NIK PICKS AND CHILL

These two recipes are from fel­low food writer Nik Sharma, who knows that the fridge can also be a “cook­ing” tool.

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - FOOD, SAM MANNERING -

NIK’S TEA AND CO­RIAN­DER GRAVLAX 1 tbsp co­rian­der seeds, toasted

Alot of what I do seems to in­volve an al­most stalker-ish level of in­ter­est in fel­low food writ­ers around the world.

I hold a lot of im­por­tance in and love to see what is go­ing on else­where; you’ll of­ten hear me gush­ing about the Nigel Slaters and the Fer­gus Hen­der­sons; lamented greats AA Gill and (of course) Bour­dain; and other lovelies such as Rosie Sykes, Felic­ity Cloake, Felic­ity Spec­tor (why are so many food writ­ers called Felic­ity?), and Diana Henry, to name a few. One of my ab­so­lute favourite favourites is Nik Sharma. A boy from Mum­bai, In­dia, who worked his butt off to get a col­lege schol­ar­ship in the US, be­came a molec­u­lar ge­neti­cist and then, against all ad­vice, turned his back on a lu­cra­tive ca­reer in med­i­cal re­search to be­come a food writer and pho­tog­ra­pher. He be­gan a blog, A Brown

1 tbsp Pernod or vodka

Ta­ble, and, in his own words, he went for risk over pre­dictabil­ity and cre­ativ­ity over sta­bil­ity. In our line of work, this is a dif­fi­cult bal­ance; you want to in­spire with­out be­ing in­tim­i­dat­ing, to of­fer up some­thing that is dif­fer­ent yet ac­ces­si­ble. And boy, does he nail it. He’s the weekly colum­nist in the San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle, and his food… well. Beau­ti­ful, fresh, gen­er­ous, awe-in­spir­ing stuff that is, above all else, em­a­nat­ing the sort of warmth and love that is rare in jour­nal­ism nowa­days.

As I write this, I’m pre­par­ing to host him here in Auck­land. This is a big deal for me. Keep an eye out for his book, Sea­son. It’s pretty lovely. These two recipes come from him, with love. It’s my sort of food.

This is by far one of the best takes on gravlax I’ve ever eaten. The flavour of the tea is sen­sa­tional, but mix it up a bit if you fancy – lap­sang sou­chong will give you a smok­ier end re­sult, if you’re into that. I wouldn’t rec­om­mend wash­ing the cure off en­tirely when you go to serve it; just gen­tly scrape as much of it as you can – you want a bit of the residue there for flavour and vis­ual ef­fect.

Serve by cut­ting into pa­per-thin slices – you may want to fold into the cu­cum­ber salad for a cool­ing lunch dish; or serve on toasted sour­dough with a bit of red onion and a dab of aioli or horse­rad­ish sauce.

Prep time: 15 mins Cur­ing time: 1-2 days Serves: 4

2½ tbsp Dar­jeel­ing tea leaves

1 tbsp black pep­per­corns

90g coarse Hi­malayan pink salt

1 tbsp brown su­gar

Zest of 1 lemon

450g fresh salmon fil­let, boned, skin on

In a mor­tar and pes­tle or food pro­ces­sor, com­bine the tea, pep­per­corns and co­rian­der seeds and grind up or process un­til you have a coarse pow­der. Mix in the salt, su­gar and lemon zest.

Lay out a large sheet of tin foil and place the salmon skin­side-down on top of it. Driz­zle over the Pernod or vodka, then spread the salt mix over the top, mak­ing sure the fish is cov­ered en­tirely. Wrap the foil tightly around

ev­ery­thing into a firm lit­tle par­cel, then place in a dish with sides, weigh down with a few cans or a bot­tle of wine, and pop in the fridge to cure for 36-48 hours, mov­ing the fish once or twice to re­dis­tribute the cur­ing mix­ture. The salmon will be a lit­tle firm to the touch once cured. To serve, scrape off the cur­ing mix­ture (your hands are best for this), and slice at a 45-de­gree an­gle. This will keep in the fridge for a cou­ple of days.

This is a nod back to Nik’s child­hood in In­dia, where cu­cum­ber sea­soned with salt, dried chilli flakes and a squeeze of lime is a pop­u­lar snack in the op­pres­sive sum­mer heat. As well as be­ing quite de­li­cious along­side the gravlax, I would fancy this as a cool­ing ac­com­pa­ni­ment to a hot curry, or some grilled lamb, chicken or fish, with a splash of yo­ghurt on the side. This will re­spond well to be­ing made and re­frig­er­ated an hour or so in ad­vance be­fore serv­ing, so the flavours can get to know one an­other prop­erly.

SALAD OF CU­CUM­BER, CUMIN AND LIME

Prep time: 20 mins Cook time: 2 mins Serves: 4 as a side dish

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 large tele­graph cu­cum­ber, peeled and diced

1 or 2 green chill­ies, to taste, finely sliced

Hand­ful of mint leaves

Sea salt and pep­per, to taste Zest and juice of 1 lime

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