Pan-fried Gurnard with Garlic & Chilli Dressing

gurnard 30 Nov 2013bThis is my (very slight) adaption of a very simple, but delicious recipe from Claudia Roden’s excellent book The Food of Spain, A Celebration (Penguin/Michael Joseph 2012). This book is packed with straight forward achievable recipes for the home cook.

Gurnard fillets with skin on are often available from Tangaroa Seafoods (Tangaroa St, Ahuriri, Napier), but other fish fillets with skin on such as snapper or groper can also be used. Leaving the skin on fish fillets and cooking in this way results in fish with moist flesh and a wonderful crisp skin – the skin can be eaten and is delicious.

If you have a fisherman (or woman) in the family ask them to leave the skin on the filleted fish – just make sure that the fish is well cleaned (scaled) before filleting. Usually fillets with skin on also have bones, so warn those that you are feeding. The bones can easily be removed using tweezers – special fish tweezers are available, are inexpensive and worth investing in if you do a lot of fish preparation.

In New Zealand much of our fish tends to be sold filleted with skin removed, however, this is not the case in many other countries. In many cultures filleted, skinless fish is seen as a way to disguise fish that is past its best – this is not the case here, but I do find it
disappointing that it seems to be what many New Zealanders expect. Having lived in Sydney for 20 years where we shopped regularly at the Sydney Fish Markets it took me a while to readjust to only been occasionally able to buy un-skinned fish fillets and to not having the range of whole fish available that I was used to.

Pan-fried Gurnard with Garlic & Chilli Dressing

While this recipe is for two, it is so simple that it can easily be scaled up to serve whatever number are at your dinner table.

Serves 2

2 gurnard fillets, skin on
sea salt
olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 fresh red chilli, seeded (optional), thinly sliced or pinch dried chilli flakes
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

1          Season fish on both sides with freshly ground salt. Heat a cast-iron frying pan over a high heat, until very hot. Add 1 tbsp olive oil, then add fish skin side down and cook for 2-3 minutes or until skin is brown and crisp. Turn fish over, cover pan with lid slightly askew and cook for 2-3 minutes longer or until fish just starts to flake. Remove fish from pan and place on a warm plate, cover and let rest for 3-4 minutes.
2          Meanwhile, place 3 tbsp olive oil, garlic and chilli in a small saucepan, place over a low heat and heat until garlic is lightly golden – take care not to let the garlic brown or it will be bitter. Remove pan from heat and stir in vinegar and parsley.
3          Pour dressing over hot fish and serve immediately.

The Food of Spain is still in print and should you wish to find out how to get a copy of it contact Beattie & Forbes Booksellers at 70 Tennyson St, Napier or phone (06) 835 8968.

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Lunch at Church Road

It’s been several years since there was a restaurant at Church Road Winery and now for the summer Church Road Winery and Dish Catering have partnered to once again offer a lunch restaurant at this much loved venue.

The concept is innovative and interesting and is based around sharing plates – just perfect for lunch and for those that want to taste more than one or two dishes on the menu – yes that’s me!

The menu recommends two sharing plates per person together with a selection of dishes to begin and conclude. We found that one shared dish to start, two shared plates and two shared side dishes more than satisfied us.

So what did we eat? To start we choose the bruschetta ($7) with basil, vine tomato &
pesto, this simple but perfectly presented dish was exactly what a starter should be light and appetite wetting – the bread was lightly toasted, the tomato perfectly ripe and the basil and pesto fragrant. There is also an option of baccala (creamy whipped salt cod), but unfortunately this was unavailable on the day we were there.

For our sharing plates it was twice-cooked pork belly, hoisin sauce, pickled vegetables & coriander in crispy pancakes ($16.95) – the pork belly was melt-in-the-mouth tender and succulent. The crispy pancake was wrapped around the pork and other ingredients and skewered with a bamboo toothpick to hold it all together. Our other choose was seared
yellowfin tuna with fennel & apple, spring pea, herb dressing & preserved lemon aioli ($19.95), this was a pretty dish with fresh clean flavours.

For our sides it was chorizo polenta chips with beetroot, roast garlic mayonnaise ($7.95) – five bite-sized fried polenta batons each on a skewer making for easy dipping into the
delicious mayonnaise and even easier eating – I was sorry I had to share these with my dining partner! Our other side, which was also excellent, asparagus, soft boiled egg with black pepper mayonnaise & spice sprinkle ($9.95) consisted of a generous serve of
asparagus accompanied by a perfectly cooked soft-boiled egg with just the right amount of mayonnaise.

