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.
Winter sorts true gardeners from the posing guardians.
Like me – an indoor dweller making brief dashes to wave instructions, place requests and greedily take possession of the harvest that’s offered into the snug of the kitchen.
Our gardener Jackie is a rain, hail or shine, sunflower gold legend.
To look you wouldn’t think there’s much growing but a steady stream of salad, spinach, brassicas, herbs, radishes, Jerusalem artichokes and rhubarb flow in the door. Thin pickings increase creativeness and a new batch of nettles will make a pesto to top oxtail ravioli. Today I picked the first of the seasons blood oranges. Actually they’re pretty sad and as once predicted are now ‘the bloody oranges’.
But now is also a time to dream and plan – a new rose bed with choices by all the team and discussions underway on our herb and spice trail including an edible meadow. The 23 terrace shutters and a mansion front door inadvertently bought at auction, still thinking.
The good cold weather news is that anyone’s cooking can shine in winter.
A handful of ingredients, thrown together and slow cooked. Ever notice that when they interview the worlds greatest chefs they invariably feature the food they ‘love to cook for family and friends’? And it’s simple food! Food for kings – and gardeners, same thing round here.
Oxtail ravioli with mushrooms in soy chilli sauce
Serves 8 as an entree or 4/6 as a main
If you’re making this dish for two just freeze the extra portions of ravioli, it takes very little extra time to make a large version.
If you don’t wish to make the pasta buy wonton wrappers.
You can skip the braised oxtail step and use a seasoned mince or left over meat filling for a quick alternative.
You could also cook the pasta as ribbons and toss the meat and juices through it ragout style
Prepare the oxtail braise and the pasta dough as per recipes below.
10 minutes before you want to serve prepare the mushroom sauce.
Serve at once in a big dish for sharing.
1 kg oxtail, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 each carrot, celery stick & onion
1 litre stock or water
1 cup diced fresh tomatoes or a can of diced tomatoes
1 cup red wine
a few cloves of garlic
2 bay leaves
Combine all the ingredints in a heavy dish with a tight fitting lid and cook slowly for three hours or until the meat falls from the bone – or overnight very slowly
Remove the meat from the bones and dice. Set aside the juices
300 grams pasta flour
3 eggs ( 60 gram eggs)
1 small teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon paella spice (optional)
Combine all ingredients into a pliable ball, either by hand or machine. Add a little more flour or beaten egg to get this consistency if necessary.
Rest the dough, covered, for an hour or until you are ready to use it.
Pass through a pasta roller or roll by hand until you have sheets that are approx. 2mm thin (Level 6 on a pasta roller)
On a flat lightly floured surface use a round cutter (between 80mm and 90mm is usual) to make the ravioli base, three or four per person for an entree size and a few more as a main course
Using your fingers or a pastry brush, sparingly wet the edge of one half of the pasta circle with a little water
Place a rounded teaspoon of filling (recipe follows) in the centre and fold in half
Gently push the seam together to seal
Set aside on a baking paper lined tray, do not let them overlap. At this stage the ravioli will keep well for a day or so or freeze for use directly from the freezer
They are now ready to be cooked, not too many at a time, in gently boiling water until they rise to the surface
8 large meaty mushrooms, thickly sliced
100 grams butter
50 ml olive oil
3 or 4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 large red chilli, sliced
the leaves from a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
100 mls juices from the oxtail
100mls white wine
1 cup of peas or sliced snow peas
25 mls soy sauce
10 mls sweet chilli sauce
Bring the butter and oil to a sizzle
Add the garlic, chilli, mushrooms and thyme
Sauté until just colouring
While still on the heat add the remaining ingredients and cook another minute or until a thin sauce consistency
Check for seasoning
Place the cooked ravioli on the base of a serving platter. Top with the mushroom sauce.
I once looked at the $10 price tag on a pot of fresh mint tea in a fancy restaurant and wondered who on earth would pay that, until after dinner my partner did just that.
Which reinforces both the importance of immersing your guests in a fabulous experience where cost is somewhat secondary and also how ridiculously simple it is to grow your own.
Camomile (healing & calming), peppermint (anti-inflamatory, and lemon verbena (for colic, flatulence & candida) are all flourishing at the moment. Borage makes a good digestive drink, elderflower is a pleasant and pretty tea (anti-viral) and even better with a little lemon and honey.
The more I look around the garden the more I want to steep things rather than just cook them. The only thing rivaling my tea fetish at the moment is my tempura obsession. Coming from a country that batters and deep fries oysters and (real) scallops in takeaway stores perhaps it’s in my DNA. or maybe its just that anything battered and deep fried tastes great.
The ultimate tempura batter is simply white wine whisked with flour to a pouring consistency. Ensure the oil is good and hot and dip anything thin, young and greenish (and not a dinner guest). We’re using vine leaves at the moment and the aforementioned elderflowers.
If you’re worried about the effect of eating fried food simply follow up with a nice cup of tea.