Bay Of Plenty Two Ways Trevally

My problem in life is that I always like to have my cake and eat it. Whenever we eat out, I manage to narrow down what I would like to two dishes. I always then either hope or persuade my wife to order one of my choices so that I can order the other.

So, after buying up some locally caught Trevally in the Bay of Plenty region of New Zealand, I had a head and heart debate – do I steam the fish in a nice paper bag in the oven, or do I batter the stuff and fry it? As I couldn’t decide, I did both (more correctly, I started doing just the steamed and changed my mind halfway through to do both), and although a little frenetic, was surprisingly easy. I could have reduced the frenzy a little by deciding I was going to do both styles before, and also not messing up a batch of batter first – but where would the fun have been in that?

The end result was great, the crunch of the battered fish contrasted wonderfully with the slippery pak choi and the steamed fish. My wife as usual took in her stride that the meal she ended up with was not necessarily what I disappeared unto the kitchen to create.

I was happy as I had my cake and ate it…

Serves: 2

Ingredients

4 small fillets of trevally, weighing around 125g each

For the steamed trevally:

1 red onion, finely sliced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
25g butter
1 small fennel bulb, finely sliced
Handful of fresh parsley
1 tsp dried chilli flakes

For the battered trevally

¾ cup of flour
A good few grinds of pepper
½ tsp salt
Enough cold beer to make a thickish batter (around 125ml I guess). Note: I used a Monteith’s Radler beer. Any hoppy lager style beer should do the trick, I think also a Belgian white beer would work really well too.
Rice Bran Oil for frying

To serve

1 head of Pak Choi, chopped
2 tsp Ketchup Manis (Indonesian Sweet Soy Sauce)
1 clove garlic
2 tsp sesame seeds

Method

1) Preheat oven to 160C
2) Rinse or cut any bloody bits from the trevally – they will go grey when cooked
3) Place a large piece of baking paper on a baking tray – it should be large enough so you can fold it over on itself to make a parcel.
4) Place finely chopped fennel, onions, chilli, butter and parsley on paper
5) Put two of your trevally fillets on top of the vegies and butter and add the lemon juice and zest on top. A grind of salt and pepper won’t go astray here too.
6) Fold the excess paper over on itself and make a nice little parcel. Pleat the paper where the edges meet to make as tight a seal as possible (don’t stress if it isn’t perfect).
7) Put all of the bok choi ingrediants in a foil parcel alongside the fish paper parcel
8) Whack both in the oven for 20 mins
9) Put the flour and salt and pepper in a bowl
10) Add enough beer to form a thickish batter (around the consistency of salad cream)
11) Let batter rest for 5-10 minutes
12) Heat around 1cm of oil in a heavy based frying pan.
13) Dip each trevally fillet in the batter and then slowly lower into the oil
14) Cook for around 90 seconds on each side until batter is crisp and golden
15) To assemble finished dish, place bok choi on centre of a plate, then with a fish slice, put one fillet of steamed fish (and some of the fennel and onion) on top. Finish with a battered fillet and serve with a slice of lemon and maybe a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

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Tomato, Rosemary and Lentil Soup

Today was one of those (typical?) New Zealand days that begins as one season and finishes as another. We left our house in an orchard in Whangerai in the Northland region to head to Pathia in the Bay of Islands. I remarked to my wife just how warm the day was as I gazed out over the sun beating down on the avocado trees and planned on making a salad with the avocado windfalls we had gathered and some other stuff we planned to pick up from one of the numerous fruit and vegetable stalls that dot the sides of most of new Zealand’s roads. Stopping off as planned, I bought some great heirloom tomatoes, potatoes and some great looking rosemary which was a steal at 50c for a nice sized bunch. The weather was still great, I guess around 26C and not a cloud in the sky.

Cut forward an hour and we arrived at our new holiday house in Paihia. Everything was great with the place, except the weather had changed, it was now blowing a gakle, grey skies and probably nearer 10C than 15C – not really salad weather I thought as I watched my wife gamely pulleingbags from the car and chasing colouring books blown around by the strengthening wind.

It really felt like an autumn evening, similar to some northern hemisphere bonfire nights of my childhood. Nothing works better in this weather than homemade soup, especially if you have some stock you have made yourself to give a depth of flavour that canned soup can only dream of.

I used the tomatoes, rosemary and onions I had bought that morning and added some lentils found in the holiday houses store cupboard.

Served with some buttery toast, the cold was soon banished and we were ready to fight another day – summer will probably return in a few hours (and go again a few more after that…).