To finish I could not resist the old fashioned coconut ice ($4.50) which sits under a glass dome on the counter looking tempting and delicious and like the perfect accompaniment to an espresso (short black) coffee ($3) – which it was. There are other sweet treats – French nougat and Turkish delight – as well a selection of desserts.

A friend of mine who has also eaten here recommends the beef carpaccio, goat’s cheese pannacotta, crispy capers, drunken mushrooms & rocket leaves (17.95) and the crispy
calamari, Vietnamese salad, creamy coconut sauce & seaweed sprinkle ($18.95).

The wine and beverage list has many wines by the glass all priced between $7 and $11 and as you would expect most are from the Church Road cellar. Each sharing plate also has one or two wine pairing suggestions.

With its relaxed atmosphere and friendly, knowledgeable and helpful staff I can see this
becoming a popular lunch destination for locals and tourists alike and know that we will be taking visitors there over summer.

My recommendation would be to go with a largish group of people so you taste as many dishes as possible!

Church Road Cellar Door & Restaurant
150 Church Rd, Taradale
Open: 7 days, 11am to 3pm

Origin Earth Factory Shop

logoFor those who didn’t get to the Farmers’ Market on Sunday to get their Origin Earth yoghurt or cheese there is now another option – the recently opened Origin Earth Factory Shop at 393 Te Mata Rd.

The shop has the full range of Origin Earth products including their milk – this however is now readily available at supermarkets around Hawke’s Bay – look for it in New World and Pak ‘n’ Sav
supermarkets and at selected retailers.

To find the Origin Earth Factory and Shop head out of Havelock North as if going to Waimarama – the Origin Earth Factory and Shop is housed in the old Te Mata Cheese Factory, you will see signs
directing you to the shop which is down the drive at the back of the factory. The shop is light and airy with easy parking right at the door and while it is early days I am told there are interesting plans a foot – so I think I will visit again in a few months, but at least for now I know where to get my OE yoghurt and cheese during the week.

Origin Earth Cheesy Potatoes

Serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil
2 large potatoes, scrubbed and diced
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
½ round Origin Earth Camembert Cheese, diced
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1              Preheat oven to 220C.
2              Heat olive oil in a frying pan over a high heat. Add potatoes and sauté for 5 minutes or until starting to soften.
3              Add rosemary, garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes longer or until potatoes are tender and golden.
4              Transfer potato mixture to an ovenproof dish. Scatter with camembert cheese and bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden and bubbling.
5              Serve immediately scattered with parsley.

Warm Pumpkin & Feta Salad

Serves 2 as a vegetarian main course or 4 as a side dish

1kg pumpkin, peeled and chopped into 2cm cubes
olive oil
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 bunch spinach, roughly shredded
¼ cup chopped parsley
160g tub Origin Earth Feta Cheese in Brine, drained and chopped into cubes

1              Preheat oven to 220C.
2              Toss pumpkin in a little olive oil and roast for 20-25 minutes or until pumpkin is soft and golden.
3              Meanwhile, combine red onion, garlic and balsamic vinegar and set aside to macerate while pumpkin is cooking.
4              Turn off oven. Add spinach to pumpkin and toss to combine, return to oven for 5 minutes to wilt spinach.
5              Remove pan from oven, add onion mixture, parsley and half the feta cheese and toss to combine.
6              Serve warm or at room temperature scattered with remaining feta cheese.

Origin Earth Factory Shop
393 Te Mata Rd, Havelock North
Open: Monday to Saturday 11am to 4pm
Visit the Origin Earth website.

Recipes by Rachel Blackmore

Spring Salad of Hot Smoked Salmon & Asparagus

hotsmokedsalmonThere are two methods of smoking, hot and cold. Hot smoking is basically cooking food over smoke and is the method used by most home smokers. Cold smoking is a specialised process.

Salmon is available hot or cold smoked, as the title of this recipe indicates hot smoked salmon is used here. Look for hot smoked salmon at Tangaroa Seafoods (Tangaroa St, Ahuriri, Napier); Hawke’s Bay Seafoods (Corner Pandora Rd & Ahuriri Quay, Ahuriri, Napier, Heretaunga St West, Hastings and Hastings Farmers’ Market every Sunday); The Smoke Hut (Napier Urban Food Market every Saturday and Hastings Farmers’ Market every
Sunday); and from supermarkets.

