Tuesday 20 May 2014

Judgement Day for the Sausage Blogger - A sausage making class

Judgement Day for the Sausage Blogger - A sausage making class

Last night my wife and I attended a sausage making class with Rachel Priestley – The Prodigal Daughter. This was organised by Wellington Foodies and held at Crave Cooking School in Lyall Bay. It was a fantastic evening. Thanks to Lucy who put the evening together.

We started off with a few morsels from the master, or should that be mistress. Rachel shared a spicy Sicilian sausage she had made. This was served on bread with her own beetroot relish. Yummy. She made the sausage with five different types of chilli, and made them hotter than she would for regular sale. She thought as a group that we would appreciate a bit of a kick. And we did.

Rachel gave advice and many tips for aspiring sausage makers. She hand cuts some of the fat so you get bigger chunks of it in the minced meat. She uses pork forequarter and the fat from the back of the pig. It was great to be able to ask questions and have a discussion with people in the group who all had an interest in sausages. We were next to a guy who runs an impressive bbq website. Check this out here. And for his report on the class, click here.

The Prodigal Daughter shows us how it is done.


We were all given 1.5kg of preminced pork forequarter and fat. To this we added garlic, salt and pepper, wine and water. Once we had achieved what we thought was a satisfactory base we made a pattie that was cooked for testing. This was the tried and true quality control method. We then split the mince into two as we decided we wanted to make two different types of sausage. The big question was what spices, herbs and flavours were we going to add?

Our first sausage had fresh chilli, coriander and mint for flavour. The amount of each ingredient was determined by the look test. Yep, that looks enough.

Our second sausage had paprika, chilli flakes and ground fennel seeds added to the sausage meat. Again the highly scientific look test was used to determine the quantity of each ingredient.

Once again a pattie for each mixture was made and cooked in a pan. We thought both tasted ok. I do like the quality control aspect of cooking.

We made our sausages using a hand turned filling machine. The knack of rinsing the casing and putting the casing on the filling tube were skills that demonstrated the novice nature of our sausage making expertise. Packing the sausage requires skill too. Once again we demonstrated that we were beginners. The real art is tying the sausage. In this area I felt we showed some promise.

If the sausages were to be judged then marks would have been deducted off some of ours for air bubbles in the casing, different sizes of each sausages and uneven packing of the meat. However for a first attempt we thought we were pretty good. It was also good fun, and there was the expectation to eat the finished product.

Rachel informed us that our sausages would be judged for flavour. A pattie of each sausage was cooked. The judges comments about our fresh chilli, coriander and mint sausage was that it was the juiciest pattie and had good all round flavour. The dried chilli, paprika and fennel sausage received the comment that it had a well balanced flavour. Another sausage was the winner. A prize of the Prodigal Daughter’s produce was presented to the applause of all those in the class.

Tonight for dinner we had the sausages, along with mashed potato, carrots with mustard and honey, and broccoli. What did the whanau think? One son thought they were really good, the other son thought they were a bit chewy, both boys thought they were good. The daughter thought they were very good, for a first attempt at sausage making. The preferred sausage varied across the tasters.

Note the different sizes for each sausage.


I was very happy with my first attempt at sausage making and have decided to buy one of the hand fillers to try my hand further at the fine and noble art of making a quality snarler. Watch for future postings on Don’s handmade sausages.


The key element in cooking is having an enjoyable time. Whether it is in the hub bub of chat at the cooking school, or the quiet contemplation of preparing a meal at home making food contributes to mental wellbeing. I enjoy preparing food, but most of all I like the consuming the end product.

For an index of homemade sausages click here.

Tuesday 13 May 2014

The view was great … the food was variable

The view was great … the food was variable

As part of the weekend in Queenstown we journeyed to Wanaka. I had never been to Wanaka before. The day was a beautiful, still, autumnal day - a trip over the Crown Range, a stopover at the Cardrona Pub and onto Wanaka. What a glorious day. The vista across the lake was magical.

