LET’S face it; winter is a challenge. And it’s not only the cold snaps and wild weather that can disrupt the kitchen’s best-laid plans. Diners don’t stow their appetites for variety and healthy choices just because the sun isn’t as high in the sky as it is in February. Richard Highnam from Napier’s The Old Church and Jean-Michel Poulot from Christchurch’s Edesia agree that being able to offer guests an interesting and varied menu in winter is a must. Both emphasise the importance of using ingredients that are in season but they also agree it pays to have a consistent taste winner that is readily available as a key dish.

“Fish is an important selection on my menu,” Jean-Michel says, “but again weather conditions can interrupt supply. Fortunately Ōra King salmon provides me with a sustainable product to work with that is consistent in supply. I can plan ahead and offer varied and interesting dishes based on a healthy, flavoursome core element.”

Richard concurs about the contribution Ōra King salmon makes to his winter menu. “Because of its high oil content Ōra King fits perfectly within a winter menu,” he says. “The important thing is it’s a consistent product which I enjoy working with. In fact I have begun a new love affair with salmon. Before I started working with Ōra King I was reluctant to put salmon on my menus.” Jean-Michel says by necessity the winter menu is more hearty and richer in flavour and texture. “Salmon lightly marinated and rolled in freshly chopped herbs is the basis for a nice roulade, or it can be poached very gently to preserve the colour of the fresh herbs.

“The rich texture of the salmon meets the desire for a hearty meal while the fresh herbs retain the elegance and floral fragrance of summer. For those who like a more robust dish, salmon cured and smoked with manuka honey adds warmth and sweetness.

“Frankly I had been unhappy with the quality of salmon available and after some research online, thankfully I discovered Ōra King.” He says winter menus need to find a balance, offering dishes that hit the right buttons while being nutritious and hearty, flavoursome and easy on the eye.

Both agree that sourcing the highest quality fresh produce is important in maintaining integrity. “I prefer to use locally produced food and ingredients. This is reflected in all my menus and on occasion I will use a specialised delicacy to enhance a flavour if I cannot source locally,” Jean Michel says.

In writing a new menu, Richard looks towards current trends overseas and adds his own twist. “And that invariably means local produce so I look to the local market and at what is available seasonally. I also consider whether the product quality will be consistent for the menu duration.”

Fortunately Ōra King salmon provides me with a sustainable product to work with that is consistent in supply.