Thyme is on head chef's side

Hummingbird's Helen heads herbology class

HANNAH MCKEE
Last updated 08:43 28/08/2014
Herbology
CAMERON BURNELL/Fairfax NZ

HELEN'S HERBOLOGY: Hummingbird head chef Helen Turnbull talks new herb combos, foraging tips and what to grow in Wellington's winter at her Wellington On a Plate event.

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Fancy a little thyme stirred in your gin, or pine needles with that fish?

It was a packed house at Hummingbird on Sunday afternoon, with people keen to learn a few green tips at the Wellington On a Plate event Helen's Herbology.

The event was the brainchild of the restaurant's head chef Helen Turnbull, 31, who showcased the versatility of herbs with tastings such as horopito sticky date pudding and sage with cheese and crackers.

"I would like people to be a bit more creative, it's not just about, 'Oh, thyme goes with this,' I want people to see a nice herb and think, right let's cook with this in a different way."

The About Thyme cocktail was first on the menu; a refreshing change to a gin and tonic by using sugar syrup infused with thyme, rosemary and mint and finished with soda water and a sprig of thyme.

"Normally you'd think basil or mint in a refreshing cocktail but it was exactly what I wanted."

Turnbull also recommends trying thyme tea by simply pouring boiling water over a few sprigs of the herb.

One tasty morsel that got the diners talking was the pine-cured salmon.

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"It's an easy thing to forage for. I collect my pine from Mt Vic and always use the green ones. I washed it, blended it with sugar, salt and other ingredients to make a marinade. Or for lemon chicken you could just take the lemon out and pine needles in, or place them underneath a roast."

Next was the baked flounder with seaweed and carrot.

"Between Lyall Bay and Red Rocks there's tonnes of seaweed. You pick it up off the rocks and then soak in fresh water for three days, changing [the water] very regularly. I boiled that with carrots and blended it. Some seaweed is hard to digest but there are websites that will show you."

Originally from Wellington, Turnbull worked for five years as a chef in Tokyo, at Gordon Ramsay at the Conrad and Troisgros.

She went on to travel through India, South East Asia, China and Russia, staying with families to learn about spices.

Turnbull then worked on super yachts where she met Michael Hill, who asked her to be head chef at Hills Golf Club in Queenstown, before she opened Rata restaurant with Josh Emett and returned to Wellington last year.

"It's great to be back in Wellington, I've come full circle, and I feel very honoured to be at Hummingbird and teach the chefs everything I have learnt."

Turnbull says a low- maintenance herb to grow in Wellington's colder months is flat- leaf parsley, but sunshine-loving herbs like mint or basil are best left for summer. She hopes to make Helen's Herbology a regular Wellington On a Plate event.

 

TRY THESE

Seaweed is not just for sushi and mint is for more than mojitos. Helen Turnbull suggests trying these herbs with the following food items.

Thyme: Cardamom, mango, orange, chicken, carrot.

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Marjoram: Apple, honey, lamb.

Sage: Scallops, grapefruit, cabbage, eggs.

Watercress: Turnip, walnuts, blue cheese.

Pine: Fennel, pork.

Seaweed: Butter, snapper, capsicum.

- The Dominion Post

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