Something Fishy

Faced with a choice, would you choose delicate seafood or a huge hunk of meat. While New Zealand is reknown for its tender melt-in-the-mouth spring lamb, no one can dispute our country is a collection of islands surrounded by sea and dotted with fresh water lakes.  Seafood choices are endless from Bluff oysters to green lipped mussels, fresh kawhai and snapper to South Island smoked salmon. 

Green lipped mussels three ways

Green lipped mussels three ways

Let our seafood shine like early morning light dappling across waves washing on the shore line.  Enjoy the simplicity of lemon juice squeezed over freshly caught snapper, pan fried in butter, that exudes an unforgettable nutty flavour.  Dress fresh seafood with simple fresh flavours; lime, coriander and chilli or lemon, garlic and parsley. 

Snapper parcels topped with coriander lime and spring onions 

Snapper parcels topped with coriander lime and spring onions 

Last weekend my nephew's birthday shared Mothers Day so a juxtaposition of their favourite foods made the menu.  A spicy rub punched with chilli, ginger, turmeric, cumin, cinnamon & garlic massaged the eye fillet beef. By contrast the snapper was kept simple, dressed with zingy lime pieces, a handful of fresh coriander, finely sliced spring onions and lightly seasoned with freshly ground salt and pepper. Sharing the BBQ with whole portobello mushrooms lightly smeared with homemade parsley pesto.

Annabel Langbein's spicy rub

Annabel Langbein's spicy rub

Before many family occasions, I devour recipes and books to devise a family friendly menu.  It's a role of mixed emotions that I simultaneously relish and dread. Time yesterday was divided between 'supervising' (and I use this term lightly) my Dad at the BBQ to ensure he cooked things according to my vision for the dishes – let's just say no man ever wants barbecuing instruction from a woman but he is goodhearted all the same! And the juggling act to ensure everything was on the table, everyone had full glasses and was ready to eat.

The end result, one happy family, empty plates and satisfied smiles all around.  

Enjoy your week.

Michelle

ps you'll find the rub recipe here: Annabel Langbein's spicy rub

Hawkes Bay Mystery Box

For the past 10 days I have been down in the beautiful Hawke’s Bay soaking up some sunshine, exploring fabulous food places and wineries, and experiencing the region through the eyes of a foodie traveller.  And staying with friends provided the perfect opportunity to cook for them using local produce - something I love doing, and a superb way of saying thanks.

Early in my stay, with a few hints dropped by my friends Kim and Rick’s teenagers that I should get cooking and that they would love salmon, we sat down to a delicious lime and thyme salmon fillet, cooked on the Weber.  With slow baked potatoes, feta and basil stuffed portobello mushrooms from Te Mata Mushrooms and a green salad, the simple flavours made it a very enjoyable meal.  And with the boys providing the BBQ expertise - okay, with a little ‘bossy’ supervision from me - and the washing up, it was a joint effort too.

During that evening, and for the life of me I can’t remember exactly why but then I am a huge fan of Masterchef, we decided that is would be fun for Brad, Kyle and Erica (Brad’s girlfriend) to cook for us.  But to make it a fun and interesting challenge they would get a mystery box of mostly local ingredients  to use, thanks to a visit to the Hawke's Bay Farmers' Market the weekend prior.  Very simple rules: must use every ingredient in the box, full access to pantry and fridge but can only cook on BBQ. The thinking here was that this would mean less mess inside - boy was I wrong how messy prep can get. Let’s just say, I was glad I didn’t have to clean up after them!

Hawke's Bay mystery box

Hawke's Bay mystery box

After the mystery box reveal, and the delight - yeah right, who am I kidding, of finding a yellow zucchini, half Kim’s herb garden and that the mystery box was vegetarian, we decided to let them know there were also chicken breasts in the fridge - a sigh of relief.  Oh, and eight people for dinner that night too.

Brad and Kyle - mystery box revealed

Brad and Kyle - mystery box revealed

I then disappeared into the study to write one of last week’s blog posts.  But honestly it sounded like an episode of Masterchef - the banter was very entertaining and of course because I couldn’t see what they were doing it sounded even funnier.  It’s worth mentioning that if you set a mystery box challenge for your family, it’s a good idea to put a time limit on proceedings too - we didn’t eat until 8:30pm!  Although they did decide mid-way through to make an avocado and red onion guacamole once our hunger pains kicked in!

Chicken, zucchini, red onion and mushroom kebabs

Chicken, zucchini, red onion and mushroom kebabs

And the peaches did get used - served halved with berries and lemon and mint sorbet - the latter shop bought, which caused lots more laughter as it tasted just like a lemonade popsicle!

Good luck, if you decide to take on the mystery box challenge – love to hear how things go.

Happy cooking.

Michelle 

Surviving the ‘Silly Season’

With only two weeks to go until Christmas, I have lost count of the number of times someone has said “we must catch up before Christmas”! You would think that one of us was leaving the country for good.  New Zealanders love to socialise - to bring together family and friends. We love BBQs - although December’s weather has been such a mixed bag - sharing an impromptu meal or simply coffee and a chat.  But this deadline-driven need to catch up can put people into a tailspin, especially if you’re the one organising the get-together.

Talking to a girlfriend last week, as we sat in the late afternoon sun sipping G&Ts in our respective backyards – her in Wellington and me in Auckland, we chatted about how best to survive the Christmas craziness, on top of the already busy lives we lead.  So here are a few ideas...

Bring a plate - when people ask “what can I bring”, be specific.  If you know you will need a green salad, say so. If they or their kids are fussy eaters, ask them to bring a dish they will eat. If they are great cooks, and are known for a particular dish, ask them to make it - they will be flattered and everyone will enjoy it.

Christmas Meringues

Keep things simple - unless it’s a formal event and let’s face it, do you really have time for these right now - you don’t need five different salads and three desserts.  Create shared platters and everyone can help themselves.

Don’t get stuck in the kitchen - if people ask if they can help, let them.  Give them a task: slice bread; put out the plates, cutlery and serviettes; toss the salads; man the BBQ - although there is never a shortage of volunteers for this one; top-up drinks; clear plates etc.  You don’t have to do it all yourself.

Keep the drinks list short - beer, wine and lots of non-alcoholic drinks.  If someone only drinks bubbly, ask them to bring some.

Lots of ice to keep the drinks cold - use oversized plastic baskets or the laundry tub comes in handy too.  This means the fridge can actually be used for food and get people out of the kitchen.

Ensure people can get out of the sun - a large pump bottle of sunblock is handy too. And if you’re planning on staying outside late, citronella candles to keep the mosquitoes in check and even a pile of blankets.

And the best idea of all - catch up in January, when everyone is more relaxed!

Enjoy

Michelle