From Pasture to Plate

Renowned chef and restaurateur Sean Connolly is back at Stoneleigh Vineyard, where our winemaker, Jamie, has another challenge for him. Pouring Sean a glass of Stoneleigh Wild Valley Sauvignon Blanc, Jamie sets him the goal of finding the ideal food to partner with this crisp, aromatic wine. With a clean, creamy texture and hints of peach and nectarine, the Sauvignon Blanc showcases an extraordinary flavour and complexity that can be obtained through wild fermentation.

Travelling to the North Island, Sean meets Helen, co-owner of Clevedon Valley Buffalo Company. Situated south-east of Auckland on the tranquil shores of the Hauraki Gulf, this free-range buffalo farm is unique in New Zealand. Directly descended from the herds that followed Genghis Khan from Asia through Europe, these animals have the wilderness in their blood – and here they thrive on the lush pastures.

Helen tells Sean how the fresh sea air and natural pastures of grass, rye and clover provide a special environment for the 200 buffalo to roam. These surroundings allow the magnificent beasts to produce surprisingly delicate milk, high in calcium and protein, with a unique taste. Harvesting this wonder of nature, Helen and her husband Richard put traditional methods into practice to create a beautifully sweet buffalo mozzarella. Heating and resting the milk before kneading the curd to obtain a soft, elastic texture, this cheese possesses a clean, layered breadth of flavour.

Buffalo Mozzarella and Pear Salad by Sean Connolly
Sean Connolly makes Buffalo Mozzarella and Pear Salad in New Zealand
Sean Connolly Discovers Handmade Buffalo Mozzarella

Surrounded by beautiful Clevedon countryside, Sean sets to work creating his Buffalo Mozzarella and Pear Salad. He cuts the pears into rough wedges, placing them into a hot pan before adding chopped fennel for a clean, aniseed flavour. He then prepares some frisee lettuce to add a hint of bitterness to the salad, complementing the sweet pear, silky mozzarella and wild fermented Sauvignon Blanc. Adding a touch of chili, honey and fresh lemon juice to the pan, Sean balances sweet, sour and salty, caramelising his roasted pears before folding them into the salad. Topped with Helen’s fresh, wild buffalo mozzarella and a handful of torn mint, the outcome is a light, yet textural dish with a rustic edge.

Another day of adventure, another delicious match for Jamie’s Stoneleigh Wild Valley wine – and another challenge successfully completed.