SNACK O’CLOCK

It’s a hot day and you have sur­prise guests, ev­ery­one is peck­ish and din­ner is hours away. In the se­cond of his reg­u­lar monthly col­umns from the Coro­man­del, Simon Wright shares a range of de­li­cious sum­mery nib­bles that put chips and dip to shame.

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - SIMON WRIGHT -

Happy 2019 ev­ery­one.

I just love this time of year. Now that all the pres­sures of Christ­mas are over, it’s time to re­lax, en­joy the weather, catch up with friends and, of course, en­joy great food.

I’m also – fi­nally – com­ing to grips with my new way of life. I don’t ex­pect you to feel sorry for me for one se­cond, but when we first sold The French Cafe and moved from Auck­land to the Coro­man­del, I strug­gled with my greatly de­creased work­load. Ridicu­lous,

I know, but I just felt guilty.

I think the change of life was so ex­treme that it was hard to adapt, though that feel­ing has changed and now I’m fully com­mit­ted to my new en­vi­ron­ment. It’s the lit­tle dif­fer­ences that I no­tice the most, like only be­ing five min­utes from any­where, not hav­ing to wait for ages at traf­fic lights (well ac­tu­ally there is no traf­fic), the fact that I can walk my dog off the leash for miles in one di­rec­tion rather than go­ing around in cir­cles in a fenced-off dog park. I have time to do the things I want to do, at my own pace with­out rush­ing, and I love that we eat from our gar­den. I was so late put­ting our vege gar­dens down that we de­cided to plant quick-grow­ing foods – let­tuce, rocket, kale, spinach, toma­toes, beet­root, beans, peas (which are not quite ready yet), and loads of herbs – so we could reap the ben­e­fits quickly.

But, re­ally, the one thing I love about be­ing here above all else is the com­mu­nity spirit. It’s some­thing I’m not used to – I’m from Lon­don orig­i­nally – but liv­ing in a small, close-knit place gives you a won­der­ful sense of be­long­ing. I love the be­lief that if you have too much of some­thing that you grow or have ac­cess to, you share, and in the short time we’ve lived here a wide va­ri­ety of lo­cal pro­duce has been ar­riv­ing as gifts on our doorstep. We have had freshly caught

These crispy spiced prawns are an ab­so­lute crowd-pleaser, easy to make and per­fect as a pre-din­ner snack. Be warned though, make more than you need as they are ad­dic­tive.

I al­ways dou­ble the spice quan­ti­ties, so it’s on hand when I need it to save time. You can also use squid, pieces of fish or scampi, which is my favourite, and thickly cut cour­gettes make a great veg­e­tar­ian al­ter­na­tive.

Firstly, pre heat your oven to 170C.

For the spice mix, place 1 tbsp of sichuan pep­per­corns,½ cin­na­mon stick, ½ tbsp dried chilli flakes or more if you want it with a real kick, 5 whole cloves,6 black pep­per­corns and 2 star anise into an oven­proof fry­ing pan and heat in the oven for 5 min­utes or un­til the spices be­come slightly toasted. This will help freshen them and make them more pun­gent. Al­low the spices to cool, then grind them into a fine pow­der. Once ground, store the spice mix in an air­tight con­tainer un­til re­quired.

Now for the prawns. I like to al­low about 3 prawns per per­son for a snack and I find a medium-size prawn works best for this recipe. De­frost, peel and de­vein your prawns, leav­ing the tails on. Place peeled prawns into a bowl and cover with milk.

Place 2 cups of corn­flour into a large bowl so it’s ready when you are.

For the dress­ing, finely chop 1 spring onion,

a green chilli,a red chilli and 1clove of gar­lic and fry in a lit­tle oil over a mod­er­ate heat to soften. Keep warm.

Heat about 3 litres of oil in a small deep fryer or large heavy-based saucepan to 180C and you’re ready to go.

Work­ing quickly, take a few prawns from the milk, place them into the corn­flour and toss them around us­ing your fin­gers un­til they are well coated in flour. Shake off any ex­cess flour from the prawns, then drop the prawns into the fryer and cook for 1 minute or un­til crispy. Just cook a few prawns at a time, as cook­ing too many at once will drop the fryer tem­per­a­ture, re­sult­ing in soggy prawns. Drain the prawns on ab­sorbent pa­per, sea­son gen­er­ously with the spice mix, sprin­kle with sea salt crush­ing it through your fin­gers as you do so and spoon some of the warm dress­ing over the prawns. Serve im­me­di­ately with lime wedges on the side.

VEG­ETABLE PAKORA

An­other snack I’ve been mak­ing a lot lately is veg­etable pakora. I ab­so­lutely love In­dian snack food and these spicy frit­ters packed full of veges are de­li­cious, es­pe­cially when dipped into slightly sweet­ened minted yo­ghurt or home­made ka­sundi. I’ll prom­ise to give you the ka­sundi recipe an­other time. All you need to do is make sure you have some chick­pea flour (also known as gram flour or be­san) on hand, some In­dian spices and a few veges and they are ready in min­utes.

I gen­er­ally place 2 cups chick­pea flour into a large bowl, add one onion peeled, cut in half and finely sliced, ½ cup cooked diced pota­toes, a small hand­ful of green beans finely sliced, a large cour­gette coarsely grated, a green chilli finely sliced, 2 spring onions finely sliced, 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp each of cumin seeds, fen­nel seeds, co­rian­der seeds, 1 tsp bak­ing pow­der, a large hand­ful of fresh co­rian­der roughly chopped, a pinch of dried chilli flakes, a few fresh curry leaves, sea salt, and black pep­per. Mixed it all to­gether gently, then add enough cold wa­ter to form a smooth bat­ter.

