Prawn fattouche two ways

As a last hurrah, as Summer slips out the door, here are two delicious prawn salad recipes we have used this past season in our kitchens. Both have Middle Eastern flavours, one is a classic fattouche (a bread based salad) and the other introduces an amazing spicy ingredient called zhoug.

These will send you back to sunny days eating al fresco as we come into Autumn and the colder months ahead. Rug up warm and kept BBQing! It’s the only way to stave off Winter blues!

Prawn Fattouche Salad

This is how I cook, adjusting the ingredient to use what I have, you could add coriander, or feta, or watermelon, to this salad, even cooked zucchini.

Allow 5-8 prawns per person, peeled, seasoned cooked as you like.

This is a great salad for b.b.q or fry the prawns and add to the salad below.

Just adjust the amount of ingredients for how many people you have, sprinkle the salad with lots of sumac, some extra mint leaves and throw some lemon wedges on it before serving.

Combine in a bowl:

Marinated red onions

Roasted bread.

Salad Greens, any type from your garden, a small handful for each person. e.g.rocket, baby cos, mesclun.

Washed and chopped radishes, tomatoes, seeded cucumbers, flat leaf parsley and mint leaves .

Add enough dressing to suit your taste, squish in your hands a bit to mix the flavours.

For the marinated red onions:

1T sumac

¼ t allspice

¼ t pepper

1 red onion finely sliced

Soak sumac in cold water for a few mins and remove any husks, put the onion, sumac, allspice and pepper in a bowl and rub everything together, leave to marinate foe an hour at least.

For the roasted pita bread:

¼ round per person.

Tear pita bread into bite sized chunks, toss with olive oil and salt and pepper on a baking tray.

Roast in a pre heated oven, 175 degrees C, until golden, stirring often to get an even colour.

For the dressing:

Mix together (adjust ingredients to taste):

1 garlic clove, crushed with salt to a paste

Juice of one lemon

3T extra virgin olive oil

1T white wine vinegar

Zhoug prawn salad

You will need:

7 cooked prawns

½ large avocado cut into chunks

2 heaped spoons of sumac pickled cucumber and a good spoon of the liquid

1 heaped spoon of zhoug (make your own – here’s how)

Pinch salt


A few mesclun leaves

To assemble:

Mix prawns, avocado, cucumber and liquid and zhoug in a bowl. Add coriander, mesclun, flatbread and salt.

Sprinkle with sumac and pomegranate seeds.




Where food comes from

I’ve been thinking a lot about supply chains. Where things come from is as important as what we do with them. If you have enough kitchens to justify it you can begin to take control of a lot of the supply side of food too. Marlow and Sons has a bakery, first established to supply their own kitchens but now with a retail side. Closer to home, Hip Group in Auckland has a number of excellent eateries but also provides a lot of its own produce including bread but also cheese, honey, fruit and herbs, as well as doing its own butchery. It injects an added dimension into their food; what’s in season, what’s on their own trees, what they are personally passionate about, it all shows up in their kitchens and on their menus in a fluid and honest way.

Hip Group is worth seeking out if you’re up that way. There’s Kohi Beach Cafe, Rosie in Parnell, there’s The Store, The Diner, The Butchery, there’s four Hip Group offerings just at Britomart – you can’t book, you can’t even call because there’s no phone. Drop in, check the wait, mooch nearby, come back when there’s space (they’ll give you a gizmo to let you know).

Traceability is more and more a buzz word in food production. From a kitchen’s point of view it is vital we know where something comes from, but we don’t need to bore customers with it. If it’s part of what we do, then we can relax into trusting it’s the best, and we can get on with treating it well, respecting it and respecting you by serving it up as good eating.

Comfort food on a rainy Monday

This is what I want to eat right now, for lunch. I’m sharing the goodness with you. We’re hunkered down feeling the tail of Cyclone Pam whip around us.

WAXY POTATO SALAD with chickpeas and chorizo

For the dressing:

1T fennel seeds

1 T coriander seeds both lightly roasted and crushed

4 shallots finely diced

1t white pepper

1T thyme leaves


2T white wine vinegar

80ml extra virgin olive oil (evo)

Juice ½ lemon

2 large mild chilli

Put all into bowl and allow to infuse for at least 1 hour

For the salad:

300gm waxy potato

100gm chickpeas

2T evo

160 gm chorizo, thickly sliced

100gm lettuce

1C coriander leaves

2 medium soft boiled eggs

Boil potatoes until tender, slice in half lengthways. Warm chickpeas and toss both in some of the dressing while still warm. Fry the chorizo in evo and add to rest of the salad ingredients. Serve topped with a soft boiled egg.

(I ate mine before I could photograph it so this image is from Stone Soup Cookery)

Bring the rainbow

Simple food, prepared well outstrips flashy fluffing with a pile of fancy fare. And the simplest of all is the humble vegetable. VEDGE is a vegan restaurant in Philadelphia and what they do with vegetables would garner the envy of Giuseppe Arcimboldo, he of the ultimate veg-head Vertumnus.

Vegetables are beautiful.

Meat comes in two colours: blood and blah. Vegetables bring the rainbow. “Eat your greens,” mothers tell their issue, “Eat your oranges, your reds, your purples, your yellows, AND your greens!”

