Feasting on cold history

FORAGE FOOD: Jonny Schwass.
FORAGE FOOD: Jonny Schwass.

Christchurch chefs, Jonny Schwass, Richard Till and Andrew Brown, have combined their talents to capture the magic and mystique of the driest, coldest continent on the planet and put it on a plate.

Heroic Dining is one of many events starting on September 14 as part of NZ IceFest - a month long celebration of all things Antarctic.

The dinner has been a culinary mission to capture the uniqueness, the tragedy, the successes and the science of the frozen continent and the stories of the men who have lived and died on it over the last 100 years.


Jonny Schwass says his initial thought was 'how could I do something that came in a tin'.

'It was a tricky one because you want to do something that is symbolic and has a relationship with the food the guys were eating, but no-one would really want to sit down to a meal of seal blubber.'

Instead, Schwass has gone with a play on the physical connection between Christchurch and the Antarctic combining a dish called hoosh with his interpretation of one of the seafarers' meals.


'Hoosh was quite a common food in the early Antarctic expeditions and was generally a thick stew made with meat, fat and cereal. The dish is served with venison rolled in an ash of pinot barrel staves, brown sugar, black pepper and salt, and then cooked over charcoal. It's served with spring sprouts including onion flowers.'

Richard Till drew on Ernest Shackelton's stranding on Elephant Island for inspiration. 'The men were forced to take refuge under a shelter made from life boats and pieces of canvas tent while they waited to be rescued. One of the men had a recipe book and every day they would read from the list of menus. I suppose it kept their sense of civilisation alive somehow," he says.

Till has come up with a version of a recipe from that book that includes duck, turnips and peas.

Executive Chef of The George, Andrew Brown is using science as the base of his desert. The Adventurers' Breakfast Dessert is a buttermilk vanilla parfait, freeze-dried fruit salad, nitro rhubarb and yoghurt snow, honey and oats.

'People living in the Antarctic are in a situation where moments are confused when night becomes day and day becomes night,' he says.

"I took that concept, gave it a twist and created a breakfast that will be served as a dessert.'

The freeze-dried fruit will be served on the side in little packets, something that can be sprinkled over the parfait.

He says freeze-drying really concentrates the flavour and texture of the fruit while maintaining its colour.

The team from White Tie catering will cook and serve the meals.

One highlight of the evening will be the arrival of MacKinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt to complete the meal.

This historic whisky was recreated to replicate original bottles discovered intact, frozen under Shackelton's Antarctic hut for more than a century.

While you're at the UC Geo Dome, take the opportunity to visit the Still Life exhibition where you step inside a 10-metre white cube and are immersed in images of Jane Ussher's evocative photographs of the first Antarctic explorers' expedition bases.

These iconic buildings are now cared for by the Antarctic Heritage Trust.

The Press