Five Easy Ways to Use Smoked Salmon

  • Scrambled Eggs and Smoked Salmon: My favourite Christmas Day breakfast, I usually use cold smoked salmon but have also used hot smoked salmon – both are delicious, the presentation is just a little different. When using cold smoked salmon drape the slices across the top of the scrambled eggs and when using hot smoked salmon, remove skin and bones, then flake and scatter across the top of the eggs.
  • Creamy Smoked Salmon and Herb Pasta: Toss flaked hot smoked salmon, herbs of your choice – a combination of dill, parsley and chives works well – and cooking cream through hot cooked pasta of your choice.
  • Smoked Salmon Pate: Skin, bone and flake hot smoked salmon, place in a food processor with cream cheese, lemon juice and dill and blend. Transfer to a serving bowl and accompany with crackers.
  • Smoked Salmon Kedgree: Use hot smoked salmon in your favourite kedgree recipe.
  • Smoked Salmon Crostini: Thinly slice a baguette and toast. Spread toasts with a little cream cheese, then top with slices of cold smoked salmon, thin slices of red onion and capers. Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing.

Spring Salad of Hot Smoked Salmon & Asparagus

Substantial enough as a meal in its own right this pretty salad looks and tastes like spring.  

Serves 4

2 medium potatoes, scrubbed
1 bunch asparagus, tough ends broken off
1 bag mixed salad leaves
½ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
½ cup mint leaves, coarsely shredded
2-3 large radishes, thinly sliced
300g hot smoked salmon, skin and bones removed
4 green onions, chopped
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
½ cup olive oil
juice 1 lemon

1              To make dressing, place mustard, olive oil and lemon juice in a small bowl and whisk to combine.

2              Place potatoes in a saucepan of cold water, cover and bring to the boil. Remove lid from saucepan, add salt to taste and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are just cooked – take care not to overcook. Drain potatoes and set aside to cool.

3              Bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil, add asparagus and cook for 3-4 minutes or until just tender. Drain, refresh under cold running water to stop cooking, drain again and set aside to cool completely.

4              Cut cooled potatoes into large chunks. Place potatoes, salad leaves, parsley leaves, mint and radish slices in a bowl, drizzle with about half the dressing and toss to combine. Place salad mixture on a serving platter and top with asparagus.

5              Break salmon into chunks and scatter over top of salad, then top with spring onions and finally drizzle with remaining dressing. Serve immediately.

For more information about asparagus refer to previous post Asparagus – A Spring Treat.

Happy cooking and eating.

Recipe by Rachel Blackmore

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Asparagus, Leek & Herb Soup

asparagus soupThis fresh spring soup makes a great first course for a dinner party of serve it with crusty bread for a spring lunch. The soup has a creamy texture which is achieved by pureeing the vegetables and
including potatoes to thicken and help with the texture – so while this soup might look as if it contains cream it is in fact packed with vegetables and very healthy. I seldom use cream in soups but prefer to include a root vegetable in the mixture then puree the cooked vegetables to achieve a creamy consistency that is healthy and fresh tasting.

Chervil is a vivid green herb with soft feathery leaves, it looks
somewhat similar to parsley, but is more delicate and has a mild
aniseed, peppery flavour. It is not that readily available, but now is the time of year when you might see it in specialty stores or at your local Farmers’ Market.

For more information about asparagus, refer to yesterday’s post.

Asparagus, Leek & Herb Soup

Serves 8 as a first course or 4 as a light meal with crusty bread

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 leeks, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
500g potatoes, peeled and diced
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock or combination of stock and water
500g fresh asparagus, cut into 1cm pieces – reserve tips for garnish
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
2 tbsp chopped chives
2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tsp chopped chervil (if available)
1 tbsp lemon or lime juice, or to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1          Place oil and leeks in a saucepan over a medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, for 5-10 minutes or until leeks are very soft but not brown. Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute longer.

2          Add potatoes and stock, bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

3          Meanwhile, blanch asparagus tips for 2-3 minutes or until they just change colour and are tender. Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.

4          Bring the saucepan with the potatoes back to the boil, add
asparagus pieces and peas and simmer for 5 minutes or until
asparagus is tender. Remove pan from heat, stir in chives, parsley and chervil, if using. Carefully transfer mixture to a blender and
process until smooth.

5          Return soup to a clean saucepan, bring to simmering, then stir in lemon juice and season to taste with salt and black pepper.

