Friday, 25 January 2013

Cooking Corn Waimarama Style

I was welcomed to Hawkes Bay by the waving green fields of sweetcorn.  During our stay in the Bay I discovered the very best way to cook corn from Peter's old mate Fred Hardy.
I love the colours of the beehives near Waimarama, Hawkes Bay
We were invited to lunch on a perfect day at Fred and Chris's bach at Waimarama Beach about  a 20 minute drive past vineyards and olive farms south of Havelock North.
View down to Waimarama Beach - a very dry season 

We sat under an umbrella around a magnificient round totara table and talked about the locally grown corn we were going to have for lunch.  Fred is a born communicator and wasn't at all phased by the camera when I asked him if I could video the process. 

Chris has a real eye for colour and design.  She has made their
simple 1960's bach look a picture with the use of colour and planting that
showy red Bougainvillea that we don't have a hope of growing down south.
Chris is just as much a foodie as Fred. Here's how she made this easy and delicious cream cheese spread that we put on crackers as a starter.

Chris's cream cheese spread - easy to whip up for unexpected guests
 if you have a spare cream cheese in your fridge and you can use any pickle but the lime was perfect. 
Cut in half a cream cheese, sandwich the two halves with lime pickle (homemade by Chris - must get that recipe) and top with a good coating of a dukkah of your choice.  To keep the dukkah in place lightly pour olive oil on top and serve with your favourite cracker.   Chris served it with plain rice crackers and it was so tempting to have more than you should.

Now onto Fred's method of cooking corn on the barbeque in a way that keeps all the flavour and the kernals plump and juicy.    It's simple but you need to prepare ahead of time.

Step 1:   Cut off the silky end of the corn. Find a large bucket and hold a running hose over the end you have just cut.   You can feel the corn husk being filled with water.  Place the corn in bucket with water.

The hose has to be pushed hard against the trimmed top of  the corn and your hand
 makes a seal to ensure the corn husk is being plumped up with water
Step 2:  You need to soak the corn for at least an hour before cooking and to keep them submerged put a weight on top.
This terracotta saucer is ideal but you can also just use a couple of bricks
or pavers too to keep the corn submerged

Step 3:  The cooking of the corn.   Heat your barbeque until really hot and lay the soaking corn on either the plate or grate.   If you have a cover like Fred does then that will decrease the cooking time.   Turn regularly for about 20 minutes.   To watch and see how Fred does it click on the arrow.....

Fred's Waimarama Style Corn Demonstration

If you cannot play the video from the blog then go to this link to see the video on You Tube.

Here is how the corn will look when cooked - sometimes the husks are blackened and
even flame up as they dry out
Step 4:  Cut the stalk end of the corn off and with heavy duty gloves, twist and squeeze the corn out of its husk onto a plate.   It should come out free of all the fibre and be a beautiful yellow.  It helps of course if the corn is as fresh as possible.

Fred's Sweetcorn was particularly good accompanied by a sprinkling of Kelp Pepper
 to reflect the seaside location (and its so full of nutrients)
On the way home to Napier look what was in front of us.....

Beekeeper moving hives near Havelock North

In September 2012 one of my early postings was called "A Vintage Morning Tea - Nan's Pikelets".   Peter's sister Monica was inspired to purchase a modern griddle plate that is caste iron ridged on one side and flat on the other.   It works really well for pikelets because the ridges underneath seem to make the heat disperse evenly - like a simmer pad.   I proudly made Nan's daughters a vintage morning tea using her favourite pikelet recipe. (see earlier post for the recipe).

Nan's Pikelets topped with Gooseberry Marmalade  and a mix of yoghurt and mascarpone  cheese with a touch of honey from The Naked Honey Pot (gorgeous liquid Hawkes Bay honey)

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Pasta e Basta

Pasta e Basta is a restaurant situated in Amsterdam, in the old part of the city, and is perhaps the most unusual and entertaining restaurant I have been to. No its not the food you go to Pasta e Basta for  - its the waiters. Young students hopeful of a singing career from the Amsterdam Music Conservatorium wait on your table and every now and then break into song singing an Italian aria or a pop ballad.

Maybe it was the Italian arias or the romantic notion of being like an Italian mama making long threads of pasta from my kitchen that influenced my decision to purchase a pasta maker. Two years have passed and I haven't managed to get it out of its box. I decided to gift the Italian pasta maker to my friend Jan.

Imagine my delight when we walked into Jan's kitchen in Christchurch to witness the pasta making in progress and later enjoyed the fresh pasta full of the flavours of summer.

Jan serving up the summer pasta dish featuring shelled prawns tomatoes and basil
Jan had waited for our arrival to complete the pasta making so that she could show me just how easy it is to make pasta. The sauce Jan made is simple, quick and delicious and you can make it as a quick meal idea with commercial fresh or dried pasta.

The pasta has to be hung to set and to keep separated - Jan used a pole between two chairs

You can make pasta out of ordinary flour but to increase your chances of a successful pasta you need to use Italian flours.  Jan used 50/50 Semola (which has the same texture as fine corn meal) with 00 grade very fine Italian flour.


For every 100g of flours add one egg - Jan used 200 g of Semola and 200g of 00 Italian flour with four eggs - no salt required as the pasta is cooked in salty water. You can mix the Italian way on a large board or benchtop by hand but Jan used the Kenwood mixer with the dough hook and this saves time and mess. The eggs should be enough for the flours to form a soft dough - if not no more than a flick of extra water is required. You need to sit the dough for at least an hour before rolling. Jan stored the dough in the fridge overnight.

