From complex to comfort food
A new book offers an introduction to the country’s diverse dining scene – and recipes to boot.
The New Zealand Restaurant Cookbook is not about the best places to eat. Rather, it is editor Delaney Mes’s personal selection of eateries, chosen for their cuisine, location and price range. Although she’s left out many favourites that most people would put high on their list, the book is useful for anyone looking for reliable places to dine near home or while travelling.
Mes profiles 50 contemporary restaurants around the country and includes a recipe or two from each. Although some are complex, others are for simple comfort food that could be served for family meals. Mes says most chefs offered seafood recipes, so she had to talk them into providing other dishes.
The results, all beautifully shot by Liz Clarkson (our regular Listener food photographer), are an interesting collection of contemporary cuisine, albeit with only one lamb recipe, no salmon and three broccoli salads.
The book also offers an introduction to the
country’s diverse dining scene, including a cool brewery (Smoko Room), family restaurants where the next generation are making their mark (Cazador, Ortega Fish Shack) and some sophisticated eateries (Roots, Bracken).
This first recipe, suitably seasonal, is from Christchurch’s popular King of Snake, which has a menu of shared plates that combines great produce with Asian flavours and an eclectic culinary style. Innovative cocktails, exotic décor and a casual atmosphere feature at this contemporary restaurant, as does this unusual take on the traditional whitebait omelette.
STIR-FRIED WHITEBAIT OMELETTE WITH OYSTER SAUCE AND GINGER
10g peeled, finely julienned ginger 300ml chicken stock
2 tsp fish sauce (or to taste)
4-5 drops sesame oil
100g fresh whitebait
1½ tbsp chopped coriander
2 tsp fish sauce vegetable oil, for cooking
1 tbsp oyster sauce sprigs of fresh coriander
For the broth, bring the ginger and stock to the boil in a small saucepan, then allow it to reduce by half. Add fish sauce to taste and a few drops of sesame oil.
For the omelette, whisk the eggs thoroughly, then fold in the whitebait, chopped coriander and fish sauce. Heat a frying pan to moderately high, then add enough oil to coat the bottom. Add the egg and whitebait mixture, spreading it evenly over the pan. The pan needs to be at a heat where it sets the underside of the omelette without burning or sticking. Once the top of the omelette is almost cooked, slide it onto a chopping board, then roll into a neat cigar shape and slice.
To serve, spoon the broth over the omelette, then finish with oyster sauce and a fresh coriander garnish. Serves 1.
Wine match: North Canterbury riesling. MES NOTES WELLINGTON has surprisingly few dedicated seafood restaurants for a port city, but that’s true for most of the country. She includes three specialist places in her book, all standouts for fish and shellfish: the legendary Fleurs Place in Moeraki, Fishbone in Queenstown and Wellington’s Ortega Fish Shack, owned and operated by the Limacher family. This recipe is from their kitchen. Scallops or salmon can be substituted for the scampi, which is mainly used in restaurant cuisine.
SCAMPI CEVICHE WITH AVOCADO, SALMON CAVIAR AND MICROGREENS
10 large whole scampi DRESSING
65ml white vinegar
95ml fish sauce
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp ginger, finely grated SCAMPI OIL
400ml grapeseed oil reserved scampi shells
5 cloves garlic, smashed with the
side of a knife 50g tomato paste
5 star anise
1 ripe avocado, halved and sliced lengthways 1 stick lemongrass, white only, finely sliced
50g Ora King salmon caviar
1 long red chilli, finely sliced
16 small Vietnamese mint leaves, micro shiso
(Japanese greens) and micro coriander crispy shallots (available in Asian specialist stores)
Remove the scampi heads, then use a sharp knife to cut lengthways through the middle of the tails. Remove the digestive tracts and discard. Remove the meat from the shells, then refrigerate. Reserve the heads and shells to make scampi oil.
Whisk all the dressing ingredients in a bowl until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
Put a saucepan over a medium heat and allow to warm, then add 100ml of grapeseed oil and the scampi shells – do not stir for 2 minutes, or the shells will not brown. After 2 minutes, stir and leave for 2 minutes, then add the garlic, tomato paste and star anise. Cook for 1 minute.
Add the remaining oil and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes, then remove from the heat and leave to stand for 20 minutes. Strain through a coffee filter, then refrigerate.
To serve, place 4-5 avocado slices down the centre of 4 bowls, then top with 5 pieces of evenly spaced scampi. Mix the sliced lemongrass with the dressing, then generously spoon over the scampi, followed by about 20ml of scampi oil per portion.
Arrange 3-4 teaspoons of caviar around each bowl, with slices of chilli, Vietnamese mint leaves, micro shiso and micro coriander. Finish with crispy shallots. Serves 4 as an entrée.
Wine match: pinot gris.
Stir-fried whitebait omelette with oyster sauce and ginger. Right,
scampi ceviche with avocado, salmon caviar
New Zealand Restaurant Cookbook, edited by Delaney Mes (Penguin NZ, $50).