Just had a great weekend at the Home and Leisure expo in Tauranga. All a bit different for me as I was in costume as Captain Cook, basically story telling with food.
Almost 250 years ago the Admiralty was asked by the King to provide a ship and crew to transport the Royal society scientists to Tahiti to witness the passage of Venus through the Southern Hemisphere. As you can understand the idea of using a ship of the line with a seasoned crew during a time of war to go on a suicide mission to the dark side of the planet had little appeal, however how do you turn down the King? Simple answer you don’t. What you do is find a thoroughly expendable officer with no wartime credentials, give him a crew of misfits and a secondhand merchant ship.
Enter Lieutenant James Cook, The son of a farm laborer from the north east of England. A man truly suited to the role of expendable explorer. Having first gone to sea from the village of Staithes and then on to the collier ships in Whitby, he joined the Royal Navy in his late twenties as an ordinary Seaman where he proved to be a fast learner and an exquisite cartographer. Who better to send on a pointless diversion than an upstart who happens to draw pretty maps, if he doesn’t make it back who cares? and if he does at least they’ll have some new charts. Only problem is that he isn’t an officer, he’s a bosuns mate and cartographer, The solution is easy, make him a lieutenant and send him.
So starts the first of James Cook’s three voyages, a catalogue of failure and glory traveling hand in hand. His orders for the first voyage were to plot the passage of Venus from Tahiti and then, in his secret orders, to travel west and find the great southern continent. They later found that his calculations for the transit were inaccurate and he couldn’t find Terra Australis.
The now Captain Cook’s second voyage didn’t fare much better, sent back to find the great southern continent that he had obviously missed on his first voyage, all he managed to do was prove that it did not exist.
Finally to his third voyage. The Admiralty had been trying to find the Northwest Passage, a short cut to Asia, from the Atlantic, with no success and so decided to try from the Pacific. Who better to send than the same expendable officer who had been there twice before? Yet again all Captain Cook managed to do was prove that the passage did not exist, and then to cap it all off he failed to stay alive, dying on a beach in Hawaii beaten to death by the natives who only days earlier had lauded him as a god.
This however only tells half the story. Without doubt, Captain James Cook was one of the world’s most glorious explorers. During his three Pacific voyages his wooden ships circled the world, went further north and further south than any wooden sailing ship had ever been before, or since. Navigating the ice bound fringes of the Antarctic and arctic circles, where the sails froze solid and the rigging hung with icicles. They sailed in tropical seas where they survived hurricanes, lightning strikes and volcanic eruptions; edged around uncharted lands and islands always in danger of shipwreck; and in one harbour after another, found unknown people. For any time and in any culture these were remarkable voyages. Like the first men in space they were truly off the map surviving on their skills and wits.
Along the way he managed to create charts of such exquisite accuracy that some are still in use today. His voyages epitomize the European conquest of nature, fixing the location of coastlines by the use of instruments and mathematical calculation, classifying and collecting plants, animals, insects and people. In effect one man named, or more accurately renamed, one third of the globe.
As if this wasn’t enough, he was the first ships captain to beat the maritime scourge, scurvy. Before Cooks first voyage any ship at sea for more than six weeks would routinely lose a third of its crew to scurvy, in Cooks nearly three years off the map he didn’t lose one. Through his own diligence and dedication to the health and wellbeing of his crew he became the ultimate global hunter gatherer. At every opportunity he had to restock his supplies of food and water often with things never before seen by Europeans.
Historically Sunday would have been the working family’s only day off and probably the only meat day as well. Everyone was expected to attend church in the morning and so the slap up meal was both the best meal of the week and a reward for being so virtuous. In fact during the Middle Ages in England the Lord of the Manor would provide a roast Ox for his serfs, thus starting the tradition of the Sunday roast.
In the days before ovens in every home, the poorer families would have used the local bakery, popping their joints of meat in the big bread oven that was still cooling down from the early morning baking. They would pick up their perfectly roasted meat on their way home from church.
Roast Leg of Lamb
Serves 6 – 8
1 Leg of NZ Lamb
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and sliced into 3
75g tinned anchovies
1 bunch rosemary
75g softened butter
Juice of 1 lemon
Stud the surface of the lamb with garlic, rosemary and half the anchovies. Beat the butter, lemon juice and remaining anchovy and spread over the skin. Place on a preheated hot barbeque for 5 minutes to sear, then turn down heat and cook with lid down for a further 50 minutes until core temperature reaches 62˚C (for medium rare.) Rest and serve
Panfried Snapper and Quinoa Salad with Roast Kumara
4 Snapper Fillets
1 red capsicum, chopped roughly
1 yellow capsicum, chopped roughly
1 red onion, sliced
2 Kumara rough chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 cup quinoa (pronounced ‘keenwa’)
Salt & pepper
1 cup spinach, chopped roughly
Vinaigrette dressing (see below)
Roast chopped vegetables (except spinach), garlic and olive oil in a pre-heated oven at 180°C for 30 to 40 mins until golden brown. Meanwhile, wash quinoa with cold water in a sieve and squeeze dry in a clean tea towel. Place quinoa in a pan, place over a medium heat and fry until lightly toasted. Cover with boiling water or stock and simmer gently until all the liquid has been absorbed. Remove vegetables from oven and add to quinoa with spinach and seasoning. Add dressing and mix well. Place in a bowl with panfried Snapper on top and serve.
½ tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard
50ml red wine vinegar
50ml balsamic vinegar
100ml hazelnut oil
100ml avocado oil
100ml olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
6 turns white pepper
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
Place all the ingredients into a blender and blitz for 60 seconds. Strain through a fine sieve.
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
Freshly grated zest of 1 orange
3 tbsp sugar
3 eggs, separated
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tbsp apricot liqueur
- Melt the butter in a frying pan and when foaming add the berries and orange zest. Cook gently over a low heat until the fruit begins to soften (about 2 minutes) then add the sugar, mixing well, and cook until the sugar melts and the mixture becomes syrupy.
- Add just enough breadcrumbs to soak up the syrup and stir.
- Meanwhile add the egg whites to a clean bowl and whisk into soft peaks.
- 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.
- Fold-in the egg whites and continue cooking on very low heat until the mixture sets.
- If necessary, place the tansy under a low grill or use a blow torch to set the top.
- Dust with icing sugar, decorate with a few sprigs of mint and serve.