It is Father's Day today and, as tradition demands, I was served breakfast in bed. Consuming cereal, toast and tea in a semi-horizontal position is not good preparation for exercise so, after several seconds indecision, I abandoned the idea of a staggering outside for a run and settled in for a lazy day.
I recently caught a re-run of an episode of Rick Stein's fabulous show, Food Heroes, where he visits a delightfully barking Irish hotelier who makes really good soda bread. Having the house to myself in the morning and knowing that we had buttermilk in the fridge, I thought I'd make some either for lunch or to go with the roast chicken dinner later this afternoon. As it requires no proving, soda bread is just the bread for those seeking near-instant home baked gratification. I whipped up a double batch of the moist, sticky dough and baked two gorgeous loaves of bread, one for us and another for our neighbour, who has been busy painting her cottage over the last few days.
Food is a central to Kiwi life with many cuisines from around the world represented in both the home and restaurant cooking here. From the national fixation with meat pies (the village pie vendor is called 'Hua-pie') and the baked goods of workplace morning teas to the ready availability of cheap sushi almost everywear, New Zealand is a nation that enjoys its food, a fact that is borne out in the worsening obesity statistics published each year.
Our local area, the fruit basket and vineyard of Auckland, is renowned for its fresh market garden produce and large number of eateries; indeed, the availability of take-way food in New Zealand must rival that of the USA. We can indulge in wood-fired Italian pizzas, charcoal-grilled Turkish kebabs, Kiwi roast dinners, Thai satays, Chinese noodles, English fish and chips to name just a few, washed down with numberless wines and beers, without ever touching the stove or the fridge and by walking no more than a few hundred metres.
That said, we enjoy cooking old favourites and new discoveries at home and sitting down to a meal with friends is always a great way to spend an evening. As a reward for those who still drop by and read this blog, here's a couple of recent recipes that I have come up - enjoy!
Huapai Open Sandwich
I had a hankering for a deli style open sandwich and came up with this combination. We are lucky enough to have Greg Flutey, a great Kiwi specialist baker, at the bottom of our road so we can get superb bread locally (even when I'm not in the mood for baking!). The taste and texture of the haloumi balances nicely with the peppery salad and the herby dressing and the chilis tickle the tastebuds, cutting through the flavoursome sausage slices. Perhaps it is just as well that I'm training for the Auckland half marathon, as this substantial lunch went down all too easily.
Five grain sourdough bread
Mesclun leaf salad
Salad dressing (Cotterill & Rouse's Garden Fresh Herb Dressing is great)
Pickled piri-piri chilis
Left-over home-kill beef sausages
Heat slices of haloumi and sausages under a grill or on a ribbed skillet until heated through and browned at the edges. Meanwhile, toast two slices of the bread and then spread with mayonnaise. Pile with dressed mesclun or other small leaf salad and scatter with finely chopped pickled piri-piri. Slice the still-warm hamouli into chopstick-sized sticks and scatter with the sausage pieces over the salad. Salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy immediately.
Fridge d'Or Ravioli Sauce
After a twelve hour plus day at work, I'm rarely in a creative mood. However, a few nights ago, with the family elsewhere and a sparsely populated fridge staring me in the face, the desire for a quick tasty meal provided inspiration. I grabbed the contents of the fridge door and came up with a sauce that took 5 minutes to make and, thanks to the chili bean sauce, tasted more complex and sophisticated than my usual quick tomato sauce.
½ large tomato
½ stick of celery
4 or 5 sun dried tomatoes
1 tbsp chili bean sauce (toban djan - paste of fermented broad beans and chili)
dried basil and thyme
Beef ravioli or pasta of choice
Chop tomato, onion and celery into small pieces. Place in lidded plastic container, vent and microwave on high for 1 minute. Shake and repeat. Add sun dried tomatoes and chili bean sauce to container and reduce to a chunky puree with a hand mixer or similar. Stir in a couple of pinches of the herbs, a little salt and black pepper. Spoon the sauce over the freshly cooked pasta on warm plates and serve with freshly grated pecorino or pasmesan.