Apparently the next big thing in cooking is South American food, which is my cunning link to bring in Spanish food or more specifically Tapas. Now we all know Tapas as that endless array of nibbles on a Spanish bar or more recently the Tapas restaurants spread around our cities, but is that the real thing?
In a strange way it is as Tapas was invented by bar owners not by chefs, it is food that is intended to make you drink more by being salty and spicy. However the clue to its origins is actually in its name, tapa means, “to cover” and was literally that. The bar owner would put a little cover over the sweet sherry to stop the fruit flies getting in there before you did. It didn’t take long for one bar owner to realise that he could get an advantage over the bar down the street by popping some nice treat on the cover for you to eat, and so a new food style was born more than 400 years ago.
These two recipes are from different regions and are very traditional; as is often the case in old food cultures these are symphonies of balance with each ingredient playing its part. I’m using Serrano Ham but any air-dried ham can be used instead and please don’t miss out the green capsicum as their acidity really works with the sweet fattiness of the pork. Saludos y disfrutar.
This tapa is usually enjoyed around ’feria’ – or festival time – in May. Its origins are the sierra, or mountains, and it is a simple but delicious combination of flavours, rather like the Italian ‘saltimbocca’ and it too certainly ‘jumps in the mouth’!
1 pork fillet, about 400 to 500g, cut across into 8 slices and flattened with a knife
1 garlic clove, crushed to a paste with salt
½ teaspoon sweet Spanish smoked paprika
2 green peppers
10 tablespoons olive oil
8 slices ciabatta, sourdough or baguette, cut on the diagonal
70g thin slices cured ham (jamon Serrano)
Sea salt and black pepper
Rub the garlic, paprika and freshly ground black pepper all over the pork and set aside for a good half hour to marinate. Halve peppers lengthways and pull out core and seeds. Cut each half into half again. Heat half the olive oil in a frypan over a medium heat. When hot, add peppers and fry on both sides until soft. Season and set aside.
When you’re ready to eat, lightly toast the bread. Heat remaining oil in a pan over a medium heat until it begins to smoke; add pork and fry quickly on one side for about a minute and turn over. Fry for another minute until cooked through but still juicy. Turn off the heat and season the meat well. Immediately transfer the fillets onto the bread, followed by the pepper and then the jamon. Grind on a little black pepper and eat immediately.
Spanish Ham on Tomato Bruschetta
Catalan in origin, bread with tomato and cured ham (jamon) is a Spanish institution. You can also grate the tomato, mix it with garlic and olive oil and spread it on the bread.
Slices of fresh bread – sourdough, ciabatta or a crusty roll
1 clove garlic
1 ripe tomato
Slices of Spanish air-dried ham
Toast or grill the slices of bread. While still hot, rub with the clove of garlic until they absorb the flavour and then with half of the tomato. Add a pinch of salt, olive oil and finally top with the slice of Spanish ham.
Tapas are usually quite salty and spicy so need something that can cope with that, try a Maimai Creek Riesling from the Hawke’s Bay
It seems odd that as a person that comes from the UK, the spiritual home of the tea drinker, my day always starts with a wonderfully rich black coffee. To be honest I‘ve never been a tea drinker and have a sneaky feeling that the English need to drink tea has actually played its part in the steady decline of its economy, after all the tea break says it all.
Coffee on the other hand gives me a chance to get the old grey matter working and with the totally amazing choice of coffees in New Zealand that means anywhere anytime. When you look around the world there are only a few countries that truly love coffee, for me they are New Zealand, Australia and Italy. What about the rest of the world I hear you ask, well we’ve already touched on the English with their need for Tea so they can’t join the club, the Americans serve insipid dish water with the sole purpose of making a profit and the French use the coffee as a way of diluting the Cognac after dinner. As for the rest they either don’t care or serve it so strong that it would dissolve the spoon and keep you awake for 24 hours.
So here we are in one of the true homes of the coffee lover, where we have what seems like hundreds of small boutique coffee brands all steeped in the combination of science and alchemy that is the art of the coffee roaster.
