This week the Monteith’s Wild Food Challenge kicks off again, with restaurants and bars all over the country competing to use the most extreme wild food from their area. The concept of wild food is one I always find interesting for as the old joke goes, “ waiter is this meat really wild?” answer “Yes sir, it was absolutely furious when we shot it”. You can stop cringing now, that is the only attempt at a joke this week.

The idea behind this challenge is simply that chefs are encouraged to stalk, trap, catch and cook from within their local area with the winner producing the most daring and delicious wild food meal. Sounds great doesn’t it, and in the hands of many of the talented chefs out there it is. The trick is to show imagination and skill in equal measures while avoiding roadkill. I can’t wait to taste the results of this years challenge and can only encourage you to drop in on the Monteiths website and check out which of your favourite restaurants is taking part, then take yourself out of your comfort zone and go and try something different.

So in homage to the challenge this week’s recipe is all about venison. I’m using the backstrap as for the new convert to this wonderful unadulterated lean meat it is the easiest to cook well and needs the least preparation. Like all meat venison needs to be well hung (and no that’s not another joke), in the case of venison the hanging should be at least a week to make the meat flavoursome and soft. Proper hanging makes venison one of the best meats to eat while insufficient hanging can put people off venison for life.

Venison is one of those rich gamey flavours that can handle a bit of creativity in the accompanying sauce. It works well with berry fruits or in this case, high quality chocolate. The idea is to add just enough chocolate to the sauce for you to be able to smell it without really tasting it; after all we do eat with all of our senses.

Venison Loin with Chocolate Sauce and Spiced Red Cabbage

Serves 4

1 backstrap (loin or saddle) venison

“Mire-poix” of root vegetables, e.g. carrot, onion, leek, garlic, peeled and chopped into small dice

15 ml groundnut oil

1 cup red wine

1 cup Ruby Port

1 litre game stock (or beef stock)

2 pistules bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

Spiced Red Cabbage

Serves 4–6

900g firm red cabbage

450g Granny Smith apples

225g onions

110g butter

2 garlic cloves

1/4 teaspoon each of powdered nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, thyme and caraway seeds

275ml red wine

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

2 tbsp brown sugar

100g sultanas or raisins

Juice and grated rind of 2 oranges


1. Shred the cabbage finely and toss in the melted butter. In a suitable casserole dish, layer the cabbage, apple, onion and orange rind. Sprinkle each layer with salt, pepper and sugar. Pour over liquidised red wine, vinegar, orange juice and spices. Cover and bake at 190˚C for 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, sauté the ‘mire-poix’ in the oil until softened. Add red wine and reduce. Add port and reduce. Add stock and bring to boil. Strain through muslin in a strainer and set aside in a warm place until needed.

3. Pan fry venison to brown outside and retain juices. Cook in a preheated oven at 200˚C for approximately 5–8 minutes (depending on size and thickness). Allow to rest for at least 10 minutes.

4. When ready to serve, reheat sauce, add chocolate pistules and allow to melt slowly. Season to taste.

5. Serve with loin of venison and spiced red cabbage.

Cabernet Sauvignon is a really “red” red wine with strong tannins, high acidity, and powerful flavours which it needs to compliment the gaminess of venison. Try the 2009 Peacock Sky from Waiheke Island, probably the best region in New Zealand for Cab Sauv.

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Bread is that wonderful staple that can be done so badly in this modern era of factory production. But let’s ignore that for the moment and look at where it all started. Around six thousand years ago the ancient Egyptians revolutionised bread when they realised that if they let the dough sit around in the warm sunshine, it would become naturally leavened by the yeast spores in the air and once baked it would retain its risen shape.

Traditional bakers know that the longer you ferment your dough the better the bread keeps; time invested in the making is repaid in the eating. Modern bread factories have destroyed this elegant balance and have stolen time from the production process – a theft they try to disguise by using additives and enzymes to extend the shelf life and apparent freshness while shortening the manufacturing time. For me the difficult bit here is the use of enzymes that don’t appear in the ingredients list as they are used in the process. When will they realise that our daily bread is a gift and not a science experiment?!

