Cuisine - - NZ CAFES -

Af­ter al­most 20 years of writ­ing this col­umn, this is my fi­nal Quick Smart – it is time to pass the ba­ton on. One thing the pop­u­lar­ity of this col­umn has shown me is the high cal­i­bre of New Zealand cooks – there are many peo­ple out there who sim­ply re­quire a lit­tle in­spi­ra­tion for what to make; the ac­tual cooking isn’t a prob­lem. And the pos­i­tive feed­back has also con­firmed for me that most home cooks are above all look­ing for sim­ple but in­ter­est­ing ideas for din­ner. Re­search has proven that so­ci­eties that cook proper meals at home gen­er­ally have bet­ter health – if I have done any­thing to help with this in the past two decades, I’m pleased.

Au­tumn is a tra­di­tion­ally a great time of the year for cooks ev­ery­where as there is plenty of good pro­duce about. There are still egg­plant around and I can’t go past my de­fault egg­plant recipe, taught to me by the daugh­ter of a friend. Pieces of chicken on the bone go in a roast­ing dish with lots of diced whole pre­served lemon, chunks of egg­plant and peeled Agria pota­toes, chopped gar­lic, black olives and fresh mar­jo­ram. Ev­ery­thing gets tossed in a lit­tle ex­tra vir­gin olive oil then roasted at 200°C for 45 min­utes to an hour. Served with a rocket salad, it is a huge favourite in our house. I have also been play­ing around with South East Asian-in­spired sal­ads. Diced fresh pineap­ple tossed with palm sugar, sliced red chillies, a big pinch of salt, very thinly sliced kaffir lime leaves, lime zest and juice, a sprin­kling of Fresh As freeze-dried ly­chees and co­conut cream on the side is a win­ner, par­tic­u­larly when paired with a crumbly almond cake.

As al­ways, my hope is that the fol­low­ing ideas will pro­vide in­spi­ra­tion. It doesn’t mat­ter what a dish looks like, so long as you use “real” in­gre­di­ents and you like the way it tastes. Cooking, as Nigella Law­son once wisely wrote, is an ex­po­nen­tial dis­ci­pline – not only do you get bet­ter the more you cook, but the more you cook, the faster you get bet­ter.

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