After a walk around the lake we decided to have brunch. We walked along the lake front cafes and eateries and chose Relishes Café because the tables were full. A lot of the outside tables also had dogs with the people who were at the café. We thought this is a busy place and the locals eat here – it’s usually a sound rationale when travelling. I ordered eggs benedict with smoked salmon, along with a side order of local venison sausages. My wife ordered a coffee, fried eggs with lemon lentils and flatbread.

The good bits: The coffee was the best she had while in the Southern Lakes district, and it would be fair to say that she is a picky coffee drinker. The lemon lentils were nice and lemony and I’m told they worked well with the eggs. Then the smoked salmon with eggs benedict….

The ok bit: The eggs benedict, one of the eggs was great, with a runny yolk, the other egg had a hard yolk, which was not what I wanted.

And then the bad bit: Sadly it was the sausage. It was dry and over cooked. I also questioned it freshness. It was not a pure venison sausage, I would say that some pork was used. However I will not describe it as a sausage that was below par. It was just very disappointing.

When I paid the bill, I was not going to say anything however I was asked about my meal, so I gave a straight answer. I was told that the sausages came from Mediterranean Market in Wanaka and I was assured they were made locally and were fresh. The maître d then took the price of the sausages from the bill. This was a good thing to do. He then said to another staff member, don’t serve any more sausages. When I was leaving the café, the waiter said to me that I was the second person to complain about the sausages in the last ten minutes. Taking them off the menu was a good decision and increased my feeling that I had been listened to.

So a very pleasant time for Sunday brunch outside on the glorious lake front of Wanaka. Some very good food and some that was forgettable. It was just a pity about the sausages but then you can’t be a winner every day.

Monday 12 May 2014

The best sausages in Queenstown

The best sausages in Queenstown

We were in Queenstown during summer a few years ago. This was before I started my sausage blog. At a market I met a man selling sausages. As usual I talked to him, he was Argentinian and he told me the sausages should have been cooked over a charcoal barbecue, however today he was using gas. I know a good sausage when I see and smell it, and I enjoyed eating one of his tasty morsels. Last weekend I went back to Queenstown. I googled "Queenstown sausages" and the name Zamora came up.

I found this shop in an industrial part of Queenstown. It is a newly opened shop featuring quality meats and deli goods. I got talking to the guy behind the counter and he identified himself as Nicolas, the same Argentinian guy I had met a few years ago. We talked at length about his South American inspired butchery. The other butcher in the business is Uruguayan. As butchers trained in South America he says they often cut the animals differently to NZ butchers, following the line of the muscle. NZ butchers tend to cut more across the muscle. There is a very distinctive South American influence in the shop.

They also make a number of cured sausages which are left to dry for three months. We sampled some of these and a review will follow in due course for these. Needless to say if I did think they were top quality or I would not have purchased some to take home. Clearly I am not alone in the view as Nicolas told us that he also sells to Rata Dining, Josh Emett’s restaurant, which we sadly didn’t get to on this trip.

I brought some pimenton sausage, fresh chorizo, to take back to Wellington. Pimenton is Spanish for paprika. These were cooked as an aperitif prior to our dinner this evening of chicken risotto. This is course to medium ground sausage. The aroma of pimenton permeates prior to cooking, stimulating the taste buds in anticipation of a very nice pre dinner snack. This spice made from chilli peppers is the primary flavour in this sausage. This sausage succeeds because it gets the balance between the hotness of the spice, the meatiness of the pork, and subtle complexities of added spice. It is a medium to strong spiced sausage. In my view it is excellent.

My boys said they were, "Delicious," and, "Sooo good," my wife said, "We should have brought every packet they had in the shop." High praise indeed from the critical whanau. These sausages tasted great. If you are in Queenstown and appreciate quality sausages I would strongly recommend a visit to Zamora. You won’t find better.

The Zamora’s web site is currently "curing." However here is a link.
We went up past Glenorchy for a walk to Lake Sylvan. The majesty of Southern Mountains is awesome. I must return to spend time in these mountains.