VEDGE is the baby of Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby who have captured their restaurant in a cookbook, also called VEDGE. “100 plates that redefine vegetable cooking,” they say.

The ideas are simple enough to be easily dismissed. But there’s an aftertaste that makes you linger longing for more. Look again at that roasted carrot, come closer and see what’s been done with those Brussels sprouts.

Dinner hosts shrink at the thought of a vegan coming to tea. “No eggs?!” “No cheese?!” “A single serving of nut loaf?” But VEDGE offers so many inspired ideas the whole table will soon be devouring vegetables.

Few people raise meat to eat in their own back yards. But vegetables are so do-able. There’s such variety there, not just in type but in specifics. Take tomatoes: cherry, roma, yellow, plum, bush, brandywine and beefsteak. All ready to go, cheap to grow and offering up a hundred different meals.

Embrace the vegetable, make it the hero on the plate, invite some veg heads to tea and show them your moves. If you get it right with the vege you may even find you have no room left for the meat.



Squash toast

Just when I think I’ve tasted too much, smelt too much, thought too much and talked too much about food I find something that reminds me that some simple food needs so little to make it perfect.

Recently, as blood thirsty children loosely disguised as Halloweeners traipsed around the neighbourhood in search of sugar, I found a sweet little recipe for squash toast. So perfect when there’s hollowed out pumpkins lit from within on the porch but so wrong when we’re six months from traditional ‘harvest’ season.

Smitten Kitchen blogs her edible adventures from a tiny kitchen in New York City. She calls herself fearless. And attempts mastery of some complex things, restaurant standard but prepared by a mum in the city with a toddler at her ankle. “Comfort food stepped up a bit”, she says.

This squash toast recipe originates from Jean-Georges Vongerichten via ABC Kitchen NYC – miles away from Smitten Kitchen in equipment, combined experience and skill. The recipe comes out of Jean-Georges’ commitment to keep things simple and tasty. His food is not weighed down by tradition and he looks to the East for inspiration. Heavy stocks and creams are replaced by vegetable juices, fruit essences and light broths. Herbs, fruits, veges. And he keeps things true in another way too: no pesticides, insecticides, antibiotics, hormones. His restaurants may have grown up to be some of the big players in the game but his happy place is a simple kitchen, and his favourite food more likely to be found at a Thai street-food cart than on an a la carte menu.

A recipe for squash toast has sent me on a yummy little journey through different kitchens. A recipe can become an heirloom, a keepsake, a gift, a memento, a snapshot. From the huge kitchen of ABC to the tiny one of Smitten, a recipe becomes a portal through which a love of simple deliciousness can travel from one cook to the next.

Stop talking and eat

Everywhere we look there’s food but much of it we can’t touch. There’s food on TV, in books, on blogs, in every magazine. There’s food on the radio. But we can’t taste any of it. It’s all talk.

What do people say? “Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink?” Same with food. It’s food-fatigue!

Who would have thought? Too much food in our lives! We risk losing balance and falling for the fantasy. What we all need to do is sink our teeth into reality. Crunch! Simple and easy.

Don’t label me locavore, sustainable, organic; of course I know where those vegetables come from! I don’t need to be slotted into a tidy box to prove my place. I always want to eat better and what I do in my kitchens is an extension of that.

My kitchen is a conduit between growers and eaters. That’s all. What’s fresh, in season, available. This with that. Nothing more. Enjoyed your lunch? Good. Over-analysing why is like dissecting the meal before you taste it.

I’m inspired to eat, and bored to tears talking about it. There’s a truth to what we do in the kitchen, and we hope you can taste it. Even naming it makes it feel thin and trivial. Your tongue can’t be free to really savour the flavour if it’s too busy chewing the fat.

But here I am adding to the prattle. Come in and eat. (I promise I won’t ruin it by talking.)

Here comes the Sun

Our FAWC 2014 offering at Smiths this November heralded the coming summer and everything we love to taste through those hot Hawke’s Bay months.

Sharing good food with friends and family is a common refrain but still has truth and honesty to it. That really is how we spend our summer time.

Our FAWC menu began with picnic food, cranked up a notch. No flies here! Mussels grilled on the half shell with a bacon crumb – yum – pickled pork and piccalilli of summer vegetables. Kingfish ceviche with fennel confit. Local buttery olive oil. Kick and bite, fresh and smooth, rich where it needs to be, sharp to cut through.

New season zucchini flowers are a delight. A natural gift that needs no fussing. Baby carrots. Healthy dark leafy greens. Lamb of course.

To bring all this together seamlessly, honestly, effortlessly takes considerable toil. We share our ideas with our local suppliers then go back and forth on exact requirements and ingredients. It’s an ongoing conversation considering each element and how it works for the greater good. There’s a nervous watch on the weather, one mistimed frost or douse of rain can force us to change direction. If there is a menu change it’s always for the best because no one wants half-pie produce on the plate: the cooks, the growers, least of all the diners.

So FAWC is done now for 2014 and we can get down to the delights of feeding people through the best Hawke’s Bay has to offer. From roudy family get togethers at Opera Kitchen and cosy catch ups with nearest and dearest at Smiths, to healthy food for everyday at Albion Canteen (our play on quick and easy): bring on summer with all its fruit, salads and seafood, outside cooking and fresh warm air.

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