Serves – 4-6

Ingredients

500g of really ripe tomatoes – skin them if you like (or a can of plum tomatoes)
750ml or so good quality chicken stock (or use vegetable stock for those who prefer/insist!)
1 cup red lentils
1 large onion, finely diced
4 whole cloves garlic
30g butter
3 or 4 sprigs rosemary
2 tsp smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Dollop of soured cream to serve

Method

1) Melt butter in a large pan over a low heat and gently sweat the chopped onions and garlic cloves until the onions are soft and transparent. Keep the lid on the pan. If it looks like things are going to burn, add a half ladle full of stock and put lid back on.
2) Add cup of lentils and stir around so they get covered in the buttery onion mixture.
3) Raise the heat to medium and chuck in a ladle or two of stock. Stir around until the lentils have absorbed the liquid.
4) Add the tomatoes and stir until they have broken up and things are bubbling. If things look like they are burning, add a ladle of stock.
5) Add paprika and rosemary and stir around.
6) Add the rest of the stock and stir occasionally until pan boils.
7) turn down heat slightly and simmer with lid on for around 30 minutes until lentils are tender and consistency is that of a nice thick broth.
8) Remove sprigs of rosemary and garlic cloves from pan and taste.
9) Add salt and pepper to your preference and serve in bowls with a dollop of sour cream and buttery toast.

Three Cheese and Leek Souffle

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What do you do when you see two foot long leeks on sale for $3 the pair?

I buy 4 of them and after using leeks in all sorts of ways, I thought I would try a souffle. We were staying in a rented ‘batch’ in Gisborne, Eastern Cape, New Zealand with some friends and their kids at the time, so the meal had to suit a range of tastes and be prepared and cooked quickly.

Who can resist melty cheese, and who can resist something fluffy – not us…

Serves: 6

Ingredients

75g butter + a little for greasing
1 large leek, chopped finely
75g plain flour
2 tsps English mustard
300ml or so milk
50g grated Cheddar cheese
50g finely grated Parmesan cheese
50g grated jarlsberg cheese
4 organic eggs, yolk and white seperated
Salt and ground black pepper

Method

1) Heat the oven to 200°C.
2) Melt the butter in a large saucepan. 3) Add the chopped leeks and cook gently until the leeks are soft but not brown.
4) Stir in the flour and mustard and cook for a minute gently
5) Add the milk a little at a time stirring thoroughly until you have a thick white sauce.
6) Add the egg yolks and cheeses and stir until melted.
7) In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until really stiff.
8) Using a metal spoon, stir 2 tbsp of the egg white into the soufflé base to loosen the mix. Carefully fold in remaining egg whites in two parts. Be very gentle and try to retain as much volume as possible.
9) Lightly grease 6 individual ramekin dishes with a little butter.
10) Gently spoon the mixture into the dishes filling nearly to the top. Place the ramekins onto a baking sheet and cook in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until the souffles are golden and risen.
Serve immediately with a green salad and a nice New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

Be quick though, the souffle will sink before the wine has even been half drunk.

Lime and Pepper Crumbed Snapper

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I have known my friend Ian for getting on for thirty years now. We went to school together and stayed in contact ever since, I was best man at his wedding and I returned the ‘favour(?!)’ when I got married.

He emigrated to New Zealand around the same time that we were moving to Sydney, so over the course of the last 6 or so years and 3 children between us later, we have seen each other relatively frequently.

Ian has bought a kayak which spends most of the time in his garage or on the roof of his car (impresses the ladies apparently).

He also bought some fishing lines on the assumption that he could catch his supper whilst paddling around.

Yesterday, I received an MMS which had feet and fish in them. The excitement was palpable, after 27 outings, Ian had caught a fish (or two!) but alas, did not have a clue how to cook them.

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So being the great mate, I rushed to the supermarket and bought my own snapper so I could create a simple recipe for him to wow the family with (Ian is a better kayaker than chef, in fact is probably better at telling jokes(!) than cooking).

The finished dish is deliciously simple and the light citrus notes and the warmth of the pepper showcase beautiful fresh new Zealand snapper.

I served it with a homemade tartare sauce and a green salad. Simple and delicious.