This is New Zealand so I don’t need to bang on about buying local, as you already know which coffee you love and head for the café that serves your favorite brew. What I will say is don’t forget that coffee can be a great ingredient in cooking too, from cakes to coffee crusts on lamb, it can be incredibly versatile. This weeks recipe is the Italian classic Granita, the wonderful combination of coffee ice crystals, cream and warming liqueur. The perfect pick me up as we head towards summer.
Visit any of the wonderful pavement cafes in Rome and you’ll find this refreshing late-morning favorite being enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.
750ml Espresso or very strong hot coffee
300ml lightly whipped cream
2 tablespoons of 8th Tribe Dark Spice
Dissolve the sugar in the hot coffee, allow to cool, then pour into a shallow metal tray and freeze for 30 minutes.
Remove from the freezer and, using a fork, bring the partially frozen coffee from the edges into the still liquid centre and return to the freezer.
Repeat the fork treatment every 20 minutes until the mixture has become soft crystals of coffee ice, all separate, opaque and pale brown in colour. This should take about 2 – 3 hours.
Serve the Granita in well-chilled glasses, layered up with the whipped cream and 8th Tribe Dark Spice Liqueur.
Don’t be tempted to use a whisk on the freezing coffee as the idea is to coax the ice crystals to form, and this is best done with a fork. Remember this is a granita not a sorbet , and the delicate crystals are what you’re looking for.
You’ll see from the recipe that I’m using 8th Tribe Dark Spice Liqueur, For those of you that haven’t tried it yet it’s a Green Walnut and Spice Liquer made right here in the Bay by Distillerie Deinlein at the top of the Minden. Whats more it tastes fantastic.
Yippee summer’s here, the garden is in full production mode and, after all the rain, the problem now is to use everything before it spoils!
Now we are constantly being told not to put tomatoes in the fridge, which is true, but here is an even better trick if you want the best flavour from your tomatoes, eat them straight from the plant still warm from the sun, there’s nothing better and if your plants are anything like mine at the moment then they are needing to be harvested almost daily.
This dish is a glorious blend of fresh and spicy and just aches to be plated on those lovely deep bowls and served to friends and family out on the deck with a lovely crisp and cold New Zealand Gewürztraminer.
You’ll see from the recipe that the cumin seeds and mustard seeds should be toasted and ground first, this is really worth it and so simple, just heat a frying pan and throw the seeds in and toast them for a few minutes without any oil and grind them in the pestle and mortar, then without washing the pan continue to the shallot cooking stage, this will increase the flavour profile of the whole dish.
ROASTED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH BOK CHOY, CURRIED TOMATOES AND AVOCADO
• I punnet cherry tomatoes
• 3 Tbsp. avocado oil
• 2 shallots, minced
• 1 chilli, sliced thinly
• ½ tsp. cumin seed, toasted and ground
• 1 tsp. mustard seeds, toasted and ground to a paste
• 4 Tbsp. lime juice, freshly squeezed
• 3 Tbsp. cider vinegar
• 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
• ¼ cup chopped mint
• ¼ cup chopped parsley
• 1 tsp. plus a pinch r salt
• 3 ripe, Fresh Avocados
• 900g. trimmed pork tenderloin, trimmed of all silverskin and connective tissue
• 3 cups cleaned and thinly chopped bok choy
Preheat oven to 180 degrees c. make the curried tomatoes. Place the tomatoes in a glass or ceramic bowl that can withstand a little heat. Season the tomatoes with the salt.
In a large fry pan bring avocado oil to a simmer over medium high heat, just below smoke point. Add shallot and then jalapeños. Fry off until tender, about two minutes and then add the cumin and the mustard seeds. Toast for about a minute and remove from heat.
Let cool slightly and then carefully add half of the lime juice and vinegar and then pour this over seasoned tomatoes. Add mint, parsley and about ½. of the salt. Let the tomatoes sit at room temperature for the flavors to mature while you roast the pork.
