Cooking up an organic storm at Otahuna Lodge

New Zealand’s Otahuna Lodge, affected by the major earthquakes which struck the nearby city of Christchurch, is re-opening on July 11 and will host cooking classes with executive chef Jimmy McIntyre.

Odd expression isn’t it, cooking up a storm? With mega-storms and natural disasters wreaking havoc worldwide on our environmentally-degraded planet, it seems a bit skewed. Or should that be skewered? (see unfortunate, updated quake details at the bottom of the post)

The lodge is about 20-minutes drive from Christchurch International Airport in the South Island. The classes are for a maximum of 10 guests. Each class includes a visit to Otahuna’s two-acre gorgeous organic potager gardens (pictured above), a 90-minute cooking lesson with Jimmy in the lodge’s kitchen, lunch with matched regional wines and recipes for all the dishes prepared during the class. The cost is NZ$195 ($A151) per person.That’s a bargain by Australian standards, ditto American or the euro when you consider the currency conversion. Equivalent classes in Australia cost up to $A250.

Otahuna was built in 1895 for Sir Heaton Rhodes, a high-profile pioneer of the Canterbury region, and his wife Jessie. Sir Heaton is remembered as a Victorian country gentleman and benefactor known for his enthusiasm for life and compassion for others. He was a long-term parliamentarian, a military officer, stockbreeder and keen horticulturist whose contributions are integral to the history of Canterbury. Otahuna would remain his home for more than 60 years until he passed away at the age of 95.

The name “Otahuna” is Maori and popularly translates as “little hill among the hills.” The homestead sits atop a small hill, between the rocky outcrops of the Banks Peninsula, providing commanding views of the gardens and across the plains to the Southern Alps.

The homestead is considered one of the best examples of unspoiled Queen Anne architecture in Australasia. Praised for its irregular shape, romantic rooflines, extensive use of New Zealand timber, and elaborate architectural detail, Otahuna is now protected by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. Otahuna offers five suites and two master suites. Each retains architectural features from the 19th century such as ornate original fireplaces, carved inglenooks and stained glass windows.

Jimmy has been the executive chef at Otahuna Lodge for eight years (that’s his breakfast kitchen, pictured above). His “potager to plate” philosophy utilises organic ingredients from the garden. Jimmy is a regular columnist and his recipes have appeared in high-end New Zealand and Australian food magazines. His classes will run from July through to September, and include making risotto and pasta from scratch with pappardelle, tortellini and gnocchi plus a range of sauces. If that sounds like hard work, try the canapés class. Otahuna will also be offering private dining by Jimmy in the lodge’s formal dining room this winter for groups of up to 14 people.

Otahuna Lodge is a member of the French gold-standard organisation of Relais & Chateaux, a global fellowship of individually owned and operated boutique luxury hotels and restaurants that reflect unique cultural and historical perspectives. The group has some 500 members in 60 countries on five continents – most strongly represented in Europe.

QUAKE UPDATE: Soon after I posted this story, Christchurch was hit by two huge aftershocks on June 13 – they were 5.5 and 6.0. More damage has been done, and injuries have been reported. Much of Christchurch’s tourism was shaken to the core along with the city by the earthquakes last September and on February 22, but some attractions are reopening. The February quake killed 181 people.

I’ve asked for an update from Otahuna Lodge, to see if the classes will be going ahead, and that the lodge will re-open as scheduled. Meanwhile, my thoughts and prayers are with my family, friends and the  long-suffering folk of Christchurch and its surrounding areas.

June 14: And yes – the cooking classes are still going ahead.

A suite at Otahuna Lodge will set you back at least $NZ1100 a night – that’s July 10 to September 30
The cooking classes are $NZ195 pp
Otahuna Lodge, 224 Rhodes Road, Christchurch 7672, is about 20-minutes drive from Christchurch International Airport
Call +64 3 329 6333
Facsimile: +64 3 329 6336

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