24 June 2010

Welcome to NZ, Mr Stein...

When I heard that globe-trotting chef-King, Rick Stein, is coming to New Zealand, I hoped that (as a semi-regular visitor) he has been privy to the delights of Mussel Fritters. In honour of his visit I decided to devise a recipe using New Zealand’s very own fantastically affordable, fat and delectable green-lipped mussels.
If you’re seeing Mr Stein, please give him a copy of this with my regards – or ask him to drop in at my place and I’ll cook them for him... Absolutely no visit to New Zealand is complete without a dish of these.

What a plateful of ocean, what a dish of summery holidays. Reminiscent of beach and bach, long hot days with family and friends, catching pipis and body surfing. These are sweet and crisp, hints of mushroom flavours, and mousse-like texture.

Wasabi and Coconut Mussel Fritters

About 20 large mussels, steamed open and beards removed. Chop roughly. Don't eat too many just yet...
1 medium onion, chopped very finely
1 cup of plain flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar*
3 eggs
An 8cm squirt of Wasabi
200ml coconut cream
Plenty of salt – roughly 1 ½ tsp

*If you don’t have Cream of Tartar then use 1 tsp baking powder in place of the soda and cream of tartar... but I do think the combination of Tartar and Soda make a much lighter fritter. Same for pikelets.

Chop the mussels by hand or in a blender. Leave them fairly coarse. Sniff ... wonderful! Add to a bowl with everything else. Stir. Cook. (Why have complicated instructions?)
However I do mix the Wasabi with the coconut cream in the blender so there are no big lumps. Nasty!

I use Rice Bran oil because it can stand the high heat for frying. Use enough oil to come halfway up the sides of the fritters, and cook them in fairly large spoonfuls. Be generous!

If you have to add more oil, add it between batches and let it come up to heat before spooning the next batch in. Drain well and serve in hot piles of crispy, mussel mousse freshness with lots of lemon wedges. Salt with reckless abandon! If no lemons or salsa present themselves, just dip in sweet chilli sauce. (No, not Watties tomato sauce...)
Here’s my salsa invention to accompany them
Coconut, Corn and Coriander Salsa

Combine all:

2 medium tomatoes, chopped
Plenty of fresh chopped coriander
¼ cup toasted long thread coconut
½ cup drained whole kernel corn
Enjoy with a lovely cold Marlborough or Hawkes Bay Chardonnay.

And if you do get a chance, hop along to the Rick Stein show - while you're there, would you drop off a copy of this recipe for him!?

21 June 2010

Come on now, Cadbury...

I'm sorry but there's a problem with the Roses chocolates. It's not a new problem, but it is one that's continuing to annoy me. I notice that the Orange chocolate has gone and that's wonderful - no more avoiding that one until there's nothing left in the box...but there is another that seriously needs to be removed as well. Yes, I'm talking about the sickly sweet, slightly pretentious Strawberry Creme. Now as New Zealand's preferred "Thank you" gift, (especially when thanking oneself) it is an embarrassing thing to offer Strawberry Creme. What girl in her right mind would choose it? What bloke? Reminiscent of the cloyingly pungent Strawberry Oil from high school in the 70's, not at all up to the standard required.

19 June 2010

Zarbo delizioso

Stew and I did breakfast at Zarbo, and I'm so delighted with the dish I ordered. Often I look at what others order and wish I'd chosen differently, but not this time...
Sweet French Toast with cinnamon, poached fruit and berry coulis
Oh my, that French toast - crispy, spicy, drenched in syrup... a breakfast dream on a plate. All for $13.50. We do breakfast rather well here in enzed don't we? This plate of food had lots of the things I love about breakfast in New Zealand. Freshly poached fruit with zing, punchy spices, warm and comforting. Simple, uncomplicated, just well-cooked and hot. Plenty of salty moist bacon, streaky but not cooked within an inch of its life. And don't hold back on the carbs - oh, I love those carbs. A plentiful serve of toast. Creme fraiche on the side, you can see I'm a dairy-holic as well as a sweet freak.

A recent revelation to me was how much better French Toast is when made with French Bread... but then I always was quite slow. Don't add too much milk to the eggs - about 1 tbsp per egg - and cut the bread on a diagonal so you get plenty of surface area. Spice it well with cinnamon or allspice. Dip it both sides: I let it soak for a bit. And then fry in NZ butter. If you don't have pears or apples for the poached fruit, just add half a banana to the pan with the bacon. It all cooks fast and within 10 minutes you'll be upending the maple syrup bottle for that finishing touch. Add Sunday newspaper, home made plunger coffee and you'll have something almost as good as Zarbo's.....

Thanks to the staff and the boss who were prepared to risk me taking photos of their place - I have a deal with Mark, the owner, that if I win "NZ's best food blogger" on the strength of my visit to Zarbo, I'll take him to the Rick Stein show in early August. He's keen... as am I.