6          Serve garnished with blanched asparagus tips.

Do Ahead: Soup can be made to the end of Step 4 the day before serving. Store in a
covered container in the refrigerator.

Happy cooking and eating.

Recipe by Rachel Blackmore

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Asparagus – A Spring Treat


Here in Hawke’s Bay it is well into the asparagus season, in fact
before we know it the season will be finished – for some this is about the time they are starting to look for different ways to serve this spring treat, so this week I am having an asparagus festival (or is that feast!).

Starting today with hints and tips for selecting, storing and
preparing asparagus with a few easy ideas for using it, then over the next few days some great asparagus recipes.

It is believed that asparagus has been eaten for at least 20,000 years. It is depicted on an Egyptian frieze dating to 3000BC. Thought to be native to the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor, it has since ancient times been known in Syria, Spain, Greece, Italy and Egypt as well as throughout much of Europe.

In New Zealand we mainly grow green asparagus, but there are also white and purple varieties available. White asparagus is popular in Europe where it is often called “white gold” or “edible ivory”. Here, in New Zealand, we usually see white asparagus as a canned

Selecting, Storing & Preparing Asparagus

  • Look for green spears which are smooth with closed unblemished dark green tips. Avoid spears which have woody, brown bases, yellowing stalks or tips which are open.
  • Store stalks in the refrigerator, upright in a jug of water.
  • Wash to remove any dirt or grit that might be clinging to the spears, then holding the base of the stalk in both hands, snap it. The woody ends can be saved to make stock or soup.
  • To cook asparagus, tie bundles of asparagus together with string. Bring a deep saucepan of water to the boil add salt to taste, place the bundles upright in the saucepan and cook for 4-6 minutes or until asparagus is tender. Standing the asparagus upright to cook ensures the tender tips do not overcook. Asparagus cookers/
    saucepans are also available, these are tall, narrow saucepans with a wire basket which means the asparagus stands upright without having to be tied into bundles.

Easy Ways to Use Asparagus

  • Braised Asparagus, Broad Beans and Pancetta: Cook 1 diced onion with ½ cup diced pancetta in olive oil for 5 minutes or until onion is soft. Add sliced asparagus, broad beans and chicken stock and braise over medium heat until vegetables are just cooked.
  • Barbecued Asparagus with Balsamic & Mustard Dressing: Toss prepared asparagus in olive and cook on a preheated barbecue plate, turning frequently, for 3-5 minutes or until asparagus is cooked. Place on a warm serving platter. Combine 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 2 tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp grainy mustard and pour over warm asparagus. Toss to coat. Scatter with Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.
  • Fresh Asparagus Rolls: Prepare and cook asparagus as described above. Lightly spread wholemeal or white sandwich slice bread with lemon and parsley butter. Trim off crusts, then lay an asparagus spear diagonally across each slice of bread with tip protruding and roll up.
  • Asparagus with Mayonnaise: Serve warm asparagus spears with a good quality (preferably homemade) mayonnaise for a simple start to a dinner or as an easy lunch dish.
  • Asparagus with Poached Eggs & Hollandaise: A vegetarian version of Eggs Benedict, use asparagus instead of ham or smoked salmon. Top a slice of toasted sourdough or ciabatta with a poached egg, accompany with steamed asparagus, drizzle with hollandaise sauce and scatter with snipped chives. A great spring bunch or lunch.

Happy cooking and eating.

Information and recipes by Rachel Blackmore

Pork Chops with Apple & Onion Sauce

edgebrookI have made this recipe a number of times over the last six months and most recently just the other night when I had my brother for dinner before he moved to Gisborne. It is a dish that I find easy enough for a family week night meal but special enough for an easy dinner when there are guests.

When I made it the other night I used cider in the sauce which seemed to enhance the apple flavour and take dish to another level – it is good made with wine or beer but with cider it is exceptional. It may, of course, have been the cider which came from Edgebrook Cider – I used their Festive Cider which as I was using Granny Smith apples was probably a good choice. Edgebook Festive Cider is a blend of eight varieties of Hawke’s Bay grown apples with predominant cultivars being Barebrun, Fuji, Pacific Rose and Granny Smith. It is also a great drinking cider that is crisp and refreshing – perfect for summer drinking. Edgebrook Cider is a relatively new comer to the Hawke’s Bay cider market and currently has two cider blends Festive and Village with a third, Orchard, not far away. Edgebrook Cider can currently be found at the Hastings Farmers’ Market and selected New World supermarkets.