Slice the avocados in half lengthwise. Slice each half lengthwise again, gently removing seeds. Peel and discard the avocado skins and slice avocado into ¼-inch slices. In a medium bowl toss the avocado with the remaining lime juice and season with a pinch of salt. Add them to the curried tomatoes and toss gently.
Place a large frying pan over medium high heat and add the vegetable oil. Season the pork tenderloin with the remaining salt and then carefully add the pork to the pan, searing on all sides for a total time of 5 minutes on the stovetop. Place the pork in the oven and roast for 10 to 15 minutes, Remove the pork from the pan and let it rest on a cutting board for three minutes. While the pan is still hot add the bok choy and let it wilt in the pan, adding a pinch of salt to season. When the pork has rested slice it into thin rounds, about ¼-inch thick. Add the pork to the bok choy, toss lightly and then place the pork and bok choy on a platter, topping with the pickled tomatoes and avocados.
A good Gewürztraminer will really work with the spices and chilli better than most other wines, try the Bird Wines one for a great example.
With the Rugby World Cup rapidly progressing into the later stages, I thought I’d share what we do as a family on Test Match nights. Burgers in front of the TV while the All Blacks chase the dream.
Yes I know what you’re thinking, burgers are fast food and what is he going there for? Well it’s simple really they taste great and are a load of fun. In some ways this is the problem with modern food, the fast food industry gets hold of a good idea and then cheapens it to the point of extinction. Where the reality is that, made well, burgers are really good for you, especially if you sneakily pack as much vegetable content into them as you can get away with. It’s all about knowing what’s in you’re food, especially the fun food.
As a chef I spend most of my time trying to dream up recipes using the most elaborate ingredients possible and then attempting to come up with new and innovative ways to cook and present them. This is all great fun and is a major part of cooking these days, but sometimes food just needs to be there for the family in a fun and nutritious way while the rugby is on. So go on, forget the fast food, and make your own.
Over the coming months I’ll be at Mills Reef Winery for a series of cook schools in the glorious Vintage Wine Cellar, I look forward to seeing some of you there.
500g minced beef or lamb
2 onion, diced finely
3 clove garlic, chopped
Salt & pepper
Chopped fresh herbs or dried herbs
2 tbsp plain flour
1 egg, beaten
2 red capsicum, diced finely
150g mushrooms, diced finely
1 courgette, grated
1 carrot, grated
1 teaspoon fresh Thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
Mix all ingredients together well. Take large spoonfuls of mixture, shape into balls, place on a floured surface and flatten with your hand. Heat avocado oil in a frying pan and add 2 or 3 burgers at a time. Cook both sides until crisp and brown. Alternatively, the burgers can be cooked on a BBQ or finished off in the oven at 180°C.
Split the hamburger buns, place the burger inside with lettuce, tomato, avocado salsa (see below), cottage cheese and serve.
2 ripe avocado, diced
2 de-seeded and finely chopped red chillies
2tsp chopped fresh coriander
4 tomatoes de-skinned, deseeded and diced
2 tbsp Thai fish sauce
Zest & juice 1 lime
Place all ingredients in a bowl, mix well and leave at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to let the flavours develop.
500g strong white bread flour
20g instant yeast
60g unsalted butter
280ml warm water
2 egg white
4 teaspoons of sesame seeds
Weigh out the flour, salt, sugar and yeast into a large mixing bowl. (If your yeast needs activating in water, follow the instructions on the packet and subtract whatever water you need to use from the 280ml water listed above.) Mix them together so that they are evenly distributed.
Heat the butter (either in the microwave or in a pan) so that it has just melted, it should be just warm, not hot. Weigh the water into the mixing bowl with the dry ingredients, pour in the melted butter and mix it all together (using your hands) to form a dough.
Tip the dough out on to a floured work surface and knead it until it has formed a smooth, elastic dough. It will be sticky at first but will become smooth as you knead it. Form the dough into a ball, lightly oil the inside of the mixing bowl and put the ball of dough back into the mixing bowl. Cover the bowl with a piece of cling-film/plastic-wrap, put the bowl somewhere warm and leave it to prove until it has doubled in size (it depends on how warm it is but this usually takes 1 – 2 hours).