Now make the minted yo­ghurt. Place 200ml thick creamy yo­ghurt into a blender, add 1 tbsp runny honey and a large hand­ful of roughly chopped fresh mint and blend all to­gether for about a minute or un­til all the mint has com­pletely blended into the yo­ghurt and turned it green. Re­frig­er­ate un­til re­quired.

To cook the pakora you can ei­ther pan fry or deep fry, de­pend­ing on what you pre­fer. Pan fry­ing will give you more of a sweet­corn frit­ter tex­ture and deep fry­ing will give you

a crunchier coat­ing. Ei­ther way, cook the pakora a few at a time for about 1 minute on each side or un­til golden. To give you a nice bite-size pakora, use a ta­ble­spoon as a mea­sure. Then re­move the cooked pakora onto ab­sorbent pa­per and keep warm while you are cook­ing the re­main­ing mix.

BEET­ROOT CRISPS WITH SMOKED FISH AND CREME FRAICHE

For some­thing sim­ple, how about crispy beet­root and smoked fish sand­wiches?

You can use any smoked fish you like for this recipe, from ka­hawai to salmon, as they work equally as well. And feel free to re­place the beet­root with ku­mara or potato if beet­root is not your thing.

To make the beet­root crisps, scrub a medium-sized beet­root and thinly slice into rings us­ing a man­dolin. Dry the beet­root slices with some ab­sorbent pa­per, dust in a lit­tle corn­flour to help stop shrink­age while cook­ing and deep fry the beet­root slices at 170C un­til crisp. Drain the beet­root slices on ab­sorbent pa­per, sea­son with sea salt and keep warm. Flake about 200g smoked fish into a bowl, add 2 tbsp creme fraiche, juice of ½ lemon, 1 tbsp chopped chives, sea salt, freshly ground black pep­per and mix gently to­gether. To serve, top a beet­root crisp with a small spoonful of the smoked fish cream, place an­other beet­root crisp on top and top with an­other small spoon of the smoked fish cream. Dust the top a lit­tle smoked pa­prika and gar­nish with fresh herbs and flow­ers.

GRILLED CHICKEN AND SWEET­CORN SKEW­ERS

I have tried to be a bit tricky here and cre­ate an il­lu­sion with these skew­ers – on the sur­face they look like lit­tle grilled cobs of corn but are se­cretly hid­ing a juicy chicken cen­tre.

Yes, they are a lit­tle fid­dly to make but cer­tainly worth the ef­fort and your kids will love them. Don’t for­get to soak the wooden skew­ers for half an hour in cold wa­ter be­fore you cook them – this will stop the skew­ers from burn­ing.

To make the chicken farce, cut a large chicken breast into small pieces and place in a food pro­ces­sor. Add a big pinch of sea salt, pinch of cas­tor sugar, some freshly ground black pep­per and 1 tbsp of picked thyme leaves into a food pro­ces­sor and process to a rough paste. Add ½ beaten egg, 2 tbsp cream and con­tinue to process un­til all in­gre­di­ents are fully in­cor­po­rated, then re­frig­er­ate the mix­ture for 30 min­utes to firm up the tex­ture.

While the chicken farce is in the fridge, cook some fresh cobs of sweet­corn in boil­ing salted wa­ter, re­fresh in cold wa­ter, drain and re­move the ker­nels with a sharp knife. Place the sweet­corn ker­nels into a large bowl and keep to one side. Or, you can just cook off a bag of frozen sweet­corn ker­nels to make life sim­ple.

To make the skew­ers, take a large tea­spoon of chicken mix­ture and drop it into the sweet­corn ker­nels. Coat the chicken mix­ture with sweet­corn ker­nels and gently scoop up the mix­ture with your hands press­ing the ker­nels into the chicken so they stick and com­pletely coat. Place the sweet­corn mix­ture on a piece of plas­tic wrap and roll into an ob­long shape, twist­ing the ends as you do so. Re­peat un­til all the chicken mix­ture has been coated and re­frig­er­ate for 1 hour, or longer if need be, to set.

To cook the skew­ers, firstly light your bar­be­cue. Re­move the plas­tic wrap from the sweet­corn mix­ture and in­sert a wooden skewer into one end un­til it reaches about half way. Brush the sweet­corn skew­ers with a lit­tle oil, sea­son with sea salt and cook for about 5 min­utes on the bar­be­cue, turn­ing them ev­ery minute or so un­til golden brown. A good tip (as they are quite del­i­cate) is to make sure one side is com­pletely cooked be­fore turn­ing. I like to serve them brushed with some warm melted but­ter and freshly ground black pep­per as I would with fresh cobs of sweet­corn.

Cook time: 5 mins / Prep time: 15 mins

Olive oil

2 thick slices of de­cent sour­dough, cut into cubes

3 cloves of gar­lic, finely chopped

4 an­chovy fil­lets

1 egg yolk

1 tsp di­jon mus­tard Juice of half a lemon Black pep­per 2 large heads of cos let­tuce, sep­a­rated and washed

An un­rea­son­ably gen­er­ous amount of parme­san, grated or shaved 2 soft-boiled eggs, cooled Sea salt

Hand­ful of Viet­namese mint, roughly chopped Large hand­ful of bean sprouts 2 large heads of cos let­tuce, sep­a­rated and washed

Hand­ful of chopped roasted peanuts Chi­nese chilli paste, to taste

Simon Wright has been turn­ing his hand to spicy, crunchy, juicy nib­bles to ac­com­pany an af­ter­noon beer.

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