Happy New Year to all, I hope you had a wonderful time and the transition back to reality isn’t too painful. For us we had the pleasure of spending Christmas and New Year with a wonderful family of expat Kiwis who now live in the Basque region of France. We had so much fun playing with traditional French cuisine in the glorious setting of Waihi beach that I thought I’d share this recipe with you.
Now I know what you’re thinking, I too used to view snails on a dinner plate with squinty-eyed skepticism – for all the usual reasons I suppose – their sliminess, their squelchyness, the havoc they wreck in the garden. So it would be safe to say that I was no great fan of the snail in any way, shape, form or location up until reluctantly trying them in France in a delightful country bistro many years, when I experienced a minor gastronomic epiphany.
They don’t have to be slimy rubber bands slathered in butter and garlic, they can be exquisite, delicate and exciting. Now the snails that we ate over the festive season were of the precooked, in a jar variety. Which is always a bit of a risk but got me thinking about New Zealand and with a bit of research, I can’t find anyone that is organically farming them here, except for Silver Trail Snails in the Hawkes Bay who have sadly recently stopped.
So what to do, should we just forget about a piece of culinary genius or should we expand our minds and shock our friends by trying something different, I think you already know my answer to this, and who knows we might even encourage someone to start farming them.
Escargot a la Bourguignonne
½ L white wine
½ L chicken Stock
Large Bouquet Garni
Pinch of salt
50 shelled snails
50 snail shells
4 tablespoon soda
4 L water
Buerre de Escargot
35g shallots, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped Parsley
2 Cloves Garlic, crushed
350g butter, softened
large pinch of salt
freshly ground Pepper
Simmer the shelled snails in the cooking liquor for about 8 minutes then leave to cool in the cooking liquid.
Meanwhile, boil the empty shells in the water and soda for five minutes, drain and wash in plenty of clean water, then dry in the oven without letting them colour.
Mix all the butter ingredients and pop a small amount in each shell, then add a snail and a little more butter on top. Place on snail plates or an oven tray covered in rock salt (to hold them upright) and heat in the oven without letting the butter brown and serve piping hot.
If you are using precooked canned snails then cut the simmering stage
For me a good complex Chardonnay hits the mark here, Try the Octopus Label 2011 Wild Chardonnay from Karikari Estate Wines, the most northerly vineyard in New Zealand.
I happened to be in Sandfords the other day to buy some Yellow Fin Tuna, sadly a rarity since most of our best fish seem to find their way onto an plane these days. Where foods concerned I think the French attitude of eat the best, export the rest is maybe a better option.
Anyway, to get off my soapbox for a minute, while I was there I noticed that there was some perfect looking Blue Nose winking at me. Blue Nose is that piece of fishy perfection that becomes pure white as it cooks and handled correctly has a great firm texture, to me it is one of the prime fish.
Now to the herb crust, what we are looking for here is a smooth herby green coating that hugs the surface of the fish almost like a carpet. The trick is to put the crust on the fish just moments before it goes in the oven and while the crust is still frozen, that way it will defrost then cook without breaking apart. Try using different herbs if you wish, or maybe some lemon or lime zest, the trick is to create the flavour that you like. As a total aside, I also love the herb crust method with racks of lamb, use the same technique but add rosemary and green olives to the food processor.
Fillet of Blue Nose with a Soft Herb Crust and a Champagne and Chive Sauce
8 Fillets of Blue Nose, skin off
1 glass white wine (optional)
Soft Herb Crust:
175g fresh white breadcrumbs (preferably brioche)
80g Gruyere cheese, grated
50g chopped fresh parsley
5g chopped fresh thyme
125g unsalted butter, softened
Champagne & Chive Sauce:
3 shallots (or 1 medium onion), finely chopped
¼ leek, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil
300ml champagne or white wine
300ml fish stock (or chicken stock)
3 tbsps fresh chives, chopped
300ml double cream
Lemon juice to taste
Place all the ingredients into a food processor and whiz until thoroughly mixed. Spread out onto a greaseproof lined tray and open freeze. Cut into portions and place one on top of each seasoned fillet of blue nose. Place on baking tray, pour wine onto baking tray (optional) and bake at 180˚C for 10-12 minutes or until topping is slightly golden and fish is firm to the touch and opaque.
