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Written by Ken O'Connell on May 8th, 2015

A WORD FROM AMBASSADOR CHEF, KEN O'CONNELL

It has been a busy few months since we received our Beef and Lamb Excellence Award with many new beef and lamb creations on the menu.  Here at Bracken, we offer tasting menus in 5, 7 and 9 course formats rather than the traditional à la carte and the menu changes every two weeks, always using local and seasonal produce.  We have started selling our preserves and relishes at the Otago Farmers Market, which also supplies us with most of our restaurant produce including our beef and lamb. 
 
Beef and lamb are always on the menu whether in appetizer, entrée or main format and recent creations have been;
 
  • Otago beef bresaola which is Syrah cured, dried and aged then thinly sliced and served with rocket, shaved parmesan, pickled cauliflower and a wild apple espuma;
  • Merino lamb with watercress, sweetcorn polenta, quince purée and char grilled carrot;
  • Veal fillet with Tuscan puy lentils, native spinach and beetroot purée.
 
As we move from autumn to winter we will be using a lot more offal and secondary cuts such as neck, ribs and cheek of lamb or beef, with sweetbreads and kidneys being some of my favourites.  These cuts require the long slow cooking methods such as braising, sous vide and pressure cooking to produce flavoursome, tender results.
 
We find our customers come to the restaurant partly due to our use of local produce as they like to know the story behind our menus and where our ingredients have come from, who grows and produces it and whether or not it is organic.
 
Winter is my favourite time of the year to cook as a chef, as I have to be more creative with the limited produce available.  With many food allergies now we often receive special requests and can adapt our menu quite easily, taking this into consideration at initial design stage. I don’t use a lot of dairy in my food, or flour, and tend to produce healthier components using the natural flavours of the ingredients.
 
So what is trending in restaurants?  
For me I see the use of foraged wild foods, seaweeds, fruit and native ingredients with an emphasis on buying local, seasonal and organic produce. Using preserved and fermented produce as well as shoots, roots and flowers for their flavours as opposed to just a garnish.
 
Here is a simple recipe with components from some of our dishes that would be easy to cook at home.
 
Rump of Lamb, Watercress, Balsamic Caramelized Red Onions, Puy Lentils.
 
Serves four
 
Lentils
300g Puy lentils, soaked overnight
50ml olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 carrot, finely diced
1 small onion, diced
200g diced tomato
50g tomato paste
1 tspn smoked paprika
1 sprig thyme
1 litre chicken stock
 
Red Onions
200g sliced red onion
50g brown sugar
75ml balsamic vinegar
 
Lamb
2 large lamb rumps, cap on
Oil
200g watercress
 
Method
 
Lentils
Heat the olive oil, add the onion and slightly colour then add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add lentils and cook for 3 minutes, once they gain a little colour add the stock then add the remainder of the ingredients and bring to the boil. Gently simmer for 40 minutes until the lentils are tender and the liquid has reduced. Season and you can add a little butter at this stage if you want a richer flavour.
 
Lamb
Heat your oven to 200°C. Trim any sinew or muscle off the rump and score the fat cap with a sharp knife if leaving the cap on.  This adds so much flavour to the rump and will render down as it cooks.  While the lentils are cooking heat a pan, add oil, season the meat and seal in the pan to colour. Place in the oven for 20 minutes to cook to medium. Remove, cover and rest for 10 minutes in a warm place.
 
Onions  
While the lamb is in the oven, thinly slice onions, heat a little oil and add the onions cooking fast and high to colour them. Add the sugar and vinegar and reduce the heat after 2 minutes.  Season as required. I like mine quiet dark and caramelized.  Remove from pan and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving. In the same pan add a little butter and heat until it starts to foam, add the watercress and cook for 1 minute. Season and remove as it will finish cooking as it sits.
 
To serve
Place the lentils on first, then the watercress (which tastes just as good raw) then thinly slice the rump and arrange. Finish with a spoon of onions and drizzle with olive oil if you like.
 
 

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PO BOX 33 648
TAKAPUNA, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND
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