My food philosophy is very simple. I work my menus around the garden. I usually have a wander through the garden before I start work to see what is at its peak. I base most of the menu around the vegetables and produce from the garden and then add the protein to suit – be it fresh fish, shellfish, meats or cheese.
We grow approximately 95 different fruits, vegetables and nuts throughout the year and we have our own sheep/lamb, pigs, a steer and hens that supply us with eggs.
We make our own charcuterie from the pigs, which gives us coppa, prosciutto, pancetta, bacon, sausages, lardo and a range of fermented salami.
I also source local ingredients from nearby, including olive oil from the Otahuna Valley, free-range organic Muscovy Duck, and local goat’s cheeses, to name a few. I always visit the cheesemonger, fishmonger, butcher and fresh and organic produce suppliers for anything else I may require.
The menu at Otahuna Lodge is forever changing and evolving depending on the seasons. Spring gives us asparagus, artichokes, peas, baby broad beans and the first strawberries. With the peas I like to make a green pea soup with hot smoked Mount Cook salmon, pickled lemon, and mint.
Early summer gives us new potatoes, zucchini blossoms (delicious stuffed with local chevre) and sweetcorn just picked, which is fantastic as a beautiful sweet soup with avocado, lime and scallop ceviche.
Growing our own produce is great because it means it is all organic and fresher than anything else we can buy. It is also tastier. We can pick the produce at the size we require which is often smaller and therefore more delicate and sweet. We have produce that is often not available anywhere else, including five different varieties of mushrooms.
Come the new year, the gardeners will be planting the winter crops, such as curly kale and cabbage, and we will be harvesting tomatoes – this is exciting because I love trying the 15 or so varieties of tomatoes with all their different flavours and colours.
Chillies and peppers will be coming on and the bigger varieties are wonderful stuffed with cheeses or seafood and served with a simple rancheros salsa/sauce and our own homemade tortillas.
The best thing about January and February has to be waiting for the first flush of porcini mushrooms from under the old oak tree. They are a truly magical fungi that is well worth waiting for.