Meanwhile prepare sauce: sweat shallots, leek and garlic in the olive oil. Add stock and champagne to the pan and reduce to quarter of original volume. In a second pan, reduce cream to half the original volume. Add stock mix to cream and hand whisk. Add lemon juice, chopped chives and seasoning to taste.
Ata Rangi wines from Martinborough are famous for their world beating Pinot Noir, but don’t ignore their 2012 Sauvignon Blanc as it is superb.
This is a great dish for dinner parties and really isn’t as hard as it looks. The chicken fillet steaks are guaranteed to amaze and your friends will be wondering what sort of chicken they came from. The chicken breasts are cut and shaped to look exactly like a beef fillet steak, otherwise known as “tournedos” and really should be done the day before to give the chicken plenty of time to hold its shape.
Now to the slightly tricky area of pigs caul, this is the lacy lining of a pigs stomach and is used almost like Glad wrap. The neat bit is that as you cook it will practically disappear leaving the shape you want with the mystery of how you did it. Pigs caul is quite hard to find but you should be able to order it through your butcher, remembering to leave yourself enough time to soak it for 24 hours in cold water before you use it.
If Pigs caul is unavailable or a step too far for you, then make up the dish as per the recipe but without the caul. Once set, cut into steaks, season top and bottom leaving the foil and paper wrapped around. Cook in the frying pan sealing the top and bottom and finish in the oven for 12-15 minutes. Once rested, peel away the foil and paper; the Steaks will still hold together.
Chicken Steaks with Chestnut Mushrooms and a Sage and Lemon Sauce
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, chopped
100g pigs caul, soaked in water overnight
25g softened butter
225g chestnut mushrooms
Lemon and Sage Sauce:
3 shallots (or 1 medium onion), finely chopped
¼ leek, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1-tablespoon olive oil
300ml champagne or white wine
300ml chicken stock
3 tablespoons fresh Sage, chopped
300ml double cream
Lemon juice to taste
To make the “steaks” take a large rectangle of foil and top with a similar sized sheet of greaseproof paper. Brush the paper with butter.
Squeeze out the pigs caul to remove any excess water and open out on top of the buttered paper.
Remove the small fillets attached to the underside if the chicken breasts and set aside. Now slice through the breasts so that you are left with thin escalope of fundamentally the same size and place side by side on top of the caul. You are covering and area of approximately 20 cm by 15 cm which when rolled will cut into 4 “tournedos”.
Now turning to the small fillets, place in a food processor and blitz to a paste with the sage and seasoning, using a wet palette knife spread the past across the top of the chicken breast, this will help it all hold together.
Carefully roll it all together into a cylinder shape, being careful to keep the caul on the outside and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
When ready for cooking time, pre heat you oven to 200˚c. The chicken “roll” can now be cut into 4 steaks, remove the foil and paper being careful to leave the caul wrapped around and for added security tie one or two lengths of butchers string loosely around.
Seal to a golden brow in a frying pan with a knob of butter, place on an oven tray and season. These chicken Tournedos should take 10-12 minutes in the oven. Once cooked and firm remove from the oven and leave to rest for about 5 minutes.
To prepare sauce: Slice the mushroom and sauté in a hot pan with the remaining butter until tender and well coloured. Remove from the pan and dry on kitchen paper. Now sweat shallots, leek and garlic in the olive oil. Add stock and champagne to the pan and reduce to quarter of original volume. In a second pan, reduce cream to half the original volume. Add stock mix to cream and hand whisk. Add lemon juice, cooked mushrooms, chopped sage and seasoning to taste.
Remove the strings and present on wilted buttered spinach with the mushrooms and sauce spooned over.
This dish cries out for a Viognier. This is a sneaky little devil of a grape that is remarkably hard get a decent crop. Mills reef haven’t made one this year but if we all start asking they might just try again. To be honest their last Viognier was an absolute cracker
Creating stylish and tasty food for that special get together can be daunting sometimes, what with complicated recipes and hard to source ingredients. Mind you that doesn’t have to be the case, glorious food can be simple.
