what I’m cooking with

Obsessed with squash? Mad for farro? As winter closes in, here’s what some Guild members are cooking with.

The latest addition to my kitchen is my new husband Ernesto who, being Peruvian, likes chilli. The most commonly used pepper in Peru is aji amarillo, a skinny, orange-coloured and, on Peruvian standards, not very hot chilli. Fortunately it’s available in paste form, making it easy to add just enough to give depth of flavour without burning your throat. Alas, it’s hard to buy here. I’ve found it in Sydney or you can buy it online through Amazon. Jill Brewis

I’ve been working on developing savoury uses for vanilla paste. Lush, woody vanilla notes have been wafting through meals partnered with scallops, salmon, prawns, duck, pork, ham, vegetables and pâté. It’s easy to sneak a spoonful into citrus vinaigrettes, marinades, spicy rubs, sticky meat glazes, Hollandaise, aïoli, beurre blanc or even simply some melted butter drizzled over steamed vegetables. Les Yule

I am loving fresh, new season’s New Zealand walnuts. They are sweet and don’t have any of the bitterness or rancidity that develops with time. I love scattering raw shelled walnuts over salads, or toasting them to toss on top of Brussels sprouts to provide crunch. The best ones I have come across (apart from foraged walnuts) are Uncle Joe’s from Blenheim. Uncle Joe’s walnut oil is terrific too, but once opened, keep it in the fridge. Lauraine Jacobs

Among many things that accumulate in my pantry waiting for inspiration are dried mushrooms: birch boletes I’d collected from Dunedin’s Southern Cemetery and dried a few years ago, packets of porcini and forest mushrooms I couldn’t resist buying, and dried oyster mushrooms from Stonehurst, an emerging specialist mushroom grower in Dunedin. On an extended exploration of the North Island in a motorhome recently, I put them in one of the under-seat lockers for an occasion when we might be out of reach of fresh food. When we lingered around Lake Waikaremoana longer than we’d intended, they came into their own in a mushroom risotto. Onions, garlic, some left-over wine — yes, there is some we decide is not worth drinking — some of this eclectic mix of mushrooms, the water they were soaked in as stock, some dried Central Otago thyme collected on an earlier trip, and Mercer pecorino discovered a couple of weeks earlier, produced a delicious risotto, washed down with a Peregrine pinot noir from our travelling cellar. Charmian Smith

I love quince, that rather romantic fruit, but their short season means I have to work hard to make the most of them while they are available. My favourite way to prepare them is to poach them in a syrup made with verjuice (I always use Maggie Beer’s) and sugar, covered, in a low oven, for as long as it takes for them to turn a rich jewel-like red. Pears are good done this way too. I like to serve the quinces with some of the syrup, sprinkled with toasted almonds and with mascarpone or yoghurt flavoured with a tiny amount of orange flower water on the side. Catherine Bell