When the dough has doubled in size, tip the dough out of the bowl, cut it into eight and shape each into a ball. Leave the balls of dough on the work-top, cover them with a piece of lightly oiled cling-film/plastic-wrap and leave them to prove for a second time until they have doubled in size.
When the balls of dough have doubled in size, put them onto a lightly oiled baking tray and gently press them down to form the burger bun shape. Optionally, brush the top of each disk of dough with some egg white and sprinkle each with ½ teaspoon of sesame seeds.
Heat the oven to 170°c.
Leave the buns to rise for the final time until they have puffed up (not necessarily doubled in size but close).
When they are cooked, take the burger buns out of the oven and leave them on the tray until they have cooled to room temperature (when they come out of the oven they will feel very firm but leaving them to cool on the tray greatly softens the crust).
When they are cooled, cook your burgers and enjoy!
Real chocolate is good for you! It is nutritious, easily digestible, and full of vitamins, minerals and a 93% useable form of iron. Real chocolate is low in sugar with a low glycaemic index, keeping you full for longer and helping keep blood glucose levels steady. A naturally occurring antidepressant in chocolate helps boost energy levels and mental alertness. Cocoa butter has been proven to lower blood cholesterol levels and chocolate is rich in antioxidants, which help prevent cancer.
In contrast, ‘fast’ chocolate contains as little as 5% cocoa, along with sugar, solid hydrogenated vegetable fats (often linked with serious health problems), nut oils and a host of artificial flavourings.
When looking for real chocolate, look for a high cocoa content – between 50 and 70% cocoa solids – and natural vanilla rather than artificial vanillin. Also find out about the origin and variety of the cocoa beans. Fine-flavoured varieties are carefully roasted to enhance the flavour.
The Five Senses Chocolate Test
Like a good wine, a good chocolate will have a well-balanced, pleasing smell of intense fruit, wood, tobacco, or caramel.
When chocolate is broken, you can see a very characteristic texture in the break, a bit like tree bark. It should also be glossy and without bloom (an indicator of damp or warm storage conditions.) In general, the redder the colour of the chocolate, the better the cocoa.
Real chocolate has a distinctive ‘snap’ caused by the cocoa butter crystals. ‘Fast’ chocolate is more like plasticine; expect a dull thud.
Real chocolate should melt when held in the hand for a few seconds because cocoa butter melts at 34˚C. Chocolate with a lower proportion of cocoa butter will take longer to melt.
Real chocolate should linger deliciously in the mouth. A greasy residue means the chocolate contains fats other than cocoa butter. Particle size, i.e. smoothness on the tongue, should be so fine as to be indiscernible. Smell comes into play again as the chocolate melts on the tongue.
Avocado Chocolate Truffles
Makes approx. 25
275g real dark chocolate
75g fresh avocado butter (fresh avocado & ‘Grove’ avocado oil)
Good quality cocoa powder or tempered chocolate for enrobing
Chop the chocolate into chunks or break into squares. Put the chocolate into a heatproof bowl and microwave on HIGH until barely melted.
Scald the cream in a pan – allow it to boil and rise up (be careful it doesn’t boil over.) Pour about a tablespoon onto the chocolate and mix well. Keep adding the cream, a spoonful at a time, mixing thoroughly to form an ‘emulsion’.
When all the cream has been mixed in, add the avocado butter. The mixture should still be warm enough to absorb it, although it will take a few minutes to beat it in, so there are no lumps left. When it has set to the consistency of butter icing, it is ready to be piped or spooned into truffle-sized pieces.
If piping, put the mixture into a piping bag and pipe blobs of mixture about the size of a large cherry onto a tray covered with greaseproof paper or cling film. Leave to cool for at least 2 hours, preferably 24.
To finish, drop into a tray of cocoa powder, roll briefly, shaking off excess and leave to set. Alternatively, the chocolates can be enrobed with tempered chocolate and drizzled with melted white chocolate or topped with a pistachio or blanched almond.