This dish is so ridiculously simple, in its ingredients and its preparation, that you will almost feel as though you’ve cheated. What you’ve actually done is produce a wonderful, tasty starter in about 20 minutes.
Goat cheese has been made for thousands of years, and was probably one of the earliest made dairy products. Goat milk is much thinner than that of the cow, lower in fat, and higher in vitamin A and potassium. Although the West world has popularized the cow, goat milk and goat cheese are the preferred dairy products in much of the rest of the world. Because goat cheese is often made in areas where refrigeration is limited, aged goat cheeses are often heavily treated with salt to prevent decay. As a result, salt has become associated with the flavor of goat cheese, especially in the case of the heavily brined feta. In the most simple form, goat cheese is made by warming goat milk, mixing it with rennet to curdle, and then draining and pressing the curds.. Goat cheese softens when exposed to heat, although it does not melt in the same way that many cow cheeses do.
Goats Cheese Free Form Tarts
375g ready rolled puff pastry
2 goats cheese logs
1 free range egg, beaten
a few sprigs of thyme or rosemary
Cut the pastry into 6 equal pieces, rolling each into a rough 12 cm square. Cut the Goats Cheese logs into 3 and place in the centre of the pastry.
Brush the sides with the egg and draw up to form a pyramid leaving the centre open. Add a sprig of herb and season.
Bake in a preheated oven at 220˚c for 15 minutes or until golden and puffed up. Serve while the cheese is still warm.
The classic match with Goats Cheese always used to be Sancerre, the crisp and clean French Sauvignon Blanc. New Zealand has now taken over the mantle of the worlds finest Sauvignon Blancs and a hard one to beat is the Cloudy Bay from Marlborough
I’m always banging on about eating in tune with the seasons and this dish is a classic example, you see lamb doesn’t develop really great flavour until the little fellows have had a few months off the milk and on grass. What you get at this time of year is the absolute best compromise between taste and texture, and when you marry that to the tomatoes that are just going wild in the garden at the moment, you have a taste sensation.
The Idea of French cut rack of lamb is to have all the sinew carefully cut away and the bones scraped clean. The sinew is chewy and if the bones still have stuff attached they will go black. Cook them whole and then carve just before serving, a rack of lamb is usually 8 bones and what looks great is to carve after every second one and put two pieces together, intertwining the bones. Have fun.
Lebanese Marinated Rack of Lamb With Pickled Avocado and Tomatoes
2 racks of lamb, trimmed and French cut
1 small bell pepper
1 small red chill, deseeded
2 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon of chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch of saffron threads
1 tablespoon olive oil
Chop the pepper, chili, garlic, mint and spices together until the mixture is almost a pulp, stir in the olive oil, then rub this mixture into the meat.
Put in a Ziploc plastic bag and refridgerate for 2 – 3 hours.
Seal in a hot frying pan or on the BBQ and then roast in a preheated oven, 200˚C for approximately 10 minutes. Rest for 10 minutes and serve with the pickled tomatoes and Avocado and a green salad.
The pan juices make an excellent base for a sauce
Pickled Tomatoes and Avocado
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes
- 3 Tbsp. avocado oil
- 2 shallots, minced
- 2 jalapeños, 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
- 1/2 tsp. plus a pinch r salt
- 3 ripe, Fresh Avocados
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 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 the salt. Let the tomatoes sit at room temperature for the flavors to mature while you cook the Lamb.
Slice the avocados in half lengthwise. Slice each half lengthwise again, gently removing seed. 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.
This dish just cries out for a full bodied pinot, so for me that has to mean a Bird Wines Big Barrel Pinot Noir.
The most important meal of the day is breakfast from the point of view of kicking your day in the right direction. Starting the day right will give you the energy to get through to lunch without ruining your healthy lifestyle with snacks.
