From com­plex to com­fort food

A new book of­fers an in­tro­duc­tion to the coun­try’s di­verse din­ing scene – and recipes to boot.

New Zealand Listener - - THIS LIFE -

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.



10g peeled, finely juli­enned gin­ger 300ml chicken stock

2 tsp fish sauce (or to taste)

4-5 drops sesame oil


2 eggs

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.


10 large whole scampi DRESS­ING

65ml wa­ter

65ml white vine­gar

65g sugar

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

and mi­cro­greens.

New Zealand Restau­rant Cook­book, edited by De­laney Mes (Pen­guin NZ, $50).

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