Looking out of my office window this week it’s obvious that spring is very much with us, there’s new growth all around and an air of optimism as the natural world throws off the cloak of winter and stretches. I love this time of year as we see all sorts of things making their annual appearance in our kitchens, for those of you that haven’t had any new season asparagus yet I urge you to grab some and marvel at the delicate flavour.
Seasons form the natural backdrop for eating. All of the World’s Healthiest Foods are seasonal. Imagine a vegetable garden in the dead of winter. Now imagine this same garden on a sunny, summer day. How different things are during these two seasons of the year! For ecologists, seasons are considered a source of natural diversity. Changes in growing conditions from spring to summer or autumn to winter are considered essential for balancing the earth’s resources and its life forms. But today it’s so easy for us to forget about seasons when we eat! Modern food processing and worldwide distribution of food make foods available year-round, and grocery stores shelves look much the same in December as they do in July.
Which brings me to this weeks recipe, the fields abound with young lamb and the shops will soon be pushing new season lamb for all they’re worth. This is a situation that I’ve always found a bit odd, after all new season lamb or milk lamb has almost no flavour. The poor little devils haven’t had the time to eat the multitude of grass varieties that will in the coming months give the distinctive flavour that makes lamb so wonderful. So does this mean that lamb is off the menu, well actually no but you need to think about where the flavour comes from, last years lambs have just become year olds or Hogget (why they couldn’t come up with a more appetitising name I don’t know) that wonderful transition between the soft and succulent lamb and the full flavoured but tough mutton.
So ask your butcher for some hogget and give this Moroccan classic a bash and remember sometimes it’s worth waiting for.
Tagine of Lamb with Apricots
The name “tagine” derives from the clay pot with conical lid in which stews are cooked slowly over a fire. In Morocco, a very sweet fruit tagine (Tagine barragog) is made, with lamb, prunes and honey. With this recipe, we prefer to use sharp, naturally dried or semi-dried apricots – if you can find them!
2 large onions, chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp saffron
1 tsp ground cumin
A good pinch of chilli powder, to taste
1kg leg or shoulder of lamb, trimmed of some of the fat
2½cm fresh root ginger, cut into slices
3 garlic cloves, crushed
Salt & plenty of black pepper
500g dried apricots
Using a tagine (or casserole dish if you don’t have a tagine), fry the onion gently in the oil until soft.
Stir in the spices – the cinnamon, saffron, cumin and chilli powder – and put in the meat Turn the pieces so that they are covered in the spice mixture. Add the ginger, garlic, salt and pepper and cover with about ½ litre water. Simmer, covered with lid, for 1½ hours, turning the meat over occasionally and adding water if necessary. (You can also put the tagine in your barbeque to simmer.)
Add the apricots and cook for 30 minutes more, adding water if necessary.
Generally, the couscous you find in supermarkets is a quick-cook variety and you need to be careful not to over cook it and create a glutinous mess that will put the kids off it for life.
Here’s an easy, failsafe way to cook couscous.
• Place 2 cups of couscous in a heavy bowl.
• Boil 2 ½ cups of water and add to the couscous.
• Add ½ a teaspoon of salt.
• Stir with a fork.
• Cover and allow to sit for 5 minutes
• Uncover and fluff up with a fork – the grains of couscous will have absorbed the liquid without becoming mushy.
• Dot with butter and fluff again. Season and serve
Cooking Couscous – an Olive Oil Variation
To impart a richer, nuttier flavour to your couscous try the recipe below.
• In a saucepan, heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil.
• When the oil is hot add 2 cups of couscous and a good shake of salt.
• Cook for 2-3 mins until the couscous is golden, stirring constantly to prevent burning.
• Add 2 ½ cups of boiling water.
• Remove from the heat and cover.
• Let the couscous sit until all the water is absorbed and the grains are soft – about 5 mins.
• Loosen the couscous with a fork and serve.
• Dot with butter and fluff again. Season and serve
Alone, couscous can taste somewhat bland. While the main taste centre of your meal will be the meat or fish you serve with it, you can add more flavour to the couscous itself by substituting beef, chicken or vegetable stock for the boiling water in the recipes above.
