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Country Cooking School with Mary Biggs

On a beautiful Autumn Sunday in May, we visited the Country Cooking School of Mary Biggs at Te Puhi in Featherston, Wairarapa. Just 50 minutes from Wellington New Zealand lies this idyllic country food farm with a historic colonial homestead - set on 35 acres of established gardens and mature trees.

Mary Biggs has a passionate connection to food, having trained in 1983 as a Cordon Bleu chef she has also enjoyed cooking for her family and friends over the years as well as developing Lavender's Green famous lemon cordial and condiments, well known and loved by many - it's a lifestyle on this fruitful property where garden and home intertwine. The spacious country kitchen at Te Puhi is well equipped for taking classes, but it's Mary's skill laced with energetic passion that brings vibrancy to this experience, we're excited about what we can learn today from this skilled and talented chef.

We arrive at 9.30 am, introductions all round then relaxing on the sun drenched deck under the mature magnolia tree for coffee, fresh baked feijoa cake and a warm country welcome. Talk is leisurely, the cake is delicious and Mary describes the day ahead which will include foraging from the farm and cooking a divine long lunch with premium Martinborough wines to match each course. The theme is fresh, local produce artisan foods and learning how to utilise these to make delicious meals.
⌃ Fresh baked feijoa cake with coffee on arrival
After collecting free range farm eggs and learning to make fresh lemon curd we set off on a rambling excursion around Te Puhi - gathering fresh bounty from this picturesque food farm is soothing for the mind, body and soul. As well as plentiful produce there are scenic hills, mature trees, beehives and a stream rambling amongst young native plantings - the backdrop of the majestic Tararua ranges completes this spell binding picture.

We stroll through the farm taking in the scenic Autumn colours and vistas - chatting while gathering lemons, feijoas, walnuts, watercress, figs and Jerusalem artichokes - connecting with nature at its finest. There are many stories to be shared and natures delights to be discovered. None of this is a chore and we wander back to the Te Puhi kitchen for the next stage of the cooking class - eager to learn but also wanting time to stand still in this perfect environment.
⌃ Gathering eggs to make lemon curd
Once back to the country kitchen we settle in and the next stage of the cooking class experience begins. There are many dishes to prepare to put together the long lunch - everything is made from scratch. Mary starts by showing us how to smoke salmon - a highlight of the day - Mary made this look so effortless...the end result superbly delicious!

Mary easily multi-tasks her way through each dish, chatting while working and involving her guests by allocating tasks, describing techniques and sharing food experiences all the way through. We mix, stir, label jars of lemon curd, plate up dishes and chat about life. Mary describes herself as "bossy" in the kitchen - we beg to differ, she is informative and inclusive which makes for a memorable experience, it's a privilege to be here in Mary's kitchen preparing this meal as an enthusiastic team.
⌃ Learning the art of hot smoked salmon
The feast includes an entree of hot smoked salmon with pickled beetroot, goats curd and walnuts, followed by a hearty main of roast pork belly with crackling, slow cooked red cabbage, duck fat roast potato & kumara, jerusalem artichokes and apple sauce - next up a cheese board with home baked oatmeal biscuits and a cheese selection from the renowned C'est Cheese artisan deli in Featherston, then dessert - a delicious lemon posset with slow roasted quince garnished with greek yoghurt.

Each dish is accompanied by a wine match from local vineyards - Escarpment Pinot Gris 2013 with the entree, main was matched with a choice of Alexander Pinot Noir 2010 or Martinborough Vineyard Chardonnay Home Block 2013. Cheese and dessert accompanied by Dry River Riesling 2015.

A perfect blend of local produce, fine wines and pleasant conversation, this day has shown us the finest cuisine our region has to offer in casual, pleasurable and memorable format- but more than just a cooking class, it encompasses something much deeper. Life's finest moments are often centred around sharing food with friends and family, the conversation and connections that flow bringing the warmest memories. This is the true essence of what Mary Biggs Country Cooking School has captured - priceless moments which will stay with you for many years to come, which you can in turn share with friends and family. If the way to everyone's heart is through food then Mary's kitchen is overflowing with love.

Visit TE PUHI COUNTRY COOKING SCHOOL and step into another world, a world you will love to relax in, unwind and reconnect with nature at it's finest.
Gather a group of friends or family to experience this unique cooking school -
Contact Mary on 0274 836 181 for more information.
⌃ Locally sourced artisan cheese, home made oatcakes and figs from the farm
⌃ View from the Cooks Loft accommodation - picture perfect
Adjacent to Te Puhi is THE COOK'S LOFT, a top story apartment accommodation reminiscent of being nestled amongst treetops. An idyllic weekend getaway just 50 minutes from Wellington City and in close proximity to Martinborough Vineyards, the retail hub of Greytown and the fast growing buzz of Featherston.

Stay in the Cooks Loft and spend the day at Mary's Country Cooking School for a total experience.

Trish Higginson & Karina Hailwood - Creative Directors Martinborough Village
"Let us show you the magic of our town"

Copyright MV 2015
enquiries to karina@martinborough-village.co.nz

Blog banner image Pete Monk Photographer