Monday 5 May 2014

Gipps St Butcher's Venison Sausage

Gipps St Butcher’s Venison Sausages

This is the final report on the three different types of sausages I recently purchased from the Gipps St Butchers. These venison sausages are made of 80% venison and 20% pork. The shoulder of pork is used in making this sausage. In discussing this with the butcher he says you need to have the fat content from the pork to bind the meat together. It also reduces the gaminess of venison. The taste of these sausages has a piquant of venison, it is a venison sausage but does not have the full on venison flavour. The venison flavour does kick in as an aftertaste. It is a medium ground sausage.

My son thought that they were quite good, and he went back to another sausage. I would buy these again.

Cost per kilo: Need to add

Thursday 1 May 2014

Havana Restaurant and Bar

Havana Restaurant and Bar

Many years ago my wife studied for a Master’s degree. As part of the degree those undertaking the course had to form a study group. She was part of a group of three. Last night that study group, along with partners, got together at the Havana Bar in Wigan St, Te Aro. This is a funky bar and restaurant with a Cuban and Spanish influence. After a few drinks we moved into the restaurant and had a meal. The restaurant serves tapas.

The study group was very productive - by the end of the two year programme, four extra children were part of the wider whanau group. We of course did more than our share by having twins. The other two members only had one child each. When my wife graduated she took the boys along to the ceremony. They were ten days old. We have a great photo of her in full academic regalia holding the baby boys. They look so tiny! The boys are now 15 years old and, needless to say, considerably bigger.

Tapas style food is a great way to sample a wide variety of platters. On the menu two items in particular caught my eye, housemade chorizo albondigas with pickled white cabbage and grilled bread, along with, sage black pudding with smoked piquillo pepper and pickled cauliflower sauce. As the platters arrived we tucked into the food. We talked, laughed, and told stories…. some of them were even true. There was a very convivial atmosphere.

The chorizo dish has different flavours that complemented each other. The chorizo is a skinless variety with smokiness and heat that comes through as you eat it. It is not excessively hot, and on my heat scale I would describe it as the mild end of medium. It is served with a tomato based sauce which has elements of sweetness, along with a little bit of heat. The pickled cabbage has a bitterness that complements both the sweeter flavours in the meat and sauce. This was a very nice dish.

The black pudding is baked and has a crusty outer shell, when this is pierced the interior of the black pudding is softer and crumbles as you eat it. The contrast in textures works well. The smooth interior combined with the crusty exterior creates a very nice contrast of textures in the mouth. The black pudding has a very small amount of heat, the smoked piquillo peppers that accompanied the dish added sweet and smoked flavours to the dish. The sourness of the pickled cauliflower sauce meant that dish had a wide variety of flavours to combine and accompany each other. Another very nice dish to eat.

Another tapas plate I particularly enjoyed was the crushed gourmet potatoes with slow cooked leaks and roasted garlic. If you are at Havana, make sure you include this dish too.

We were still in the restaurant as they began to clean the kitchen. It is open to the dining area and you could see the hive of activity as the kitchen staff finished off their day. I went and talked to the maître d. He told me the person that I should be talking to was Mark, the head chef. We have a very cordial chat about the sausage tapas. He makes the chorizo with pork he sources from Island Bay Butchery. This is free range pork from Canterbury. He uses 50% pork shoulder, ground finely, and 50% pork belly, a medium grind. Added to the meat is dried oregano, white wine, flaky sea salt, smoked and sweet paprika, along with lots of garlic. The chorizo is cured for five days. The black pudding is Island Bay Butchery’s gold medal winner, see link. Sage is used extensively in this dish. With the small kitchen space the opportunities to get into major sausage making are limited, however what Mark produces out the confines of Havana’s kitchen is to be admired. He also asked who I thought made the best sausages in Wellington. Regular readers of the blog will know how I replied - Park Avenue Quality Meats in Avalon.

If you are looking for a venue to spend time with people you want to drink, eat and laugh with then I would recommend that you check out Havana. Cuba without the airfare.