That’s my rant over, except to observe that one of the sad bits of modern bread is the loss to cooking of the glorious uses of old or stale bread. Toast is the first and most obvious; the Romans spread the idea of toast throughout Europe and it became a favourite in the middle ages when “sops” of bread were used to soak up wine or sweet liquids and then toasted against the heat of an open fire. Which brings me to that old classic the Bread and Butter Pudding, a dish often given a bad name by being overcooked, dry and tasteless. This recipe will give you a quite different dish, something with an almost sponge-like texture with thick fresh custard oozing out between the layers and the wonderfully boozy raisins and sultanas. For the adventurous why not experiment with the types of bread and alcohol? Pain au Chocolat or Brioche make a luxurious choice and with the booze… frankly pick the one you like the best.

Bread and Butter Pudding

Serves 8 – 10

12 slices buttered white bread (crusts removed)

12 egg yolks

250ml cream

250ml milk

150g caster sugar

50g sultanas and raisins, soaked in alcohol overnight

1 vanilla pod


Cut the bread into squares and layer in a buttered dish sprinkled with the raisins and sultanas. Scald the cream and milk with the vanilla pod. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until pale and thick and slowly add the warmed milk, cream and vanilla. Pour over the bread and place in a boiling hot “bain marie”. Cook at 120˚C for about 1½ hours or until just set. Dust with icing sugar and glaze under the grill or with a blowtorch.

For my match this week I want to use something as a drink and also to soak the dried fruit in. the Dark Spice 8th Tribe from Distillerie Deinlein is just perfect with its wonderful warming spices and even better it’s made right here in the Bay.

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Well, what a week. Simon Young and I were at it again with a few days of food photography, this time for someone else’s book due out later this year. Food photo shoots are really an odd experience and so I thought that I’d let you have a look at the mayhem.

Even Simon’s long suffering wife, Catherine becomes a prop for one shot.

and checkout Simons collection of props, I think he has a new fetish.

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At the cook school we are just starting to get into winter, and so the other night I was looking at one pot cooking and up popped my recipe for Boeuf Bourguignonne. I know the name is a mouthful and if I’m being honest I don’t think I pronounce it right so lets call it a French beef casserole.

It’s probably a few years since I’ve cooked this dish and I’d forgotten just how good it is. The aromas wafting around the kitchen as it cooks leave you in no doubt that dinner is on the way and as you serve it the wonderful rich colour of the meat is just stunning. This all sounds great so far but the best is still to come, as you cut into the meat it just falls apart, with every mouthful being soft and full of flavour.

Why is that casseroles taste so good at this time of year? Lets be honest winter is the time for comfort food, as the weather gets colder and the days get shorter our cooking styles change. What can be finer than walking into a home with the air filled with the aroma and warmth of a slow cooking caserole gently sizzling away in the oven? The anticipation of a cozy family gathering insulated from the outside elements. Of course the other sneaky advantage is that slow cooking is also perfect for the cheaper cuts of meat, which for me always have a much deeper flavour.

So all things considered this is an absolute winner and my advice would be to make more than you need as it will keep well in the fridge for a few days or even freeze for that night when inspiration has deserted you. Bon appetit.

Boeuf Bourguignonne or lets be honest, Beef Casserole

Serves 6

900g chuck steak, cut into 3 cm squares

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 Medium onion, sliced

1 heaped tablespoon plain flour

425ml red wine

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 sprigs thyme

1 bay leaf

350g shallots topped, tailed and peeled

225g streaky bacon

100g brown mushrooms

Salt & freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 150˚cHeat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large flame proof casserole dish and sear the chunks of beef – a few pieces at a time _ to a rich dark brown on all sides, removing meat with a slotted spoon as it browns to a plate, repeat until all the meat is browned off.

Add the sliced onion to the casserole and brown a little then return the meat to the casserole, sprinkle with flour, stirring to soak up all the juices, and then gradually pour in the red wine, stirring all the time. Add chopped garlic and herbs, season with salt and pepper, put lid on and cook in the oven for 2 ½ hours.

After an hour and a half, pan-fry the shallots and cubes of bacon in the remaining oil to colour lightly and add them to the casserole together with the whole mushrooms. Put the lid back on and continue to cook for a further hour.