The flavour of couscous can also be punched up by adding pine nuts, currents, oregano, thyme, basil or cinnamon before you add your boiling liquid.
We are blessed in this glorious country to have some of the most wonderful Boutique wineries. For the wine connoisseur they are worth tracking down. This week I’ve just found Bijou Estate and their Pinot Noir is a cracker. So go on be adventurous and track them down.
So the overindulgence of the festive period is over, and after the weather we’ve had what else was there to do but cook and eat. What’s more it now looks like summer has arrived which means more time at the beach desperately hoping we can fit into the board shorts that we wore last year and trying to live up to our New Years resolution to get in shape, sound familiar?
I think we all get more motivated when the sun is out, but the thought of eating like a rabbit after the glories of the Christmas table is frankly a bit depressing, however eating healthily doesn’t have to be boring, in fact it is all about being adventurous with the flavours and eating in season. This dish is a cracker with the wonderful heat from the Cajun spicing and the zingy salsa giving you a real flavour treat. On the health front there is no animal fat and the salmon is one of those proteins that we should be eating at least once a week, the avocados are great at the moment and the overall combination delivers at every level. Interestingly, since all the ingredients are in season at the moment it is even good for the wallet!
Fillet of Salmon on Bruschetta with Avocado Salsa
4 fillets ‘Aoraki’ fresh salmon
2 teaspoons Cajun spices
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to season
The Grove Avocado oil
Brush the surface of the salmon with the avocado oil. Sprinkle over Cajun spices, salt and pepper. Sear on a hot barbeque for 2 to 3 minutes each side, then lower heat and lid and cook for a further 3 to 4 minutes. Alternatively, the salmon can be finished off in a preheated oven at 180˚C for 3 to 4 minutes. Serve immediately with bruschetta and salsa (see below.)
2 ripe avocado, diced
2 de-seeded and finely chopped red chillies
2tsp chopped fresh coriander
4 tomatoes deskinned, deseeded and diced
2 tbsp Thai fish sauce
Zest & juice 1 lime
Place all ingredients in a bowl, mix well and leave at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to let the flavours develop.
Sliced sourdough or rustic bread
The Grove Avocado oil
Peeled garlic cloves, cut in half
Char-grill bread, brush with oil and rub garlic over surface.
Wine doesn’t exactly fit into the idea of the detox, but a little of what you like can’t be too bad can it? Try the Mt Difficulty Pinot Gris for a wonderfully refreshing compliment to the Salmon, that can also handle the spicing.
Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot.
We see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!
Guy Fawkes, guy, t’was his intent
To blow up king and parliament.
Three score barrels were laid below
To prove old England’s overthrow.
By god’s mercy he was catch’d
With a darkened lantern and burning match.
So, holler boys, holler boys, Let the bells ring.
Holler boys, holler boys, God save the king.
And what shall we do with him?
In 1605, thirteen young men planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Among them was Guy Fawkes, Britain’s most notorious traitor. Interestingly could this be the beginning of the unlucky thirteen myth?
The tradition of Guy Fawkes-related bonfires actually began the very same year as the failed coup. The Plot was foiled in the night between the 4th and 5th of November. Already on the 5th, agitated Londoners who knew little more than that their King had been saved, joyfully lit bonfires in thanksgiving. As years progressed, however, the ritual became more elaborate and is now commemorated every year with fireworks and burning effigies of Guy Fawkes on a bonfire.
Astonishing really that such a blood thirsty act in London more than four hundred years ago, has now become a family celebration that kids up and down New Zealand look forward to. And indeed some of the adults have been known to wonder, in a tongue in cheek kind of way, whether they are celebrating Fawkes’ execution or honoring his attempt to do away with the government. Whatever your beliefs bonfire night is now a family celebration and a time to come together and enjoy each others company.
So lets bring the family together and enjoy the whole thing with some toffee apples by the fire afterall who hasn’t got fond memories of childhood with toffee stuck between their teeth and Dad desperately trying to light a match.
