Taste of autumn

Chef Bevan Smith shares some recipes heralding the start of autumn.

Riverstone Kitchen's Bevan Smith.
Bevan Smith. Photo: Emma Willetts

The first signs of autumn. Rustling leaves, a cool edge to the breeze, wild mushrooms, and shorter days. The changing of the seasons, and while I always hold out hope for an Indian summer, the chances of that this year, I fear, are slim.

No matter, I love the shift in temperature from the heat of summer, and there is still a lot to feast on from the garden.

Lamb neck is one of the tastiest cuts of meat there is, but often overlooked. Slow cooked with mint, garlic, lashings of olive oil and the last of the beans, peas and broad beans. Soul food, right there. Tender, delicious and nourishing, this is a dish to sit around and linger over. Soak up those glorious juices with some corn bread. Happy times ahead.

From the elder flowers we missed last November, swathes of elderberries have grown, plump and juicy, similar in flavour to wild blackberries, but infinitely more pleasurable to pick.

Elderberry bushes are usually spread according to the whims of birds so don't be surprised where you find them, whether behind an old shed or in an old empty lot. If you have no luck finding them, just substitute other berries.

Keep your eyes peeled in case you do spy them because you're in for a real treat. Normally they are bound for jelly but this year, ice cream was the call.

Delicate, velvety and floral, a taste of the wild. Perfect to match the mood swings of Mother Nature. Happy eating.

Chef, restaurateur, author and father of two, Bevan Smith is the owner of the award-winning Riverstone Kitchen, north of Oamaru. His life revolves around food. Sharing that passion is central to his philosophy that all people should and can eat well.


Photo: Emma Willetts
Photo: Emma Willetts

Slow-cooked lamb neck with garlic, mint, peas, beans and broad beans

Serves 6


2 lamb necks
salt and pepper
1 cup olive oil
1 head garlic
1 medium brown onion, peeled and diced
3 large handfuls fresh beans, roughly chopped
400g podded peas
3 cups podded broad beans
½ small bunch thyme, finely chopped
2 large handfuls mint, roughly chopped
1 litre water or vegetable or chicken stock

Corn bread

600gm plain pastry flour
200g polenta flour
550ml luke-warm water
10gm dried yeast
10gm salt
¼ cup olive oil
extra ½ cup polenta flour for dusting


Ask your butcher to cut each of your lamb necks into three pieces.

Preheat oven to 200degC.

Lightly season lamb neck pieces and colour well on all sides in a heavy based frying pan in ¼c of the olive oil.  Remove lamb from pan and reserve to one side in a large casserole or oven proof dish. 

Sweat garlic and onion in the pan for 3-4 minutes before adding the remaining olive oil, the beans, peas, broad beans, thyme and half the mint.

Toss ingredients together to combine and pour over the lamb.

Add the water or stock and cover with a piece of baking paper and seal well with tinfoil.

Place in oven and cook for 30 minutes before reducing the temperature to 160degC and continue to cook for a further 3-4 hours.

Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before adjusting the seasoning to taste and stirring in the remaining chopped mint.

Serve in a large serving bowl so everyone can help themselves, with corn bread on the side.

Corn bread

Place flour, polenta, water, yeast and salt and the olive oil into a mixing machine. Mix on the lowest speed for 25 minutes using a dough hook. Turn dough out on to a bench.

Lightly grease mixing bowl with a little extra olive oil. Place dough back into the bowl and cover with cling wrap and set aside in a warm place for 60-90 minutes or until doubled in size.

Turn dough out on to a bench and divide into 12 equal-sized pieces. Preheat oven to 230degC. Tip extra polenta flour into a small bowl.

Roll dough into balls, brush tops with water and dip the moistened dough into the polenta flour.

Place rolls on a baking paper lined tray and place in a warm place to prove for a further 20 minutes.

Place bread into oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Best eaten on the same day, but makes killer toast the next.

Photo: Emma Willetts
Photo: Emma Willetts

Elderberry ice cream

Makes 1.2 litres


12 large bunches elderberries
1 litre cream
½ tsp vanilla paste
300g caster sugar
12 free range egg yolks


Tease the elderberries from the stalks into a bowl with your fingers.

Place the elderberries, cream, vanilla and half the sugar into a saucepan and gently bring to the boil over a medium to low heat. Meanwhile whisk the egg yolks and remaining sugar in a bowl until pale and thick.

As the cream comes to the boil, remove liquid from the heat and strain over the egg and sugar mixture, whisking as you do so.

Use a spoon to push as much of the elderberry juice through the strainer as possible. Chill down the ice cream base over a bowl of ice or in the refrigerator.

Once the base is completely cool, churn in an ice cream machine according to manufacturer's instructions.  Best eaten within 2 to 3 weeks.


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