This recipe is so simple and was invented by the Swiss doctor Maximilian Oskar Bircher-Benner in the early twentieth century. Contrary to commonly held beliefs at the time; Dr Bircher pioneered the idea that a balanced diet of raw vegetables and Fruit should be used as a means to a healthy life and to heal the sick
Through his work Bircher-Benner changed the eating habits of the late 19th century. Replacing way too much meat and white bread with fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts. Now I know that this is starting to look like the Kellog story, but there are key differences, the primary one being that a multinational corporation doesn’t own the recipe and part with it purely for profit.
Fresh Bircher Muesli
Use whatever fruit is in season, or in winter top with poached fruit compote.
2 cups rolled oats
½ cup raisins
1 cup apple juice or orange juice
1 cup coarsely grated apple
½ cup natural yoghurt
Juice of 1 lemon
½ cup sliced peaches and nectarines
¼ cup mixed berries
2 tablespoons honey
Place oats, raisins and apple juice in a bowl and soak for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight. Add grated apple, yoghurt and lemon juice to mixture and mix well. Spoon into serving bowls and top with fresh or poached fruit. Drizzle with honey.
At this time of year we start to have a problem, its still too hot for all the glorious wintertime comfort desserts and yet we are at the end of the summer berry harvest. Thankfully we have citrus to carry us through.
This recipe is an absolute classic and to be honest is one of those dishes that chefs judge each other on. Not because it is so hard to do because it isn’t, but because it is so simple. Any idiot can do complicated but it takes skill to keep it simple.
I know that sounds like a contradiction but it really isn’t. Keeping it simple means that everything has to be spot on, the lemons straight from the tree. Then comes the cooking, don’t cook it until it is set or it will crack on the surface but until it looks like it is almost set when you gently wobble the tray. Now rather than take it out of the oven just leave the door open and turn it off, allowing the tart to cool where it is. The perfect time to eat classic lemon tart is when it has just reached room temperature and can barely hold its shape.
Sweet Pastry (Pâté Sucrée)
(enough for 2 x 23cm tins)
350g plain flour *
80g icing sugar
150g softened unsalted butter
2 egg yolks
2 – 4 tbsp water or milk
Seeds of one vanilla pod and grated zest of a lemon
* For chocolate pastry, replace 100g flour with 100g cocoa powder
Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until it forms a firm dough. Then turn out and knead lightly before placing in a polythene bag and leaving in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
Preheat oven to 200˚C and place a solid baking sheet inside as well to preheat. Roll out pastry as thinly as possible and carefully line the 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. Once cooled, the pastry case can be brushed with melted chocolate to stop it going soggy from the filling.
Lemon or Orange Tart
Serves 8 – 10
1 Sweet Pastry case (see above)
175g caster sugar
Zest of 6 unwaxed lemons or 3 oranges
275ml lemon or orange juice
Grate the zest of six lemons (or oranges) and squeeze enough juice to give 275ml. Now break the eggs into a bowl, add the sugar and whisk to combine, but don’t overdo it or the eggs will thicken. Next pour in the lemon juice and zest, followed by the cream and whisk lightly. Pour into the cooled blind baked pastry case and bake at 180˚C for about 30 minutes or until the tart is just set and feels springy in the centre.
Dessert wines are always a bit tricky; why not try a late harvest Sauvignon Blanc. I had one from Allan Scott in Marlborough recently and loved it.
As a cook, I love this time of year. The clocks have changed and the nights are drawing in. Our cooking style is switching to winter mode with the longer cooking methods starting to appear. The whole point of comfort food is to make use feel comfortable during a time of change and this is the time that mother nature puts on the big show and changes her whole wardrobe.
So lets celebrate the changing of the season with a French classic. Poached pears cry out for a bit of pastry and a crème anglaise but why not be a little different and serve them warm with some blue cheese and walnut shortbread.
Poached Pears in Red Wine
Pears hold their shape really well, as long as you don’t allow the liquor to boil once the pears have been added.
