Zibibbo’s Adam Newell was the latest chef to grace the demonstration kitchen at Wellington’s City Market. Having photographed A Consuming Passion, the first cookbook by Newell a few years ago, I was keen to see him in action again.
Newell introduced three recipes which included two versions of en’papillote – French for “in parchment”, and a caponata.
While chatting and chopping his way through the caponata, Newell reflected on changes in New Zealand’s restaurant food. He believes the fusion of the 90’s “should be illegal”, (my wife calls the same phase ‘confusion’). He went on to say the scene is now about emphasising seasonal ingredients and not about playing around with the food too much. Newell reckons we’ve even caught up with Europe – a slightly optimistic view to me.
The first of two en’ papillotes involved salmon sourced from a passionate Akaroa fishery. Newell said he would be serving this at Christmas, leaving his mother-in-law to deal to the turkey. The recipe is here
The BBQ class was billed by the City Market as the Thrilla in Manila . While struggling to see the link with boxing I guess it could have been the vanilla which received rave reviews by Newell. It’s used in the sugar syrup poured into the en’ papillote dessert and Newell says the dish screams “eat me, eat me, its summer” as the perfumed steam envelops the diner once the parcel is opened on a plate.
The dessert can be made up to one hour ahead of time and Newell says his chefs at Zibibbo know they are in for a busy night if the en’ papillote is on the specials list (not being a cold pre-prepared dish).
The guests enjoyed being served by the Michelin starred chef (one of only two in New Zealand) as Newell delivered the fragrant packages to the tables. Scents of fennel, thyme and fish were followed by fruity fragrances and hints of mulled wine as the gathering pierced the sealed parcels and munched away happily. The $25000 Gaggenau kitchen stood up to the BBQ test well, easily competing with the hooded cookers that will be seen in most kiwi backyards this summer.
Following my blog in July celebrating the best ham we and our guests have ever eaten it was a pleasure last week to visit Canterbury’s Murellen Pork, birth place of the 21st Birthday ham.
Expecting the high pitched squeal of pigs on arrival I was surprised not to hear a peep from the grunters. Located in the lee of Mount Torlesse just out of Sheffield, this resplendent piggery sits on 20 acres of mostly glossy green grass.
Murrellen Pork was set up in 1999 by Murray and Helen Battersby (hence the name – Murr-ellen). After farming pigs in the area for 40 years the couple realised to upsize the operation they could either focus on quantity or quality – and chose the latter. Now managed by son Colin and wife Karen, Murrellen Pork farms around 1500 pigs at any one time. Colin says this number means they can keep the ‘owner operator’ feel of the business.
Like a Wellington team management text, the farming practice is built around reducing stress. Some techniques follow the research of Temple Grandin , famous for her extraordinary knowledge of animal behavior. The entire supply line has been analysed and set up to avoid stressing the animals unnecessarily. For example the pigs are trucked to Timaru for processing via State Highway 50, instead of State Highway 1. This is not for the scenery but because the truck only needs to stop twice on the way. Every stop on a journey arouses the pigs and they get stressed! On the farm round feeders are used instead of straight designs. Pigs have narrow vision and being able to keep an eye on the pigs on each side while eating allows for a more relaxed mealtime and improves nutrition intake. Other measures include PH analysis of the meat and temperature control of the pig enclosures – you can read more here.
While being fattened up at the Murrellen premises the pigs are initially housed in mobile pens (the piglets arrive from a free range supplier) before shifting to a larger facility for the final five weeks. In a similar manner to Joel Salatin’s mobile chook houses (as described in the book The Omnivores Dilemma) these pens are regularly dragged onto a fresh patch of grass with the resulting rich effluent spread to fertilise new grass and enormous worm farms. The pigs are fed a locally produced vegetarian diet which supports the mobile self-fertilising system.
The effect of the Canterbury earthquakes on Murrellen has been twofold. Restaurant closures in Christchurch meant a substantial drop off in demand and Murrellen’s office, and the historic house where Colin and Karen live will probably be demolished.
If you are after New Zealand pork, charcuterie or other piggy offcuts, Murrellen’s produce can be sourced via discerning Christchurch and Wellington butchers (a full list is available here). They include Ashby’s in Christchurch which won the best bacon award in 2011 with Ashby’s Murrellen dry cured bacon, and Waikanae Butchery who was the Gold Medal Winner (Pork category) in The Great New Zealand Sausage Competition 2009.