The Australian) wrote a fabulous and some will think scurrilous piece about restaurants who had tried too hard, those who didn’t try hard enough and those, according to Lethlean, who had tried just right.
The lure of the bitchy review is so great, and the writing in this case so witty it really is hard not to be sucked into what someone else ate, drank and spat out the end of a pen:
“Faded glory never looked so faded”
“A hodgepodge of tragically hip elements thrown on a plate with little cohesive narrative”
“Not bad for a shopping centre”
“Another tragic example of hipsters legitamising their career choices by forming little clubs that exclude the people for whom the restaurant exist”
My New Year resolution? Don’t buy into any of it. Not the hype, not the wanna be, not the next best thing or the last cool thing. Just to keep growing and cooking and putting it out to share with people who hopefully haven’t read what someone else has told them they should think about us.
But God, John, it was funny.
This month at The Zin House
Friday night tapas continues
Saturday 24 (Australia Day Long Weekend) Live Music & Supper$65 – Indigo Bells 1969 Tour
We will keep making yummy pies like the recipe here
Apricot or Peach Crostata (with acknowledgment to Lesley Russell)
1½ cups plain flour
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 tspn grated lemon zest
¼ cup water
3 tablespoons ground hazelnuts (or almonds)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
About 1kg of apricots or peaches (or virtually any fruit, any stones removed)
Place the flour, sugar, butter and zest into the bowl of the food processor and process until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. Add the water and pulse a few times until the mixture comes together and forms a dough.
Turn the dough out and knead lightly until smooth. Wrap the pastry in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm.
Combine all the ingredients except the fruit.
Cut the fruit into halves or quarters, depending on their size.
Roll out the dough into a circle approximately 28cm in diameter. Place it onto a baking tray which has been lined with baking paper.
Scatter the filling over the pastry leaving a border of 5 cm or so around the outside.
Place the fruit on top of the filling, packing it close together.
Draw the pastry border up and around the nectarines, pleating it where necessary to form an edge.
Dot the fruit with butter and scatter it with a little caster sugar and bake @ 200C for 30 – 40 minutes. The pastry should be well browned and the fruit softened with luscious juices running.
Serve the crostata warm with thick cream, ice cream or both. Serves 8.