Saturday, April 16, 2011

Dinner with a real Star

There are some seats in this country of ours which are coveted more than others.  That seat in parliament for instance that is reserved for the leader of our country.  Many ambitious people would love to have that position of ultimate power and responsibility.  A seat on the board of one of our most successful corporate companies perhaps?  Making big decisions and earning big bucks for it.

Perhaps bigger and more coveted than even these would be a much more casual seat.  A seat around the dining room table of one Cameron Petley from Putaruru.  The nation's favorite Masterchef contestant.  The softly spoken pig hunting chicken farmer who has captured the hearts of the country with his simple, perfectly cooked cuisine.  He entraps his audience by cutting through the pretensions of fine dining to deliver food from the heart that can be cooked and enjoyed by all.

In the hot seat.  Cameron cooks the steaks up.
 So it seemed sensible then that on a return journey to Auckland, from a visit to the Mountains, that we make the most of our recent acquaintance and visit Cameron in his parents home for a catch up to see how he is and if he is managing to keep up with the adulation and the sudden thrust of fame.

We arrive in Putaruru late afternoon and have about half an hour to kill before we are meant to be round at Cameron's.  With Putaruru being quite a small town we were wondering how we might go biding our time however it seems that there are other things that Putaruru has a name for.

On the main drag through town happens to be a multi award winning cheese shop, Over the Moon.  Simon Gault had mentioned to me that if I pop through the town I must check them out and with a wife who adores some fine fromage it takes little persuasion to suggest we park up and check out what they have to offer.

Over the Moon is a boutique cheesemaking factory and shop started by Sue Arthur in 2007.  Despite it's relatively new arrival to the cheese scene they have already won multiple awards for some sensational cheeses.  Firmly implanted in what is real dairy country they make the most of the local produce as well as utilizing the best products from around the world to deliver top quality cheese.

Check back later this week where I will have a review of some of their finer products and hopefully a few interesting dishes incorporating their cheese.

While we are being shown through the Over the Moon range by the lovely Debbie I receive a call from Cameron.  Boys being boys we haven't really settled any of the detail.  Cam knows we're showing up, that's about it.  That's how us guys handle things.  Cam asks if we're staying for dinner.  The wife is not wanting to impose, I'm easy either way, Debbie is rather excited by it all.  'How can you say no!  It's dinner at Cameron's place!!!!'  Too true.  Yes thanks Cam, invite accepted.

So after purchasing a fair portion of cheese we make the short journey to Cameron's parents house.  Sometimes it can be a bit uncomfortable arriving at a new house for the first time.  Did I get the address right?  What number is it?  Check it again.  Are we on the right street?  Is it the house on the left or the right?  What number is it again?

As to be expected initial nerves are quickly allayed after knocking on the door.  We are greeted at first by kids, and then more kids! Cameron is definitely a family man, with five sons himself, and with a few of the nieces and nephews around as well it's almost like walking into a creche.  A quick hello to Cam's wife Jerusha and the Ma and Pa and then it's off to the kitchen and the dining room, the place where it all happens.

It really is such a pleasure to be in the Petley household.  They are a warm and welcoming bunch.  Very kind and very relaxed.  We open a beer each and then sit down to catch up.  Masterchef life has obvisouly been quite surreal for all of us, but even more so for Cameron!  Coming from a smaller town he is now perhaps the most identifiable thing to exist within the county.  It may not be a surprise to shortly see a statue of him outside the local supermarket.  Such is the adulation.  Copies of the women's magazines with Cameron in it sold out in a day.  And no doubt purchased not only by women!

In fact one of the local girls Anne White has even created the 1st in a range of T-shirts.  Eggs with Saffron, world famous in Putaruru.  Too right it's world famous!!  I'm just waiting to see what the next one out is.  'If in doubt, wrap it in bacon.' perhaps?  That's a line that definitely belongs on a T-shirt!!

But like everything Cameron handles it all in a very relaxed way.  The things most important to him are his family and he is still the same person to them as he was before this adventure began.

The kids haven't quite developed Masterchef taste buds as yet!
So obviously what everyone wants to know is what did two Masterchefs cook for the family?!  Well we wouldn't want to break with tradition and get all fancy on ya would we!!

Serving up the steaks.  Cam is always cooking for numbers.
 We had some finely cooked scotch fillet steak served with Josh Emett's Mushroom sauce from the first masterclass, new potatoes coated in butter, garlic and chives and a simple leafy salad with red onion, grilled capsicums, cherry tomatoes and pepperino's covered in a classic vinaigrette.  Simple, well cooked and absolutely fantastically bloomin tasty!  Just as it always is in the Petley household.

Not wanting to leave you without a recipe at all I thought I would provide you with the Vinaigrette recipe.  It's always better making your own than buying the bottled stuff, and really is a cinch to make.

A simple vinaigrette can have as few as two ingredients so to make a good one you need quality ingredients!
If you are into your cooking you should always have a good olive oil and some quality vinegar on hand.

Ant's simple Vinaigrette:

1 tsp Wholegrain or Dijon Mustard
2 Tbsp White Balsamic Vinegar
5 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Makes enough for a salad for 5

  • Combine the mustard and White Balsamic Vinegar in a small mixing bowl and whisk until well mixed.
  • Slowly add the Extra Virgin Olive Oil about a Tbsp at a time and whisk constantly.  To stop the bowl from moving you can place a folded tea towel under the bowl, freeing up your hands to pour and whisk at the same time!
  • When you add the Olive oil and whisk what you are doing is forming an emulsification.  The mixture will get thicker as the vinegar and oil combine.  It is very important that you do this slowly to ensure that the mix emulsifies properly.
  • Keep adding the Olive oil and whisking.  Then season.  Taste the vinaigrette.  You want it to have some bite as when you put it on your salad that bite will be spread over many leaves and so will be diminished.
  • If necessary add a bit more oil or vinaigrette.
  • If you have whisked it enough then the mixture should hold together and not separate over time.
  • Dress the salad with your vinaigrette just before serving.  If you dress it too early the salad leaves will become wilted.


  1. You didn't mention anything about his tee-shirt as designed by local girl Anne -
    Eggs and Saffron - World Famous In Putaruru

  2. True. Anne defo deserves a mention. Post updated. I'm now proudly wearing one of the t-shirts. Can't wait for the next one!

  3. Great work on the blog Anthony! A really good read. Keep it up!