Archive for March, 2011

Perfectly Ripe

Chilli Prawn Spaghetti. Photo Sally Greer

I haven’t been to Ripe the deli, but I’m enjoying Ripe the cookbook – a great collection of recipes based on the eat-in and take-out food served by Angela Redfern at her delicatessen in Auckland’s Grey Lynn.

The recipes – many of them attributed to staff, past and present – are simple but tasty, and usefully arranged by calendar month. The emphasis is on fresh fruit and vegetables with a great selection of salads for all seasons. I’ve been dipping into the summer section, making the most of a surfeit of avocados, and I’ve also been tempted to skip ahead a few months to recreate an Indian Spiced Cauliflower salad that can’t wait until winter.

The salads are joined by a great selection of punchy dressings and, as you might expect from a deli cookbook, there are reliable recipes for those fridge/pantry standbys: pesto, tapenade, chutney and jam.

The eclectic nature of cafe/deli food lends itself to the inclusion of dishes from across the globe. This collection spins a few classics and makes the most of some interesting ‘now’ ingredients like quinoa, sumac and pomegranate. The smoky chorizo salad could even tempt me to give the otherwise bland Israeli couscous a go.

In fact, I’d challenge anyone to flip through this book without wanting to cook something. Sally Greer’s camera lens lingers lovingly over sticky pork ribs, simmering strawberries and cakes dripping with syrup. Her photographs are complemented by a user-friendly design and store manager Michelle Ineson’s pen and ink drawings that dance across the page with a joie de vivre that says ‘eat me’.

Ripe Recipes by Angela Redfern. Illustrations by Michelle Ineson, photography by Sally Greer. Beatnik Publishing. $59.99

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Edible Garden

I just had to post a photograph of the new vegetarian dish at Le Canard, the Wellington restaurant of which I am a silent but hungry partner.

Chef Pascal Bedel has taken inspiration from René Redzepi’s stunning book, Noma. Named after his highly acclaimed restaurant in Copenhagen, the book showcases Redzepi’s interpretation of Nordic cuisine with dishes that redefine those overused words, seasonal and local.

At Le Canard his ‘vegetable field’ becomes ‘le jardin potager’ – a garden of vegetables served in a flowerpot, complete with edible ‘dirt’. The flavours are intriguing, the presentation, fabulous.

A vegetarian friend of mine from New York was the first customer to order the dish. She dug into her flower pot with great gusto, devouring the whole garden from the tops of the carrots to the pomme purée at the base. She recognised a hint of horseradish in the mash but couldn’t figure out what gave the soil its tasty crunch.

Ask the chef.



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In Christchurch, pre-earthquake, I visited Pete and Joy McLeod on their organic free range  poultry farm at West Melton.

Their home suffered structural damage in the September quake; this time the house was fine but their business may not survive. With restaurants like Jonny Schwass’s now in ruins and most of their other customers closed for business, the McLeods are desperately looking for customers outside Christchurch.

Moore Wilson Fresh in Wellington has come to the rescue; they’ve just started stocking Westwood Chicken’s free-range birds. I bought one this morning and, yes they’re expensive, but so is all free-range poultry and I can’t think of a better way to help Canterbury’s small producers right now. Besides, these birds taste great and I can vouch for the way they’re raised.

Westwood Organic Free Range Chickens

The one-day old chicks start out in converted shipping containers where they have food, water and plenty of space to run around. Their houses are heated and they have a transistor radio with music to keep them company. After a few days they’re encouraged to venture out into a netted run, then in the third week, when they’re sufficiently hardy, they’re moved into the fields.

At night they’re coaxed into their shadehouses, but during the day they prefer to peck around outside in the grass, or under the tree line where they can hide from the hawks – an  unfortunate reality for birds who free range.

Westwood Free Range Chicken House

I’m not sure how you’d know if they weren’t happy, but to me they seemed quite content.

Free-range doesn’t always mean what we’d like it to mean. Giving birds the ‘opportunity’ to go outside is not the same as encouraging them to do so. The McLeod’s really get this. When I visited the farm, their chickens were ranging so freely I found it hard to get a good photograph.

Of course, they aren’t the only producers whose business is suffering post-quake, their story is just one of many. Canterbury’s small farmers, growers and artisans really do need our support; we can help by supplying and buying their produce.

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Muchas Gracias

Muchas gracias to Logan Brown and St Vincent’s Cave for a fabulous lunch on Monday. It was a collaborative effort in which chef Shaun Clouston prepared a five-course, degustation lunch using Spanish wine and ingredients from the Auckland-based importer.

It wasn’t about showcasing Spanish dishes; rather, the idea was to enhance local New Zealand produce with a light Spanish touch.

We began with slivers of paprika-cured kingfish sprinkled with crystallised orange. Subtly flavoured and gorgeously textured, the fish was partnered with a chilled Catalonian vermouth. It was the perfect apéritif; I can imagine serving it alongside a dish of the fruity little Arbequina olives from the same region. These were really, really good and I intend buying some from Ontrays, the company’s Wellington stockist. (more…)

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