For the toffee coating
450 g demerara sugar
220 ml water
1 tsp vinegar
4 tbsp golden syrup
50 g butter
For the apples
10 apples, I prefer granny smith
10 wooden skewers, for holding the apples – ice lolly sticks will do
1. Add the sugar to the water and dissolve over a moderate heat. When it has dissolved, stir in the vinegar, syrup and butter. Bring to a boil and cook without stirring until it reaches hard-crack stage (138C) or hardens into a ball when dropped in a bowl of cold water.
2. While the syrup is cooking, push a wooden stick into each apple. Once the toffee is ready, dip each apple into the hot toffee, turning it around in the syrup so that each one is fully coated. If you have problems keeping the toffee on the apple try dipping into cold water to rapidly drop the toffee temperature.
3. Leave to harden on a lightly oiled tray before serving. If you’re planning to keep them for a day or two, wrap the apples in cellophane.
For the kids, take a trip to Mr Macgregor’s in Te Puna where they have the most astonishing unadulterated Jazz Apple Juice. And for the adults to follow the apple theme there is that wonderful NZ cider from Old Mout.
I know that I’m usually banging on about seasonal food and so it will seem a little strange to be writing about a fruit that won’t be out till November but bear with me there is a link. Having just returned to the frosty mornings of Gods own from the riots of the UK, got me thinking about the humble Gooseberry. You see the Gooseberry plant needs to have a good frost over the winter in order to produce good fruit in early summer. In the Bay we are lucky to still have a grower in the form of Mamaku Blue across near Rotorua. They are more well known for growing Blueberries and can be found at most of our farmers markets, however they still grow Gooseberries at the moment even if demand isn’t too high. To me this is such a shame as the fruit is so versatile for cooking, as happy with savory as it is with sweet (in France they are traditionally served with oily fish)
In the middle Ages, the acidic juice of wild gooseberries was highly regarded for its medicinal properties in cooling fevers and the old English name, Fea-berry still survives in some provincial dialects. Although the Oxford English Dictionary associates the fruit’s name with the goose with which it was once served as an accompanying sauce. The phrase ‘to play gooseberry’ comes from the days when the fruit was a euphemism for the devil.
The popularity of the fruit in England led to improved, larger and sweeter varieties being bred, some for eating raw as a dessert fruit (usually red or yellow) and others (usually green), which are sour but have a superior flavour when cooked. Gooseberry shows were once popular all over the North of England, but there are now only two left, the most famous of which is the Egton Bridge Show in North Yorkshire, where official records go back to 1800. In 2009 a world record-breaking ‘Woodpecker’ berry was produced, weighing in at 62 grams. As luck would have it our trip coincided with the Egton Show, so I had to go along for a look-see. I wasn’t expecting much from a little village hall in a tiny village in North Yorkshire, so you can imagine my surprise when we arrived to find two television stations and a radio station already there eagerly awaiting the announcement of the grand champion. It’s a serious business this gooseberry growing.
So now to the technical bits, they are available November to January, an average portion of gooseberries contains about a quarter of the daily Vitamin C requirement and fairly good levels of vitamins A, B, fibre, potassium, copper & manganese. Rich in pectin when slightly unripe, they are ideal for sauces, jams, preserves, pickles & jellies and they make an excellent tart sauce for oily fish such as mackerel, poultry or meat. They also make a good filling for crumble, tarts, pies or suet pudding.
I love the sense of history and tradition that goes with food – the small village of Egton Bridge, near where I grew up in North Yorkshire, still holds an annual Gooseberry Show which dates back to 1800! Tansies are a type of sweet omelette, originally named after the herb, tansy, which was used in this dish in the 15th century.
25g unsalted butter
200g gooseberries, topped and tailed
Freshly grated zest of 1 orange
3 tbsp sugar
3 eggs, separated
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tbsp apricot liqueur
1. Melt the butter in a frying pan and when foaming add the gooseberries and orange zest. Cook gently over a low heat until the fruit begins to soften (about 10 minutes) then add the sugar, mixing well, and cook until the sugar melts and the mixture becomes syrupy.
