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.