A tail for dinner

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.

garden tour

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.

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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
Mushroom Sauce

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.

Serve at once.


Tea time in the garden


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.

KISS – A Restaurateurs Rant

Is simplicity the hardest thing to get right?

In a world of overblown, overdone, over the top food is it quite misunderstood?

Is the celebration of technique over flavour, played out nightly on our TV screens, leading to food played with half to death over lightness of touch.

Is drama and difficulty elevated beyond the quietly spoken dish?

Is food narcissism at a point where nobody notices the workhorses over the show ponies? Rather than quietly stating your dish does everything have to be a cavalcade of mastery?

And perhaps most frustratingly for those of us providing a food experience – must we now put up with food snobs, bores and ignoramuses reviewing us as if they knew what they were talking about?

I will cop an average review along with anyone else where it is warranted. I will apologise publicly or privately as the occasion may warrant it if anything we do in the restaurant fails to meet your or my high expectations.

I will listen with genuine interest to your opinions, ideas, thoughts and feedback.

But I’m just a bit fed up with ignorance and malice masquerading as opinion on public review sites.

We claim only that we cook simply, cook from scratch and cook local.

We proudly open our beautiful restaurant every weekend with love in our hearts and in our food.


It’s such a bore when someone can graze on freshly baked bread; just picked salads; the highest quality fresh local ingredients; soups, stocks and sauces made from scratch and then complain that our food lacks ‘technique’, that our menus ‘need work’ and that they could do the same at home,

Great! Next time, you do that, and save the seat at our restaurant for those who want some unpretentious homecooking in someone else’s home.

Everyones happy then 🙂


Cauliflower, leek and potato soup

I promised someone who dined with us last week to post the recipe for the soup that (almost) everyone raved about.

Saute the following with two tablespoons each of butter and good olive oil:

One cauliflower, roughly chopped

two leeks, sliced and cleaned

250 grams potatoes, roughly chopped

a few cloves garlic

a few bay leaves, a couple of sprigs of thyme & one of rosemary

1 lime, halved

1 or two chillis

Then add enough good quality stock to cover and cook gently until soft, about twenty minutes

Remove the herbs and puree everything else, including the lime

Season to taste with good salt and a mixture of ground white pepper and coarse black pepper

Just before serving heat with the best quality cream you can find ( we use Little Big Dairy Company) , about one 25% to volume or to suit your taste