Less than an hour from Wellington in the rural tranquility of Te Horo is an opportunity to test your culinary skills at the Ruth Pretty Cooking School. More than that, it’s an opportunity to relax and enjoy New Zealand cuisine like a V.I.P. with one of the country’s best-loved chefs.
Ruth Pretty Cooking School
Ruth Pretty is to New Zealand as Martha Stewart is to the U.S. An unlikely setting in a former kiwi orchard, Ruth Pretty Cooking School and the base of her catering business is located at Springfield, a surreal 27 acre rural property on the Kapiti Coast of New Zealand’s North Island. The rural setting with girlfriends created the perfect girlfriends’ getaway to hone our culinary skills at the Ruth Pretty Cooking School.
The marketing garden area of Te Horo is known for its fresh fruits and vegetables and supplies most of the produce for Ruth’s catering. She’s yet another chef passionate about local seasonal fresh food.
Like its surroundings, the moment our bus rolled onto the miniature farm, Ruth Pretty and her staff welcomed us, and then promptly escorted us into the gift shop for a coffee – Kiwi’s flat white, if you please. We were then ushered into a glass encased patio for a visit with Ruth herself – and a sample of two amazing brunch items: Roast Chicken, Herb & Bacon (cocktail) Sandwiches and Beauty Cake. I could not get enough of the chicken sandwiches – the homemade herb stuffing hint of sage and thyme did the trick.
In addition to coffee, Springfield Lavender Lemonade was offered – complete with a sprig of lavender.
Then Ruth regaled us with her catering stories while catering most of Wellington’s biggest and most prestigious events. How about rubbing elbows at the movie premieres for Lovely Bones, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, and King Kong? Or catering to food and aficionados during the New Zealand Wine Awards dinner? Her best story – rubbing elbows with Prince William and New Zealand’s Prime Minister while catering a Premier House BBQ in 2010.
Ruth then led us on a tour of her own garden, maintained by gardener Clare. A tour of the industrial sized kitchen followed where many of the cooking classes take place. Since it was such a beautiful spring day, our cooking class was taken outside. Chili-spiced Almonds with Cumin complemented New Zealand wines – I chose Palliser Estate Martinborough Methode Traditionelle 2007.
In the middle of the plush green yard (where many weddings take place) was a gorgeously set table with bright colored dinnerware and an array of wine glasses.
At the end was a table where Ruth and her assistance conducted cooking class on creating the perfect Ruth Pretty’s Wood Fired Oven Pizza.
The ingredients were at the ready including basil, cheese, sausage and more, and after instructions by Chef Jamie, we all took turns gathering around the table to create our own specially crafted pizza (Margherita Pizza for me). Then we scooped it up on the pizza “shovel” and carried it to the outdoor wood fired oven. The result was a crispy crust with just the right of amount of smoky flavor.
After pizza tasting and more New Zealand wine, Ruth Pretty and her chefs moved to the oversized barbeque to talk about the rest of our amazing “cooking at Springfield” menu.
And what a menu:
- Barbecued Scampi Salad with Lemon Thyme Dressing
- West Coast Whitebait Fritters (worm looking critters difficult for me to eat)Barbecued Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Rosemary & Beetroot Balsamic
- Pan-fried Paua with Lemon (total fan of these New Zealand marine mollusk)
- Herbed Green-lipped Mussels
- Barbecued Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Rosemary & Beetroot Balsamic
- Handpicked Springfield Garden Salad with Walnut Dressing
- Selection of New Zealand Artisan Cheeses with Homemade Crackers and Fig, Orange and Almond Rolls
- Manuka Honey Ice Cream
- Long-Stemmed Strawberries
I rolled away from the table with a new appreciation for New Zealand cuisine, thanks to Ruth Pretty Cooking School. (Bonus: Ruth Pretty sent all the day’s recipes home with us!)
Ruth Pretty Cooking School
41 School Road
Te Horo, Kapiti Coast
Phone: 06 364 3161
Culinary travel is a click away at Why Go Travel Agency.
The culinary adventure was provided by Visit Wellington & Ruth Pretty Cooking School. Opinions expressed are my own.