2. Add just enough breadcrumbs to soak up the syrup and stir.
3. Meanwhile add the egg whites to a clean bowl and whisk into soft peaks.
4. In a separate bowl beat together the egg yolks, cream, nutmeg and liqueur. Slowly add the egg yolk mixture into the gooseberry mixture, stirring slowly.
5. Fold-in the egg whites and continue cooking on very low heat until the mixture sets.
6. If necessary, place the tansy under a low grill or use a blow torch to set the top.
7. Dust with icing sugar, decorate with a few sprigs of mint and serve.
Lets stay local this week and how about a cheeky little number from Mills Reef, Light and refreshing (titillating and tantalizing). Chill down and chill out with a ‘Little Sweetie’.
I realise that over the last couple of months I’ve been a bit remiss with my recipes, let’s face it savoury is great but it’s always nice to be sweet. So here goes with one of those fruits that is bang in season at the moment and if you pop along to the farmers markets this weekend I’m sure you’ll find some, probably from Mamaku Blue (the same wonderful people who do the gooseberries).
The blueberry is one of the few fruits native to North America. For centuries, blueberries were gathered from the forests and the bogs by Native Americans and consumed fresh or preserved. Revered by Northeast Native American tribes, blueberries, leaves and roots were used for medicinal purposes while the juice made an excellent dye for baskets and cloth. In food preparation, dried blueberries were added to stews, soups and meats.
In New Zealand, blueberries are prospering due to interest in the health attributes associated with the blue pigments. Studies from Tufts University USA claim blueberries as the ‘miracle berry’. Research shows half a cup per person per day has enough antioxidants to reverse the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, reduce or reverse arthritis, skin ageing and has some positive effect on cancers. Blueberries may also be effective at lowering cholesterol and have fewer side effects than commercial drugs.
Blueberry Frangipane Tart with Vanilla Sauce
This dish brings back memories of walking past pâtisseries in Paris and drooling over a window full of glossy frangipane tarts just begging to be eaten! The tart works well with any berry fruit, stone fruit or pip fruit, but what tastes better than New Zealand blueberries fresh off the bush?
1 Sweet Pastry case
175g plain flour
40g icing sugar
75g softened unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp water or milk
seeds of 1/2 vanilla pod and grated zest of 1/2 a lemon
Almond Paste or Frangipane
225g cold unsalted butter
225g caster sugar
175g ground almonds
50g plain flour
2 tbsp apricot jam
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp water
1. Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until it forms a firm dough.
2. Turn out and knead lightly before placing in a polythene bag and leaving in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
3. Preheat oven to 200˚C and place a solid baking sheet inside as well to preheat.
4. Roll out pastry as thinly as possible and carefully line a 24cm flan tin. Prick the base with a fork (or use baking beans) and brush all over with beaten egg white. Bake on the baking sheet on the middle shelf for 20 minutes.
5. Once cooled, the pastry case can be brushed with melted chocolate to stop it going soggy from the filling.
6. Cream butter and sugar until almost white.
7. Mix together flour and ground almonds.
8. Add one egg at a time to the butter and sugar mix, sprinkling in a handful of ground almonds and flour at the same time to help the butter and sugar accept the eggs.
9. Once all the eggs have been added, continue to fold in the remaining almond and flour mixture.
10. Place half blueberries on base of pastry case. Pour over frangipane mixture. Place remaining blueberries on top of mixture in an attractive pattern.
11. Bake at 200˚C for approximately 40 minutes, but check after 30 minutes to see if cooked. For smaller tarts, adjust time accordingly.
12. Heat apricot jam with lemon juice and water. Sieve out seeds.
13. Once cooled, turn tart out of tin, glaze with apricot jam.
14. Serve with vanilla sauce.
6 egg yolks
120g caster sugar
2 vanilla pods, split
1. Boil cream with vanilla in a saucepan.
2. Meanwhile boil a second pan half filled with water.
3. Mix eggs and sugar until pale and then add boiled cream very slowly.
4. Mix well and place over a pan of boiling water, stirring continuously until the mixture thickens.