Divide the dough into two and roll out like a thick short pastry

Next process is called booking - you fold over both ends of dough to centre - just like a book!

Set the roller dial at the highest number and wind the handle and roll oout of the dough

After each rolling turn the dial to a lower number 

When the dough is thin enough you can move to the next stage

Thread the rolled pasta through the cutting blade turning the handle and if the pasta sticks sprinkle with extra semola to keep the threads separate

Pasta now hangs on a stick to dry and set and is ready for cooking.  You can also use coat hangers to hang the pasta.

Cut up a packet of cherry tomatoes, add 1 Tbsp of chilli oil and 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic (if you don't have chilli oil just use a chopped chilli or chilli concentrate) with the zest and juice of two lemons.

Set a large pot of water to boil for the pasta and heat another pan with olive oil

Add one pack of raw shelled prawns and stir
Add 1 tbsp of salt to boiling water and then gently add the pasta to ensure the water keeps to a rolling boil - the pasta only takes 2-3 minutes to cook. Strain and run over cold water to stop further cooking.

Add the tomato mix to the prawns

Cook a few minutes
Chop up a large handful of basil - this magnificent basil is growing in Jan's glasshouse
Serve with layer of pasta, tomato mix and chopped basil.

If you are not fond of prawns you could replace with courgette or eggplant for a summer vegetarian pasta dish and a good finishing touch would be a grating of parmesan cheese.  The courgette and eggplant needs to be cooked longer at a lower temperature. You could also opt to use other fish instead of the prawns.
Making pasta does take time but the edible result is much better than what you can buy.  It's an absorbing process to watch and could be part of a social gathering with friends.   Jan was shown how to make pasta and in turn showed me.  I am now passing this on to you in the hope that you might get that pasta machine out of the cupboard, or borrow a friend's machine and give it a go.   I won't be making pasta in the short term but I will certainly make the sauce again. 

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Southern Sushi

I don't know who first called the cheese roll "Southern Sushi" but the title works well because sushi and cheese rolls both take time and care in preparing and rolling.  Describing cheese rolls as "Southern Sushi" also makes locals laugh as they immediately connect with the imagery.   

It's a hard job finding the perfect cheese roll but my Mum (affectionately known as CV) perfected the cheese roll and any major family event usually included 'chomping' cheese rolls.    My sister Kerry has inherited the role of cheese roll maker for Mackay clan gatherings and in turn is teaching our youngest nephew Alex the secret of the perfect cheese roll.
Alex serving some of the toasted cheese rolls (Southern Sushi)
The cheese roll is perfectly suited as a southern comfort food with a buttery crunch outside and a hot cheesy filling that oozes when bitten into.

Kerry has agreed to share the recipe and method with you all.   This time Kerry added grated Mozzarella cheese. Mum would make up to around 500g of grated tasty and a smaller pack of vintage tasty to give extra bite. Kerry has made it easy by buying the pre-grated bags of cheese.

CV's Cheese Rolls
350g grated cheddar  tasty cheese
200g grated mozzarella cheese
100 g vintage sharp cheddar grated
1 tin of Carnation evaporated milk
1 packet of Maggi onion soup
1/2 tsp mustard powder or a pinch of cayenne
Chopped parsley - as much or as little as you like 
Mix together and let sit overnight
2 loaves of sandwich cut bread - ideally, the bread is lightly grained which will roll easily.
Alex with the cheese roll mix watching Kerry do the spread of cheese
Next day cut the left and right sides of bread to assist with rolling.  The cheese mix should be the consistency of porridge - add fresh milk if the mix is too stiff.  Place on an oven tray and butter each slice.  (In winter to make the rolling easier place a roasting dish of boiling water under the tray- this warms and melts the butter into the bread and makes rolling easier).   
Left and right sides of bread trimmed and then buttered
Next turn over the buttered side to face down on tray surface.

Alex turning the buttered bread face down on oven tray

Now, spread the cheese mix onto the centre of bread making sure you leave space around the edges of the bread to allow for spread of mix once melted.
Spreading the cheese mix
The next step is to roll up and store back in bags.   I recorded the action....

(If you cannot view the movie on making cheese rolls, I have included a link to the video on You Tube.)

Cook in a fan oven at 200C turning once to make sure each side browns.
The final turn of the rolls

They take approx 20 minutes to cook.

Kerry made the cheese rolls the day before we ate them and stored them in plastic bags in the fridge overnight. She also made some small packs to leave in the freezer for Alex to enjoy another day.  They do freeze really well and can be cooked from frozen but that will take slightly longer.

Anthropologist, Professor Helen Leach, from Otago University has investigated the cheese roll and it's place in history.  Helen and her colleague found an amazing 140 cheese roll recipe references in Southern community cookbooks dating from the 1930's to the 1990's. I discovered 3 different recipes in a St Peters College, Gore, recipe book from the 1970's.

I remember in the 60's and 70's every cafe in the South offered cheese rolls.  The original recipe was a pre-cooked cheese filling but the recipe we use is as Helen Leach calls it the "convenience food" recipe  where the cheese mix sits for a day and then spread onto the waiting bread.   This was the recipe I also followed when making hundreds of cheese rolls as a school fundraiser in the 90's - there are still plenty of  southern parents making cheese rolls as a dependable fundraiser.

What separates the fundraiser cheese rolls from my Mum's is the quality of cheese and the addition of some grain in the bread.   The real secret is to make sure the rolls are buttered before rolling rather than buttering after cooking.

The cheese roll is only found in the South Island, and is held with affection by Southerners.   The cheese roll has never migrated north - I wonder why not?