Ocean spray that settles on pastures of Aotearoa’s rich-green paddocks draws the sea and the land closer- and lamb grown here is elevated by geographical good fortune with a sweet, juicy flavour that is salt-kissed.

Richard Redmayne who farms just south of Whanganui knows this. And now he has instigated The Coastal Lamb Challenge, an invitation to restaurants both in New Zealand and overseas to create a dish that teams his Coastal Lamb with an element of seafood for the chance of some delicious experimentation and a supreme prize of $5,000.

Thing is, Richard isn’t the first person to have the idea to pair the lusciousness of lamb with the briney delicacy of fish. Chinese folklore has it that a young shepherd was once cooking a lamb broth when a friend joined him for dinner after a day spent fishing. They added his catch to the pot and the result was a completely different flavour profile: umami. This combination of fish and lamb also lead to the creation of a new Chinese word. ‘Xian’ means ‘fresh’ and is made up of two characters – one that is ‘fish’; the other that is ‘sheep’.

The Coastal Lamb Challenge celebrates and rewards culinary innovation using cuts of Coastal Lamb or Coastal Spring Lamb (but not lamb rack) – and Richard is certain these special raw ingredients will be inspiration enough. “Throughout the world, produce that is reared and gathered on coastal land is acknowledged for its clean flavour,” he says. Richard and his wife Suze Redmayne have gathered a group of intergenerational family-run farms along the east and west coast of the North Island as part of the Coastal Lamb community – places where salt from the Pacific Ocean and Tasman carried on to the grasses by coastal wind dusts the herb-filled pastures that the lambs eat.

Chefs and restaurant diners alike enjoy the story and provenance of the Coastal Lamb brand which is gaining a significant worldwide reputation. It seems the lamb pairs beautifully with a raft of seafood and Richard, as well as supplying the restaurant market domestically, is proactive at growing the export market. Coastal Lamb is on the radar of several leading New Zealand chefs including Sid Sahrawat, Hayden McMillan and Shaun Clouston but also on the menu at upmarket hotels in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand and China. “Throughout Asia, we’ve talked with chefs who are fascinated by our product,” says Richard.  Some memorable, exquisite dishes he has experienced on his travels include: Lamb Backstrap with Hokkaido Scallops; Lamb Tartare with Oyster-Cream Emulsion; Lamb Tenderloin Tartare with Smoked Lambs’ Tongue, Moana Pacific Oysters and Caviar, and Spring Lamb Carpaccio with Caviar.

Joining founders Richard and Suze Redmayne to judge The Coastal Lamb Challenge will be Cuisine editor Kelli Brett, well-known New Zealand food writers Lauraine Jacobs and Kathy Paterson, along with Beef + Lamb New Zealand general manager Ashley Gray.

Coastal Lamb, naturally seasoned by the sea, breathes a fresh perspective into the classic Surf ‘n’ Turf combination with modernised, globalised dishes by chefs who recognise a product that is homegrown but anything but humble. “I’m encouraged by their ingenuity in creating dishes that celebrate the lamb’s provenance and the connection between land and sea,” says Richard.

Entries to The Coastal Lamb Challenge must be received by November 8. For more details, visit: https://coastallamb.com/the-nz-coastal-lamb-challenge/