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







Pasta for guinea pigs

I need guinea pigs. Not to add to the menagerie, certainly not to cook (all those little bones) but to try out this recipe.


Last week we filmed an ad for Origin Energy that is based around a recipe. The ravioli I chose seemed easy to me, then I had to provide the recipe and it seemed to be an awful lot of steps.

I’m a much better cook than I am recipe writer.

So I’m hoping some of you will try it out and get back to me if I’ve missed something obvious in the steps or there is some other way I could make it simpler to follow.


Or you could just come into the Zin House and have me cook it for you 🙂

The ad airs on channel 7 in May.

Three Cheese Ravioli with Pumpkin, Mushroom and butter cooked Sage

Serves 6/8

• 250 grams plain flour
• 2 eggs
• 1 egg yolk
• 1 tsp salt
 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 until you have sheets that are thin but still workable.
 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.

Three cheese filling:
• 50 grams butter
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 medium sized brown onion, finely diced
• 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
• 100 grams fresh curd goats cheese*
• 100 grams fetta*
• 100 grams Parmesan
• 2 eggs
• 1 tablespoon each fresh chive and parsley, finely chopped
• 1 teaspoon salt flakes
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
 Melt the butter and oil in a pan, and the onion and garlic and sauté gently until starting to caramelise.
 Combine this with all the other ingredients to create the ravioli filling
*We use local cheeses from Jannei Goat Dairy (Lidsdale) and fetta from High Valley (Mudgee)

Roast pumpkin
• Approx 500 grams pumpkin
• 1 large red onion, large dice
• A few cloves garlic, roughly chopped
• 2 large mild red chillis, sliced
• Olive oil
• Salt & pepper
 Slice the pumpkin, leaving skin on. Place in a roasting dish and scatter over onion, garlic and chilli. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and olive oil.
 Roast in a moderately hot oven (200 degrees Celsius) until cooked through, crispy and golden. Set aside in a warm place.

• 4 medium flat mushrooms*, sliced
• 100 grams butter
 Melt the butter and sauté the mushrooms until just colouring, do not overcook them. Set aside in a warm place.

*We use local mushrooms from Mel and Trent at Mudgee Mushrooms

• A large bunch of fresh sage leaves
• 100 grams butter
 Heat the butter until it has melted and is just starting to colour. Add the sage leaves and shake or stir to ensure they are covered by the butter.
 Remove from the heat when the leaves are crisp and before the butter or leaves burn.
To serve
Place the cooked ravioli on the base of a serving platter. Top with pumpkin and mushroom and finally the sage. Drizzle with any leftover butter the sage has been cooked in. Finish with a little finely chopped chive and black pepper if you wish.

There’s a restaurant in there?

It has been suggested, in less than subtle terminology, that in this blog I talk too much about the garden and neglect what The Zin House is doing as a restaurant.

There are people who work here – waiting, cooking, cleaning, marketing etc, who want me to remember that we are actually a restaurant.

I could remind them that like the grapes that make the wine great, good food starts in the garden. I could just eat all the raspberries without sharing. But just to prove I can be compliant (and because they’re right), here is the lowedown of the highlights:

  • Our new chef has started – Stuart MacIntyre, fresh from two hat restaurant The Stokehouse in Brisbane. His partner Eilidh Mathers has traveled with him and you will find her working with Kat on the floor.
  • We have rolled Tapas out to Saturday nights as well – you can now eat with us every Friday and Saturday night.

farm forage final art for facebook

  • Farm Forage is a long lunch with my mate Jared Ingersoll on March 21. Jared is a well known Sydney Chef/Restaurateur (Dank St Depot, Cotton Duck and pop up Barrel and Beast) and a fabulous forager, two years ago we put together over 30 ingredients from the farm and this year guests can forage with him before lunching at long tables in the garden.
  • There is a whole program of new events on our website www.zinhouse.com.au including Duelling Winemakers, Eat my Words and Blend it like Blackie.
  • We’re harvesting, filling jars and creating for the Farm Shop, officially opening on Friday March 20. You’ll be able to pop in on Mondays and Fridays for a shelf forage and light meal or buy my bread on weekends.

pink pepper

  • Our favourite muso Pat O’Donnell who wowed everyone during the 1969 Tour concert, is back on Thursday May 7 playing the entire Tea for the Tillerman album. $65 for three course supper and show (indoors, 50 seats only).


And back in the garden…. 🙂

We’re harvesting hundreds of kilos of tomatoes and doing things like this with them:

semi tomatoes

Semi Dried Tomatoes

Halve the tomatoes and lay flat (cut surface up) on baking trays lined with baking paper. Sprinkle with a mixture equal parts salt flakes and castor sugar. Sprinkle some thyme sprigs over, cracked pepper and drizzle with a little olive oil. Add some sliced garlic if you like.

If using bigger tomatoes cut them in slices about 10mm thick.

Dry in an oven at 70 degrees celcius for about 12 hours or until dried to your liking. Alternatively dry in hot sun over a couple of days.

Store with good extra virgin olive oil to help them keep for several weeks.