Cooking still her first love

01:26, Jan 09 2013
Margaret McHugh
Margaret McHugh

The three things that Margaret McHugh is most passionate about are cooking, community and speaking one's mind honestly.

Originally from the small farming community of Winton near Invercargill, Margaret has fond memories of growing up on a dairy farm with her parents and three brothers.

"I really loved it growing up there - I used to help my Dad milk the cows before school in the morning," said Margaret.

After primary school she and her three brothers were given a choice of going to boarding school in Dunedin, which Margaret relished.

While she enjoyed her school days the wide world was something she very much wanted to experience and after school she moved to England where a family friend organised a job in a restaurant to train as a chef.

"It is something I have always wanted to do, but back then it was a very much male- dominated industry.


"I didn't care though, I didn't want to sit in a classroom I wanted to do my training on the ground."

After four years of work in various cooking jobs in and around London she decided to head home.

"Growing up you always think that things are better abroad but there really is no place like home," Margaret said.

Back in New Zealand in 1974 she landed a job as a sous chef at Skyline in Queenstown where she spent two enjoyable years in the industry she loved most.

She then worked as the contract caterer for the TSS Earnslaw for 10 years, establishing herself in Queenstown and buying a home.

Margaret, who has been self employed since she was 26, attributes her success in life to her steadfast attitude and straight forward approach.

"I had to stand up for myself and be straightforward, and I make no apologies for it.

"If I am wrong I will put my hand up, but I don't believe in tiptoeing around issues."

It was during this time that she got involved with politics after witnessing what she saw as discrimination against physically and mentally disabled children at a Queenstown campsite.

"I rang the mayor about it and he said that if I didn't like it I should stand for council, so I did."

Her career in council spanned 12 years, eight of which were as the chair of planning and three as deputy mayor.

She also volunteered as a LifeLine councillor and has received The New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal in 1993. Cooking, however, still remained her first love and she continued with her catering business.

In 1997 she decided to leave Queenstown and strike out for the big city and bought the Gourmet Deli with long time friend and now partner, Bill Brown, in Auckland. Together they developed the business, opened a catering business and ran a cafe in the High Court.

The pressures of managing some 50 staff eventually proved too taxing and in 2007 the couple decided to move to Picton.

"This really is the place to be - you are a train ride from Christchurch, a flight to Auckland or a ferry ride to Wellington," said Margaret, who loves the beautiful surrounds that the Sounds offers.

After years of self employment she thought that "no one in their right mind would hire me" and opened the Kippilaw House guest house, catering business and cooking school with Bill, and are a regular stall holder at the Blenheim and Picton Farmers Markets.

"My first love will always be cooking."

Blueberry and white chocolate bread and butter pudding

1 loaf of white or brown bread or some croissants older the better

1 litre of milk blue top cream

7 eggs

1 tsp vanilla essence cup sugar

Add all ingredients except the bread and whisk well.

Put in individual dishes sprayed well or in one large ovenproof dish.

Put bread mixture on the bottom add generous handfuls of blueberries and white chocolate, add the rest of the bread mixture.

If the mix is too dry add a little more egg and milk.

On top add a few more blueberries and a little more white chocolate.

Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 15-20 min.

It's cooked when no liquid comes out when the top is lightly pressed.

Chorizo, feta and vegetable Frittata

8 eggs

1 tsp of fresh cumin powder

salt and pepper

1 teaspoon turmeric

Your favourite mix of fresh herbs or chopped garlic chives, Italian parsley, dill, sage oregano, mint and thyme

Whisk ingredients together in a large bowl, add pre-prepared sauteed vegetables of your choice to egg mixture. An example is eggplant, courgettes, pumpkin, kumara, peppers, carrots and minted peas.

Spray individual dishes or a large round cake tin lined with greaseproof paper.

Half fill dishes with egg and vegetable mixture add slices of chorizo and feta and add the rest of the mixture on top.

Don't have mixture too dry.

Bake in 180C oven for 15 minutes and remove when no liquid comes out when lightly pressed.

The Marlborough Express