Serve with new potatoes and lightly steamed seasonal vegetables.

This dish works with most red wines, but to give it that really strong rich flavour why not use a Shiraz/Syrah in the cooking and the glass. There are lots of great Shiraz/Syrah out there with the Hawkes Bay probably leading the pack, try Bridge Pa Reserve Syrah.

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Over the last few weeks I’ve been talking about the changing of the seasons and how that changes the way we eat. This has brought me, almost inevitably to the Sunday Roast. As I sit here in my office on a wet and cold Sunday afternoon writing my column the air is filled with the aroma and warmth of a slow cooking roast gently sizzling away in the oven. The anticipation of a cosy family gathering, insulated from the outside elements, makes it really quite hard to concentrate. I find my mind wandering to how the Sunday roast came about.

To find its roots we have to go way back to 7th March 321 when Emperor Constantine, a convert to Christianity, passed the first law making Sunday a day of rest. Over the years since many rules have been passed, banning all kinds of activities on Sunday, except of course, eating.

Historically Sunday would have been the working family’s only day off and probably the only meat day as well. Everyone was expected to attend church in the morning and so the slap up meal was both the best meal of the week and a reward for being so virtuous. In fact during the Middle Ages in England the Lord of the Manor would provide a roast Ox for his serfs, thus starting the tradition of the Sunday roast.

In the days before ovens in every home, the poorer families would have used the local bakery, popping their joints of meat in the big bread oven that was still cooling down from the early morning baking. They would pick up their perfectly roasted meat on their way home from church.

Thankfully today it’s all a bit easier and the recipe below is the family favorite that we’ll be enjoying in about an hour’s time. Some of you might be curious about the curry powder – don’t worry you’ll barely taste it but it will make an amazing flavour-enhancing crust to the beef fat. Happy Roasting.

Roast Sirloin of Beef on the Bone

2.5 – 3kg Sirloin of Beef on the Bone

1 tablespoon Curry powder

2 tablespoon salt

Fresh ground black pepper

2 Onions , roughly chopped

1 Leek, roughly chopped

2 Carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

3 cloves of garlic, peeled

2 sticks of Celery, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon Plain flour

1 cup red wine ( optional but really good)

! litre of stock or water


Mix all the powders together and spread on the fat layer of the sirloin. (This will make it very crispy.)

Put all the chopped veg in a high-sided roasting dish and sprinkle with the plain flour.

Place meat on top of the veg and flour and on the middle shelf of a preheated oven at 240˚C for 15 minutes per 450g plus 15 minutes extra, turning oven down to 190˚C after first 20 minutes.

Carefully lift the meat off the now caramelised veg, wrap the meat in foil and leave to one side to rest. Rest for at least 30 minutes before serving. While resting make the sauce by placing the roasting with the caramelised veg in over a high heat on the stove top. Get good and hot again and then deglaze with the red wine if using. Let this reduce by half, then add the stock or water making sure that you get all the lovely tasty bits off the bottom. Once boiling, sieve into a saucepan and keep warm

Top tip.

If you have a meat thermometer then these temps will guarantee doneness

Core temperature for RARE 50˚C

Core temperature for MEDIUM RARE 56˚C

Core temperature for MEDIUM 65˚C

Core temperature for WELL DONE 75˚C

Yorkshire Puddings

225g plain flour

3 eggs

225ml milk

150ml water

Salt & pepper

Beef dripping or Duck / Goose Fat


Sift flour into bowl and, making a well in centre, break eggs into it, gradually incorporating flour. Now beat in milk, water & seasoning. Heat muffin tray, with a bit of dripping/duck fat in each, on top of stove until smoking hot. Add a bit of batter to each and place on top shelf of pre-heated oven at 220˚C for 15-20 mins. Serve with roast beef.

Wine Match

Pinot Noir is one of the most food-friendly wines. A signature grape variety in Burgundy France, this temperamental and sometimes great grape is grown in an ever-extending list of counties and regions. Luckily we produce some of the best here in New Zealand. Central Otago is certainly right up there with the best in the world and the Mount Dottrel 2008 from Mitre Rocks is winning the awards at the moment

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