1 split vanilla pod
1/2 bottle full bodied Hawke’s Bay merlot or cabernet sauvignon
1/2 small cinnamon stick
zest and juice of 1/2 orange
a bunch of fresh thyme
- Add all except the butter and the pears to a small casserole pan, bring to the boil turn down to a gentle simmer and add the pears. Simmer for about 1 hour or until tender.
- Remove the pears and reduce the liquid by half.
- Away from the heat, add the butter and agitate for a while.
- Put the pears back in and leave until ready to serve.
- Warm is the best temperature to serve this dish.
If you going for the blue cheese option then make it a Port from Mills Reef
New Zealand whitebait is primarily the young or ‘fry’, of three species of the herring family: inanga (the most common), koaro and banded kokopu. Popular the world over, whitebait are sold with guts intact at little more than 5cm long. There are only three places in the world where whitebait is caught: Patagonia in South America, Tasmania and New Zealand, which has the greatest numbers. Although caught in rivers all round New Zealand, most are found on the West Coast where white-baiting is an important seasonal industry.
Most people love their fritters, but for me it seems such a shame to just surround them in batter when we could be celebrating every delicious bite. Make a big pile on a large board with a bowl of Aioli and try not to worry about the double dipping, every time I make this dish it’s always the hardened kiwi hunting type that positions themselves closest, eats the most and all the while sharing whitebait stories and favorite fritter recipes.
Deep-fried Moorish Whitebait
The usual way of cooking whitebait is as fritters, but in this recipe the fish are eaten whole, deep-fried and crisp enough to rustle as they’re served on the plate.
Oil for deep-frying
4 tablespoons flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon dry English mustard
1/2 teaspoon caster sugar
lemon wedges to garnish
1. Pick over the whitebait, discarding any broken fish and dry with paper towel.
2. Heat the oil in a deep fat fryer until a crumb of bread sizzles in it.
3. Sift the flour with the salt, pepper and spices. Dredge over the whitebait, ensuring that they are all well coated.
4. Put a small handful of whitebait into the hot oil and cook for no more than 2 minutes.
5. Lift out and drain on absorbent paper, repeating the process until all the fish are cooked. They should be crisp and golden. Drain well and sprinkle with a little salt.
6. Pile onto a serving dish and serve with lemon wedges and aioli or tartare sauce.
The Moorish flavours in this dish almost demand an ice cold Gewürztraminer and luckily Lawsons Dry Hills make a cracker
Don’t you just love this time of year, after more than eight months of resisting the urge to buy imported strawberries at exorbitant prices, the New Zealand Strawberry season is here at last. I realise that I’m a bit of a masochist as I also avoid the first few weeks of the season as quite frankly they lack in flavour and the last thing I want after waiting so long is to be disappointed.
What is it with a strawberry that makes us all feel happy? Maybe it’s just the promise of summer reflected in the perfect redness or that exquisite aroma as you bite into a freshly picked one still warm from the sun.
Preparing strawberries is a delicate task, as they really don’t like being washed in water. If you must then wash very briefly before hulling them as once the little plug of leaves is out, water can get in and spoil the fruit. Alternatively try washing them in orange juice; you’ll be astonished at the enhancement of the flavour.
The recipe today is an all time standby, put simply 10 minutes to make and 10 minutes to bake, couldn’t be easier. You’ll notice the addition of basil leaves, trust me its not a typo. We often forget our herbs with sweets and its a shame as they can add so much, strawberries need a bit of natural acid to bring out their sweetness so give it a try, you’ll love the result.
Swiss Meringue Roulade
6 egg whites
150g caster sugar
50g flaked almonds
Preheat the oven to 220˚C. Line a swiss roll tray with baking parchment. Whisk egg whites until very stiff. Gradually add sugar a little at a time. Spread on the lined tray and sprinkle with flaked almonds. Bake for about 10 minutes.
Sprinkle the surface with icing sugar and invert onto another sheet of parchment and cool. Remove cooked baking parchment in strips. Spread with whipped cream, strawberries and basil leaves. Using the new parchment, roll into the swiss roll shape and serve.
A sweet wine is the obvious choice with this, but for me the strawberries need the acidic sharpness of a good cold Sauvignon Blanc li the one from Bird wines.