Jester House chef shares his secrets

Cafe of the Year recipes to try at home

ELIZABETH LATHAM
Last updated 13:11 01/11/2013
Steve Richards
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ

IRRESISTABLE: Jester House dish Plump Plum Pie

Steve Richards
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ
WARM-HEARTED CHEF: Steve Richards of Jester House with the Plump Plum Pie.
Steve Richards
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ
MORROCAN-INSPIRED: Jester House dish Wild Goat Tagine.
Steve Richards
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ
ALL IN JEST: One of the quirky surprises at Jester House.

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At the Table

Hot from the pot There's no taste like home Land of hops and honey Eating on the street A taste of the tropics Myths and mellow fruitfulness Crustacean craving Oh for onions Terrific tomatoes Cable Bay Cafe keeps it local

Jester House's Steve Richards, without a doubt, makes the world's best hash browns. I am not the only person to say that and food writer Lois Daish wrote the same 20 years ago.

I discovered Steve, his kilt and his hash browns probably about the same time as she did and from the size of the crowd at a weekend breakfast, there are many others who agree.

Hash browns are only a slice of the culinary pie at this eclectic cafe on Steve and Judy's estate in Tasman. Steve admits that he is not particularly constrained by convention which is even more interesting given his early chef training in the air force.

He says he learnt a lot as an air force chef with the huge variety of culinary requirements that has stood him in good stead as a chef.

Like many other loyal customers I have watched the Jester House grow and flourish. Their marvellous rammed earth house they built themselves, the restaurant more recently built to replace the tiny house that for many years served as their successful cafe and the ever expanding gardens.

To cross the creek where the eels lie in wait is to enter a special world of flair and imagination, usually confronted with totally tempting smells wafting towards you. Everywhere you look in the garden you see real care and attention and an excellent eye for design and use of space.

There is a playground for kids, great garden sculptures and, to top it off, The Boot, intimate, tastefully decorated accommodation for two. Its design replicates a boot, laces and all.

All of this is the backdrop to the eating experience and with all the ambience it is hard to go wrong.

The Jester House began in 1991 when Steve and Judy decided that this was the place that would be their home and livelihood. They had a vision of a lifestyle and they have lived that dream.

They don't open for dinner (except sometimes on Fridays) and every year when the eels hibernate they go on holiday to refresh and re-invigour for the year ahead.

They do breakfast and lunch. They cook everything from scratch. They raise their own chickens and they grow all the herbs in their kitchen garden.

Steve says: "It is all about the love and light you put into the food. We really care about what we are doing. We pride ourselves on the quality of the food, that it is fresh and tasty."

There is a strong philosophy behind it all. Steve believes in closing circles. He raises the chickens to provide the eggs for the cafe, the kitchen scraps feed the chooks.

They really believe in being regional and seasonal and always buy local if there is a choice.

They want to give their money to people they can meet personally so they feature a lot of local wines, beers, juices, fruits, olive oil and cheeses and where possible buy wild meat from certified producers such as Premier Game in Marlborough.

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The concept of wild meat appeals a lot to Steve and dishes such as wild goat, pork or rabbit feature regularly as specials on their menu.

They are currently running a special on wild goat in a dish inspired for the Cafe of the Year award and as this goes to print they have hopefully been declared a national finalist.

There are ethics involved in wild meat for Steve. He says he likes the idea of animals that have roamed free and had a good life and this reflects in how they taste.

Also, often wild animals can be pests for humans so what better way to deal with them than to eat them.

Clearly the Jester House is not your normal run of the mill restaurant. When the chef is still happy to come to work 21 years later and when he says what makes him feel great is the babble of conversation and laughter of his customers, there is no doubt that it is a great place to visit.

Steve shares the two recipes for the Cafe of the Year award and of course his recipe for the best hash browns in the world.

TAGINE OF WILD GOAT AND TOMATO WITH CHICK PEA AND CORN SALAD

Serves 6

This Moroccan inspired dish has lots of ingredients but a very easy method.

1kg diced goat meat (or lamb)
500g peeled and diced onion
800g chopped canned tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
1 tsp ground ginger, ground cumin, ground coriander, salt
1 tsp cinnamon, turmeric, fennel seed, ground black pepper
tsp chilli
tsp ground cloves
pinch nutmeg

Mix all the ingredients together in a tagine (or casserole with lid or slow cooker). Cook for approximately two hours until meat is tender and the sauce has thickened. You may have to take the lid off for the last part of cooking to let the sauce reduce. Check the seasoning before serving with chickpea and corn salad and crusty bread (or couscous).

CHICKPEA AND CORN SALAD

2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 cup corn kernels
2 Tbsp currants
1 large lemon, zest and juice
1 Tbsp sweet chilli sauce
Cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Mix all together and leave in fridge until ready to serve then add: cup of chopped flat leaf parsley and coriander

PLUMP PLUM PIE FILLING

800g black doris plums, drained - use either fresh or canned/preserved when out of season
500ml plum juice
100g corn flour
tsp ground cloves
100g white sugar

Heat the juice with the sugar and cloves.

Mix the other juice with the corn flour, add to the warmed juice and stir well until it is cooked and thick.

Gently stir through the drained plums, allow to cool before filling 28cm pastry lined pie dish. Top with pastry lattice and bake for approximately one hour at 160 degrees Celsius.

SWEET SHORT PASTRY

Cream together:

300g butter
200g caster sugar
Beat in:
2 eggs

Mix in:

500g flour
2 tsp baking powder

Wrap in cling film and chill until ready to use.

JESTER HOUSE HASH BROWNS

(with description written by Steve)

1kg agria potatoes, scrubbed
Par boil the potatoes for about 10 minutes, drain and allow to cool completely before peeling and grating.
Add:
tsp ground pepper
1 tsp salt
2 tsp wholegrain mustard

Mix in the seasoning with love and light using your finger tips. The mix will keep in the fridge for a couple of days. (The grated pieces should be quite loose, not a gluggy mess)

Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a 15cm black steel pan, add about 1 cups of potato mix and form into flatish cake with the back of a spatula. Add a little more oil. Cook over medium until browned underneath then flip (it's easy if you try with confidence). Add a little more oil and cook under side.

Meanwhile, cook some dry cured bacon (we use Pestells) and tomato.

Poach a couple of eggs to go on top. Flip the hash again so you get the shiny side up, arrange the bacon , tomato and eggs on top and serve with homemade tomato sauce. You will be the most loved person in your house.

- Nelson

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