I am driving past the stock yards on the way back from the garden and see the truck has turned up to transport the 20 hand selected lambs off to Kintyre meats. Which, over the next two weeks will make its way back to Wharekauhau via the Greytown butchery.
We use the entire animal, which is exciting and sometimes tricky. But with the lodge accommodating a maximum of 26 guests on any given evening, it’s also very manageable. The menu changes daily with our main focus around utilising what’s growing on the day. The garden is planted with row upon row of various pods, roots, flowers and leaves. And being that the lodge is situated on a 5500 ha farm, lamb is the main protein component.
Guests come here because they enjoy the story. Our farm tour stops at the yards on the way where guests can see Bradley, the farm manager, running the stock through the yards and hear him explain his vision of the farm gate to dinner plate. Another team member, Joe, is fantastic at telling tales of how he grew up in the area and how 70 years later he is still on the farm. He can tell you where to fish, forage and what’s growing when.
People may expect to see just the first class cuts, but for my team and I it’s understanding and doing the best we can with each part of the animal, working through from nose to tail. For example tonight on the menu we have braised shank ballotine with walnut crusted lamb rack, but in three days time we will have slow cooked lamb silverside with salsa verde and crumbed sweetbreads.
There is always some odd bits and bobs which we make into sausages or utilise for wet dishes for staff meals. And of course, we have a roast every now and then too.
The seasons influence what to cook and how to cook. At the moment I tend to stay very light on starch and place more emphasis on different cuts with fresh vegetables and light essences or pan reductions.
I love to utilise local resources. If we don’t grow it I ask around and there is usually someone in the area who can help.
Wharekauhau farm lamb topside steak and braised shank bon bon with roasted carrot, citrus and garden bean salad, feta cheese, roasted almonds and olive oil dressing
2 pieces Quality Mark lamb topside trimmed (approx. 300g each)
Oil for cooking
4 tsp flaky salt
1 tsp toasted cumin seeds, crushed
1 tsp fresh rosemary chopped
Shank bon bon
2 Quality Mark lamb shanks braised, flake the meat off from the bone
¼ cup braising liquid
1 cup left over mashed potato warmed
½ white onion, peeled, diced and boiled till soft
3 cloves garlic, roasted and minced
1 carrot, peeled and diced, blanched
2 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
Salt and pepper
Crumbing ingredients: flour, beaten egg, bread crumbs
4 large carrots peeled, blanched in boiling salted water
3 fresh orange or grapefruit
150g fresh beans, trimmed
50g sheep’s milk feta cheese, crumbled
15 blanched whole almonds, toasted and crushed coarsely
10 leaves fresh mint, ripped
1 handful of wild watercress, picked
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp liquid honey
Flaky salt, cracked pepper
Cooking the lamb
Mix together flaky salt, toasted cumin seeds and fresh chopped rosemary. Cut the lamb into steaks and sprinkle the seasoning over the lamb. Heat a pan with a little oil and seal and caramelise on both sides before finishing in the oven approximately 6-10 minutes at 175°C. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for several minutes before slicing across the grain.
To make the bon bons
In a bowl mix the mashed potato with drained onion, garlic and cooked diced carrot, add the flaked lamb shank and mix with the chopped herbs. Adjust seasoning and if the mixture is too dry, add a little braising liquid. Take mixture and make small balls until all the mixture is used up. Set up separate containers for flour, beaten egg and bread crumbs and start the process of crumbing all the balls until they are finished. Heat a pan with oil and place balls in a pan (in small batches) and shallow fry, turning often. Finish in the oven, until they are hot, golden brown and crisp. Alternatively you may deep fry. Season lightly when finished.
To make the salad
First place the carrots in a roasting tray and drizzle with oil and seasoning, roast in the oven for 10 minutes at 175°C caramelised slightly. Remove and allow to cool on the bench. Boil some water and blanch and refresh the beans.
Segment the citrus and put with the beans along with the crushed toasted almonds, feta cheese, mint and ripped watercress. When carrots are cool, add to salad and gently combine. Take the left over pulp of the citrus and squeeze out the juice into a bowl, add the honey and slowly add the olive oil, season to taste. Keep separate till just before serving then add to the salad and serve.