Wellington chef creates the perfect match

SARAH CATHERALL
Last updated 05:00 06/06/2012
Chris Green
Chris Skelton/ FAIRFAX NZ

MAKING MAGIC: Chef Chris Green at Arbitrageur Wine Room and Restaurant.

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When chef Chris Green eats out, he likes to select three or four entrees, enjoying the flavours and diversity of each.

He then chooses a different wine to go with each. The result? "It's magic."

It's a style of eating that's common in Europe and it drives Green's food and wine menu at his award-winning Arbitrageur restaurant where he cooks most nights of the week.

Green was formerly a chef at Boulcott Street Bistro, but he has taken over Arbitrageur since he returned from living in Geneva with his diplomat wife three years ago.

His time in Geneva was hugely influential. It was there that the former bulldozer driver turned chef cooked for diplomats, and discovered the differences between the cuisine and fine dining of Europe and that of New Zealand. "You're living and breathing another culture. All it made me do was want to cook even more."

He came back to design a menu that is completely seasonal, reflecting the produce that's abundant at the time. So for now, diners are enjoying chestnut and parsley soup, duck leg and pork belly. He also makes a point of ensuring that all dishes come from the wine growing regions of the world, the terriors. Food and wine matching is taken to the extreme at Arbitrageur, where every dish has a perfect wine to accompany it.

Says Green: "In New Zealand, we have fine dining restaurants but we don't have fine dining. We don't have international wine cellars. If you go to a three-star Michelin restaurant in Europe, you have a three-star wine cellar too. Here we don't have the expertise of people working in restaurants as sommeliers. Over there, they're trained up from the day dot. Here, they're university students working to finance their study."

Arbitrageur has 1000 wines in its cellar, but many are priced into the hundreds and some into the thousands. Some of the 60-by-the-glass options are served in a half glass.

Green was at Moore Wilsons last week, treating paying guests to a workshop to watch and learn how to make one of the dishes on his menu – snail and chorizo risotto with mushroom foam, walnuts and comte. Part of David Burton's selected chef guest series, the Dominion Post food critic observed that Arbitrageur's menu has become more French-influenced under Green's reign. All the cheeses or fromage are French.

However, Green says, " the basis of my cooking style hasn't changed a lot over the years. It's still about fresh produce, getting the best ingredients and letting them speak for themselves. Colour on the plate, treating it as a canvas, are time held principles even as ingredients and trends change over time. Some dishes are classics, but people have got more sophisticated about cooking at home so we need to look at different cuts, flavours and ingredients and affordability is also more important than ever. Fine dining doesn't have to be expensive."

Green grew up in Wairoa, coming from a family of non-foodies. He and former business partner John Lawrence met at Cobb and Co in the Hutt Valley before setting up Tinakori Bistro and then Boulcott Street Bistro. Green bought out his previous business partners in 2009 to take over Arbitrageur.

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Snail & Chorizo Risotto with Walnuts & Comte

Prep time 20 mins, cooking time 40 mins

Serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

300g aborio rice

50g butter, halved

100ml dry white wine

800ml hot chicken stock

2 tablespoons of pouring cream, whipped to soft peaks

2 tablespoons of walnut oil

30g butter, coarsely chopped

Chorizo sausage, thinly sliced

230g canned snails, drained

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tablespoons coarsely crushed walnut halves

100g Gruyere de Comte, shaved

2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped

Mushroom Foam

30g butter, coarsely chopped

200g button mushrooms, thinly sliced

150ml pouring cream

Heat olive oil in a casserole over medium heat, add onion, sweat until tender (4-5 minutes). Add rice, stir to coat for 1-2 minutes, add wine reduce by one-third (2-3 minutes).

Add stock a ladleful at a time, stirring until stock is absorbed before adding more. Stir continuously until rice is al dente and stock is absorbed (20-25 minutes).

Remove from heat, add whipped cream to pan without stirring, cover with lid and set aside.

Heat walnut oil and butter in a large frying pan over medium heat until foaming, add sausage, snails and garlic, season to taste, stir occasionally until sausage is golden (4-5 minutes), set aside.

Meanwhile, for mushroom foam, heat butter in a large frying pan over low heat, add mushrooms, saute until tender but not coloured (5-6 minutes).

Add 300ml water, season to taste, simmer until infused (4-5 minutes), strain into a clean pan. Add cream, bring to the simmer, process with a stick blender until foamy, keep warm.

Fold cream through Risotto, and serve with sausage and snail mixture spooned over, scattered with walnuts, cheese, parsley and mushroom foam.

CHRIS GREEN'S FOOD SECRETS

Uses brown mushrooms for more flavour.

Always cooks with salted butter.

Buys fish from the boat so it's absolutely fresh.

Cooks as much as possible in tin foil in the oven to retain flavours, such as beetroot.

For David Burton workshops: www.feastandvine.com

- © Fairfax NZ News

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