Truffles & Zinfandel – a match made at The Zin House

I haven’t had much to say here for a while, not for want of activity!

Craigmoor Pavilion is six months old – hosting functions, making magnificent sourdough and redefining weekend grazing. As hard as I am to please, I love its new/old look.

We grew Australia’s first organic hemp seed crop and are using it in all sorts of ways now that it is happily (and luckily) legal for human consumption.

The edible garden continues to expand in productivity,  form and beauty.

Our staff has grown too, including two of my sons working as chefs (Sam is baking and Alec is sous) and my step son Alex as restaurant manager at Zin. Somehow we are all still talking to each other.

And it is with much pleasure (and relief) I introduce you to Jeremy Metivier, Zin House’s Head Chef. Jeremy and I are combining his considerable fine dining skills with my simple ethos, aiming for an elegant balance.

I met Jeremy when he was at Cottage Point Inn and we enjoyed many spirited discussions about food, eating and growing the food you eat over the year or so we took to decide to work together.

These discussions have continued and intensified with wins on all sides – a win for Jeremy as a foam snuck in, a win for me when the sous vide machine didn’t and nothing but wins for those eating our new menus.

We look forward to  sharing The Zin House with you soon, maybe even for the following event where David Lowe challenges the worlds best Zin’s to a vertical of his own.



Truffle & Zinfandel Dinner with Jeremy Metivier & David Lowe.


Sweet potato soup with shaved truffle

Sam’s hemp seed sourdough

Truffle butter


Truffled snapper carpaccio, celery & radish


Poached egg, brioche mash

Granny Smith, pinenuts & truffle


Beef tri-tip

Potatoes dauphine with truffle

Silverbeet gratin & port jus


Truffled High Valley Brie


Spencer Chocolate macaron with truffle

$195pp all inclusive

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.


Old School Cool

Ive just come home from home. After so many years I couldn’t imagine what my mother had in her attic that I needed to sort. But there it was, sandwiched between the grass mat she has to cover her coffin and my grandfathers postcards from the first world war – a box of old school stuff.

And there, on the bottom of this certificate is the last name I couldn’t remember from 1969.  I wrote this story about Alan a few years ago, as a tribute to the power of one special teacher in our lives.

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I remember his first name, but not his last. And for forty years it didn’t really occur to me the legacy he left me.

His first name was Alan. I saw him every day and some weekends he’d come to our house. He often chatted to my Dad over a beer.

In a small regional school in New Zealand’s early 70’s students had one teacher for pretty much every subject. I reckon I’m still a gun at fractions because Alan taught us with blocks of chocolate which we broke and rejoined in appropriate quantities.

Alan was a naturalist, no, he didn’t take his clothes off and he couldn’t have been sweeter and more proper. Alan just loved nature and it is that he instilled in us.
The reason this is a shock all these years later is because I realise I want in some small way to emulate what he did with us. And what he did, looking back, was quite extraordinary.

We were all told to go home and grow a garden. To ensure we did and were doing it well he held a competition and went personally to every students house to encourage, cajole where necessary and reward where appropriate. I recall my father reporting back ‘Al’ said that wooden stick with a metal bit on the end is called a hoe. Weeding obviously wasn’t my strength.

We would escape class on hot summer afternoons and go to the river, there to discover the world of tadpoles, water boatmen and dragonflies while trawling bare foot through streams and waterways.

There was great anticipation when we bundled into his beat up old kombi and went to Alan’s own small farm for an excursion for which he provided absolutely no preamble. When we arrived he donned a beekeepers suit and inducted us into the magical world of drones, workers, queens, wax and liquid gold.

At home I became interested in the big orchard out the back and was incensed when my mother wouldn’t send the excess plums to Africa.

So wanting to grow food and share this with others isn’t such an unexpected thing for me to do in middle age. But it might have been had I not had one amazing inspiring teacher. What might I have done or not done if as a nine and ten year old my single educational role model ate fast food, lived with lawns and concrete and shopped only in supermarkets?

This is why School and Community Gardens and the resurgence of interest in growing our own food is so crucial. It is why farmers who can’t feed their own families is so sad. It’s why if you’re not a cook and a gardener you’re only half a cook.

Those of us in regional NSW can be taking a lead in this area. School fetes, serving on the school canteen and P&C meetings are important of course, so too is ensuring that our kids learn the skills to grow the food that will keep them healthy, fit and engaged with nature and its cycles.

There aren’t a lot of Alan’s around anymore, it falls back to us to step up and help. School gardens aren’t the domain of the Ag plot; they should be inclusive of every student.

And maybe if this love of being connected to the land is nurtured more widely, the choice of agriculture as a career might not take some people forty years to come around too.