15 June 2010

NZ Sandwich Memoirs

What do you remember of your school lunches? I began to relate to Stew the sandwich fillings I remember and it very quickly got weird... but then I came up with the one I'd serve Maestro Rick Stein if he came for lunch... and he just might, he's in the country soon though it appears he might have a few other things to do

My favourite NZ childhood food memory from Ohope and The Mount.... Pipi sandwiches (this one for Rick...)
Lovely white bread - I still have cravings for white bread - that's been buttered and stacked in a pile. Pipis collected that morning, digging feet into the low tide sand to feel for the shells. Handfuls brought up between waves and dropped in the bucket with waves washing in. Crabs nipping, kids squealing. Left in fresh water to spit their sand out in a bright coloured bucket under the pohutukawa, then quickly onto the wood-fired barbeque. You could feel the heat trying to beat the sun. Pull them out of the shells, collect in bowls, a dash of vinegar, then everyone gathering to make their sandwich. Salty and tasting of the sea, butter and vinegar combining for a tangy bite.

Lunch with the staff at Hell's Gate in the 90's... Mashed egg and potato chips
It became a staff favourite. Beautifully fresh wheaty bread, eggs just past soft-boiled, mashed with mayonnaise and lots of salt and pepper. Mash them warm for that scent of a winter Rotorua dawn. Add potato chips in a layer, Ready Salted for preference. If you're not expecting this filling, it's like biting into broken glass...

Sandwiches for lunch at Intermediate school in the 70's: Jam and whipped cream
Friends would share lunches, and once they were used to the novelty of my creation, berry jam with whipped cream on white bread, I then took jam and shaving cream... but only once.
Dad's attempt to gross us out as kids... Chocolate Biscuit sandwiches
He would use biscuits called 'Crunch' which we can't buy any more. Shame, because they were gorgeous. Hokey Pokey flavour, crisp texture, a round buiscuit with a full chocolate coat. Sandwiched between 2 slices of bread and eaten without cutting...

Fond memories of Chip Sandwiches
.. and I know people still do eat these, though my fish and chip encounters are few and far between now. But the thought of that lovely soft and yeasty white bread, thick margarine (never thought I'd say that - but it really is better than butter for this), plenty of Barbeque or Steak sauce for spiciness, wrapped tightly around a good handful of hot salty chips. How many can you do?!

12 June 2010

Star Dip

Look at this wonderful dish from Geraldine - a ceramic dish for your oils to dip bread into. I use pomegranate molasses with a nice olive oil.
The brand is Dalla Piazza and it cost $10 - pretty nice as a gift for a foodie?

10 June 2010

Cultured friends

I culture my friends rather as I do my container garden... just enough love from me to elicit their response. With the plants, it's in the way of growth and, hopefully, produce. With friends, it's now you see me, sometimes you won't. In other words, I'm not to be relied upon to be thorough and slavish.
My policy with house plants always was, if they can survive without relying on me then they're welcome. At this time in my life I have no house plants. They all died. But this is not to say my friends are treated with similar disdain! After all, they at least can reach the fridge unaided.
But seriously, the best response I can get from a friend is the gift of their kitchen labour. Whether in the way of a  meal, or as above, their preserves. This one is a liqueur quince syrup to have on icecream. It's a vibrant jewel, and often I stand such treasures on the windowsill to remind me of the summer sun that's around the corner.

09 June 2010

Roasted Pumpkin Salad

I do admire vegetables: so self-assured, so flamboyant, so vibrant.
A salad with roasted pumpkin and pine nuts, feta cheese, capsicum, chopped dates, baby spinach leaves, crema de balsamico (that's fancy talk...), olive oil...

Cape Gooseberry happiness

Paid a visit to my container garden this morning early.. wet and miserable out there, but the little darlings are fruiting away happily. Can't wait - memories of Cape Gooseberry jam with cream piled lavishly on pikelets...yum!

07 June 2010

Air New Zealand meal

Who else loves all those dinky little meals on the plane? I do! I wonder what happens to businesses who win a contract to supply Air New Zealand with items, such as this muffin from Rangiora Bakery?

06 June 2010

Twizel entertaining

Eight of us visited the snowy South during June for the South Island Masters Rowing Champs. Superb! I love the south: it has those huge vistas with clear skies and no people (except us ...). Very hard to get views like this in the North Island.
We rented a nice little house with a wood burning stove - essential! and after a visit to the cheese maker in Geraldine we had nibbles for the first evening.

Capsicum, apple, pear and fig chutney from Hororata, cheese from Geraldine, hummus from the local Four Square. Note the gorgeous star-shaped dish.... Fill with Pomegranate molasses and olive oil for the most sensational flavour burst you've had in a long time.
Stew cooked a fish and shrimp laksa - wonderful on a foggy night with good company.

Trish and I improvised with a cake mix (of all things) and made a self-saucing pudding for after

01 June 2010

Denheath deserves a highlighter

Whenever I see Denheath custard squares on sale I convince whoever I'm with to try them. Or I simply have 2 (...joke...) For lots of good clean jokes visit Denheath's facebook page. I just love custard squares, but after a bakery owner told me that the filling is usually made with a commercial product that resembles wallpaper glue, I'm less enthusiastic. However these Denheath beauties are for real.