Venison, root vegetable and stout stew… and navigating a camp kitchen

Our recent trip to NZ had very slight undertones (subtle as a slap in the face with a wet fish) of cooking and/or eating whatever local produce the frozen, undulating, sheep dotted, river covered landscape could offer.

This day we were making our way back to Methven, and the company of our good friends Troppo and Lexi (real names), and we thought it pretty fit that we should cook them a nice hearty, vegetable laden dinner as fresh produce was damn expensive up this way and, well, if there’s one thing you need to be able to afford in this kind of weather it is not fresh vegetables, it is booze – Jesus’s little gift to us to help us stay warm in the cold.

About that dinner.

We finally stumbled on a wee little farmers market in a little sea side town on the east coast, at which one vendor was able to provide us with his home-grown yams, carrots and broccoli, and he was also selling the biggest fricking jerusalem artichokes I’ve ever seen. So big, in fact, I could not even recognise them. When I queried what the name of this strange, palm sized, Anakins-head-when-he-was-crawling-out-of-the-lava looking tuber may have been, the old farmer told me that it was indeed called Jerusalem artichoke and it was grown by another older gentleman up the road (points over shoulder).

“Indeed”, I remarked. “Well I will need to take a couple of those”.

The farmer then packed my produce up for me, I paid him the required toll and we were on our way.

We picked up some Dunedin venison and a bottle of stout from the peeps at Panhead Brewery, and then every item on the shopping list had a nice little tick next to it. We were clearly ready to do some cooking.

You will note my mis en place is in plastic bags. This is so I did not need to carry a box full of crap with me to the camp kitchen where the meal was cooked. “It’s pretty ingenious”, is probably what the other homies in the camp kitchen would have been thinking, and is also no doubt what you would be thinking right now.

Some booze for the stew and some booze for me

There’s those mis en place bags in the camp kitchen
Ready to go… with a big fat side of buttery sautéed cabbage

And a little more booze for me…


(serves 4)

500g venison shoulder, diced
1 onion, diced kinda chunky
2 carrot, chopped kinda chunky
2 sticks celery, chopped kinda chunky… let’s do all of the vegetables kinda chunky, ay
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 fist sized Jerusalem artichoke, chopped
6-7 yam, chopped
½ bunch thyme
1 tablespoon green peppercorns
500ml stout
500ml stock or water
Salt to season

Season venison and brown meat over med-high heat.
Add onion, carrot, celery, garlic, thyme, peppercorn bag and cook out for 5 minutes.
Add booze and stock, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Add artichokes and yam bag and simmer for another hour, or until meat is tender and vegetables are cooked. If the gravy starts to thicken up too much feel free to add a little more moisture in the form of stock or water.
Check seasoning and adjust if necessary.
Serve it up with a side of NZ’s finest booze.

Cheats Apple Strudel-Hoffen


Why would I want to go and call it a “cheats” apple strudel-hoffen? And what’s the hoffen part all about? (I actually just think it sounds more authentically German/Austrian suffixed with hoffen). What’s cheating in the world of cooking? Cheating is telling someone you cooked dinner but actually you bought Hungry Jack’s. Cheating is telling customers you are serving barramundi when you are actually serving Nile perch. Cheating is getting a pretty girl into bed only to realise she’s hiding a mans credentials, if you know what I mean.

I guess the cheat part comes into it to when I decided I would use filo pastry instead of hand made pastry for this recipe. And my nana Rose always makes her apple strudel pastry, which is probably the reason I feel like I’m cheating someone. And I put ricotta in this one too

So today I feel like making an apple strudel with filo and so that’s how I’m gonna roll. Wild people us chefs. Just doing whatever we want with food. Well, not whatever we want.

I mean, I am a huge fan of vegetables but you’re not going to catch me out the back with them. Not in the biblical sense anyway.

Maybe tending them in the garden would be acceptable, but I won’t be hiding out back behind the water tank if you’re getting the gist of what I’m saying.

*Random semi-related story #1 starts here. Maybe that’s how dildos were discovered? Possibly when a farmer came home to discover his wife with an array of his root vegetables? Or was it his son… with some livestock? Yep, that was the moment man called them “root vegetables”. And those corn farmers… crazy people. But at least it was ribbed for her comfort… hmmm.

Back on track here. We chefs do like to do things a little differently from time to time though. It’s something in our molecular make-up I’m sure.

We sleep with our feet on the pillow. We dress up like farm animals. And we’re born to torment week and needy apprentices. It’s just “what we do”.

We change recipes, not because we don’t care, it’s just that when one has been doing this shit for a while, a lot of things become intuitive. Second nature. Auto pilot. We do not have to think about it. My hands just grab things and put them on the bench and the next thing I know I’m cooking coq au vin for a group of friends and I didn’t even notice that my cheeky little hands had been making my mouth finish the first bottle of wine before anyone even got here. Cheeky little hands!

Recipes I cook all the time will all be just a little bit different depending on my mood or what I’m fancying at that point in time.

But that’s at home.

Food at the restaurant is a little different, because if it’s on the menu people want to be able to come back and eat the exact same thing each and every time they order it. They don’t give a shit if your apprentice is a Polish exchange student who can’t speak a word of English and can’t read the recipe. They just want their effing food and it better taste the same as last time.

And so do I…

5 sheets filo pastry
2 Tbls butter, melted
2 cups diced apple
½ cup sultanas or currants or dried figs or sour cherries… please tell me you’re getting the hang of this
½ cup ricotta
½ cup castor sugar
zest ½ lemon
• Layer the filo sheets, brushing each layer with butter
• Mix all other ingredients together to make the filling
• Roll quite loosely with the filo (so it doesn’t have a blow-out), keep the seam on the bottom
• Brush the top with butter and sprinkle with a pinch of raw sugar
• Bake at 170C for 20 minutes or until nicely browned
• Serve with crème anglaise and vanilla icecream, and the company of a German beer hall wench if you know one…