Serves: 4 as a main and 6 as an entreé

Ingredients

Around 500-750g fresh snapper (would work with any good white fish), skinless and boneless.
Zest from 4 limes
6 slices of bread (stale is fine)
2 Tbsp black pepper
1-2 beaten eggs
100g plain flour
Rice bran oil for frying

To serve: homemade tartare sauce and fresh green salad

Method

1) Break up bread slices and place in a baking tray.
2) Put tray in a 100c oven for an hour or so until bread is dried through.
3) Put bread in a food processor and pulse until you have breadcrumbs.
4) Chuck in pepper and lime zest and blitz for 5 seconds.
5) Pour breadcrumbs back into baking tray.
6) The next stage is key to prepare well because once you start, things get messy and happen quickly! You are going to set up a production line with, from left to right – small baking tray of flour, Bowl of beaten egg, tray of breadcrumbs, large frying pan on hob, plate with kitchen paper to drain cooked fish.
7) Heat a scant 1cm depth of oil over a medium heat. It has reached temperature when a cube if bread sizzles gently in it.
8) Dip fish fillet in flour, then shake, then in egg, then roll in breadcrumbs. Shake off loose crumbs.
9) Gently place crumbed fish in hot oil and cook each side for around 2 minutes until golden.
10) Drain on kitchen paper
11) Serve with tartare sauce and green salad.

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Holiday Home Roast Ham

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I remember when I was a young lad that a public holiday would always bring relatives scurrying together from all over the country to gather at my grandparents house. Chief amongst these holidays were Christmas and Easter. I think it had something to do with the double public holiday that meant (as was the case in late 1970s and early 1980s UK) that everything would stop, work, shopping and regular life. The only things that would occur would be cooking, eating, drinking and the playing of games.

The games were my favourite part of the festive season, particularly hours spent playing cards (and watching others playing). Card games would often go on until the early hours and would be sustained by my dear grandmother producing seamlessly endless platters of tasty sandwiches made with home made bread and home cooked meets. Favourite amongst these was the home cooked ham, so different from supermarket bought wet, flabby insipid pink blancmangey stuff that was in vogue at that time. Firm, with a hint of smoke, mustard and honey, it really only needed a smear of chutney to make a great sandwich.

Even though there will only be a few of us together for Easter in Gisborne, New Zealand this year, I still cant resist cooking a holiday ham – I justify that we will get plenty of meals from it, but really it gives me a chance to indulge in some introspective nostalgia and remember the laughter and fun filled holidays of my childhood – Happy Holidays.

Serves: Around a million rounds of late night sandwiches

Ingredients

2.5 – 3kg smoked gammon joint (size is not key here!).
About 20 peppercorns
Around 10 cloves
2 Star Anise
Cinnamon stick
4 Bay leaves
2-3 Tbsp Maple syrup
2-3 Tbsp English mustard

For the glaze

2-3 Tbsp Manuka Honey
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 Tbsp English mustard
2 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp oil
Several good grinds of black pepper

Method

  1. Get the biggest pan (cauldron?!) you can lay your hands on.
  2. Open your gammon from its vacuum sealed packaging and rinse under cold running water for a good two minutes, turning it frequently to get a good rinse all over.
  3. Place your gammon in your massive pan and pour enough cold water on to just cover it.
  4. Add all of the ingredients listed above (before glaze listing) to the pan.
  5. Bring to the boil and reduce heat to a simmer.
  6. Put lid on pan and leave to simmer for 2 and a half hours
  7. Take off heat and leave to cool
  8. Preheat oven to 180C
  9. Take out your boiled ham and with a small sharp knife remove any string and also the skin on the gammon. The trick here is to remove the skin, but leave as much fat as possible on the ham.
  10. Mix up all the ingredients for the glaze.
  11. Score the fat of the ham, and brush and pour the glaze over the fat of your ham.
  12. Place on a baking tray and straight into your hot oven for around 15 minutes until the glaze has browned/blackened and is bubbling on the fat.

Serve hot with eggs and chips or cold with your favourite salad, cheeses, crusty bread and chutneys.

Classic Kiwi – Blue Cod with Chardonnay Lemon Butter Sauce

We have pretty much finished touring around the South Island (Mainland?!) of New Zealand – a spectacular experience. New Zealand never fails to delight me in so much as you can drive for a couple of hours and find yourself in somewhere very different from where you just left – and you can do it repeatedly.

Whilst driving through the ‘Catlins’ the most southerly part of the South Island between Dunedin and Invercargill) it was getting near lunchtime and we happened across a fantastic café – the Niagara Falls café. Although the middle of summer, it was freezing and blowing a hoolie of a gale. The menu was brilliant, and I picked the Blue Cod for which the area of the cold southern oceans are famous for. The fish was cooked perfectly and was served quite simply so that you could taste the delicate flavours.

A couple of weeks later when we were in Wellington, I saw Blue Cod at a market and still hankering for the flavours of the Catlins, thought I would recreate what I had been served. The recipe is really easy and even people that (say that they) don’t really like fish will eat it. If you are scared of cooking fish as some people seem to be, then give this one a go…

Serves 4

4 x 150g very fresh fillets of Blue Cod (You could use any other delicately flavoured firm white fish, just make sure it is super fresh – always talk to the person serving you the fish and be nice to them!)
50g butter for frying
Zest and juice from 1 large or 2 small lemons
1glass of unoaked Chardonnay
30 – 50g butter (I know, a second lot…)
Salt and pepper

Accompany with buttery mashed potatoes and wilted spinach

Method

In a large, heavy pan melt 50g butter on a medium heat
As butter starts to foam, add your fish fillets.
Leave to fry gently for around 2-3 minutes until flesh is going opaque on top.
Turn fillets over with a palette knife to avoid them breaking up
Fry for a further minute or two
Add lemon zest and juice to pan, then remove fish and place on top of plated spinach and mash
Add glass of wine to pan and reduce down until you have around 100-150ml of fluid.
Add butter to pan and season to taste
Pour sauce over fish and serve immediately

Chicken, Tarragon and Ricotta Slice with Dunedin Salsa

Beginning our three month tour of New Zealand, the first place we landed was Dunedin, in the south of the South Island. The place is a bit of a foodie mecca and my wife was gracious enough to buy me an evening cooking course with one of Dunedin’s best chefs Judith Cullen.

Talking with Judith, she told me all about a great Farmer’s market held down by the (disused) railway station every Saturday morning. I of course went and was amazed by the great selection of fresh produce available. We visited in mid February (late summer) and there was an impressive selection of local vegetables. The stars emongst these organic gems seemed to be the avocadoes, corn cobs and fantastic tomatoes. They were all abundant and at great prices.

As often happens, I buy what is in season, good and cheap. Much to my wifes frustration, I rarely shop with a meal in mind, or if I do, I will end up changing it halfway through my shop. I create meals from what is available (sometimes I have great diasters, sometimes amazing successes).

Having returned to our holiday rental in Dunedin’s Mornington suburb pleased with my haul of vegetables and some great fresh herbs, my wife reminds me that we need something to go with all the veg – your daughter needs protein! (I had intended to get some great New Zealand lamb, but got carried away with the green stuff).

Quick as a flash I had a brainwave “I thought we would use up the rest of the roast chicken in the fridge”. I had got away with it.

Picking the meat off the carcass of last night’s chicken is a particular pleasure, finding all the delicious juicy bits that seem to have grown overnight.

So here is my recipe for a delicious summer meal that can be cooked quick as a flash…

Serves: 4

Ingrediants

Around 2 cups of cooked chicken
Small bunch of taragon
Salt & Pepper
Around 200g ricotta cheese
A little chicken stock or water (30-60ml)
2 sheets puff pastry (make your own if you have a spare 9 hours or so, otherwise use ready made)
Optional – a handful of chopped mushrooms

For the Dunedin Salsa

About 15-20 dried cherry tomatoes (very easy to make your self or use sun dried tomatoes)
2 ripe avocadoes
Small bunch coriander
2-3 Tbsp Caramelised balsamic vinegar
3-5 Tbsp good extra virgin olive oil
4 or 5 pickled ‘pepperdew’ peppers
1 tsp smoked paprika
Corn from 2-3 cooked cobs of corn (or one large can)
Salt & pepper
Method

Set oven to 185c
Combine cooked chicken, tarragon, ricotta (and mushrooms if using).
Add sufficient stock/water to loosen up the mixture a little without making it too runny. Exact quantity depends on how runny your ricotta is, how dry your chicken is, which way the wind is blowing etc, etc.
Taste mixture and season to your preference.
Divide ready made pastry sheets into two equal sized rectangles.
Add a good dollop of your filling into the lower half of each rectangle.
Wet the edge of the pastry all around and fold over the rest of the rectangle to make a square with the filling in the middle of it.
Press the moistened edges of the pastry together firmly with your fingers tips. Once pressed all round, fold over 5mm or so of the pastry on the 3 press together sides to make a neat edge.
Brush the filled pastry square with water all over and make a couple of holes or slits in the top.
Transfer your pastry slices onto a baking paper lined tray and place in oven for around 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Whilst cooking, prepare the salsa

Chop avocado.pepperdew peppers and cherry tomatoes into smallish pieces.
Chop coriander roughly
Combine the rest of the ingridents together in a large bowl and then add the stuff you chopped up.
Taste and season

Serve the slices warm with a good portion of the salsa – have salsa spare as everyone always seems to want seconds…