Pork Chops with Apple & Onion Sauce

The  Apple & Onion Sauce freezes well so even if not cooking for six, make the full quantity and freeze any leftovers to use to jazz up grilled pork chops or sausages at another time.

Serves 6

6 pork loin chops, mediallions or loin steaks
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
30g butter
3 apples, cored and sliced
2 large onions, sliced
1 cup white wine, beer, cider or chicken stock

1              Season chops with salt and pepper on both sides.
2              Heat a heavy-based frying pan over a high heat. Add a little olive oil and chops and cook for 4-5 minutes each side. Remove chops from pan and keep warm.
3              To make sauce, add butter to the pan, then add apples and onions and cook,
tossing frequently, for 8-10 minutes or until onion is lightly caramelized and apples start to soften. Stir in the wine, beer, cider  or stock.
4              Push chops into apple/onion mixture, cover and cook, for 10-15 minutes or until pork is tender and cooked to your liking. Serve the chops topped with Apple & Onion Sauce, accompanied by mashed potatoes and a steamed green vegetable of your choice.

Open Sausage Sandwich
This is a great way to use up leftover sausages and leftover Apple & Onion Sauce.
Serves 2
2 slices bread of your choice, toasted
lettuce leaves
2 cooked pork sausages, split lengthwise
leftover Apple & Onion Sauce, warmed
Top each slice of toast with lettuce leaves, then one sausage and finally spoon over sauce. Serve immediately.

For more information about Edgebrook Cider visit their website.

Happy cooking and eating

Recipes by Rachel Blackmore

Fusion Feasts

PeterGordonDid you catch this new show last night on TV3? It was the first show hosted by international chef Peter Gordon and it showcased our beautiful Hawke’s Bay! This looks as if it is going to be an interesting series which if last night’s show is anything to go by is going to show Aotearoa as no other show has done – from the kitchens of marae around the country.

Last night’s show featured Mihiroa Marae at Pakipaki and included wonderful scenery of Hawke’s Bay including our spectacular Waimarama. In last night’s show Peter collected and cooked paua, eel and peaches and the completed dishes confirmed why Peter is “king of fusion cuisine”.

On the TV3 website the show is described as follows “In each
episode of Fusion Feasts, Peter’s the guest chef of a different iwi;
together they’re tasked with pulling off a Māori inspired Fusion Feast that reflects the unique identity of its hosts.

In this series of 8 half hour shows, Peter Gordon bridges Māori
storytelling with mainstream New Zealand television programming through the universal pleasure and popularity of food – and one man’s curiosity to make a connection with what it means to be Māori.”

If you missed the show last night Watch OnDemand here and be inspired. I know where I am going to be for the next seven Saturday nights at 7pm.

Happy Cooking and Eating.


Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Markets


A look in the fridge tells me that I need to stock up on fresh fruit and veg and what better place to do that than at one on the Farmers’ Markets held every weekend here in the Bay. Now the decision is do I need supplies today or can it wait until tomorrow? Either way there is a Farmers’ Market held on Saturday in Napier and then tomorrow there’s the well-known market held at the A&P Showgrounds .

There are lots of good reasons to shop at Farmers’ Markets and these are what I think are six most important:

1. You Get to Know the Farmer, Grower or Producer
When you shop at a Farmers’ Market you have the opportunity to get to know the farmer, grower or producer – so introduce yourself and start developing a relationship with the people behind the stall and very soon, in many cases, you will find that you are getting the inside information about when produce is coming into season and what’s best this week on their stall.

The farmer, grower or producer is the expert on what they sell and if you ask they will tell you how to cook or use their goods and often they will even give you recipes – you don’t get that sort of service in a supermarket!

2. You Eat Seasonally so You Save Money
Shopping at your local market regularly means you get to know what’s in season when and who has the best tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, herbs or whatever.

Buying produce in season saves money – when tomatoes, capsicums, zucchini, eggplant, strawberries or asparagus are in season they taste fantastic (because it is the right time of year to be eating them) and they are inexpensive (because they are plentiful).

Farmers’ Markets are seasonal that’s why you can’t get everything all year round and that’s why at certain times of the year there are more or less stalls in the markets. So don’t except to be able to buy strawberries in the middle of winter at your local Farmers’ Market.
Have you heard of the word “scorpacciata” – it means consuming large amounts of a particular local food while it’s in season – that’s how I tend to eat!

3. You Help Support the Local Economy and Businesses
Every stallholder in your Farmers’ Market is a local so by buying from them you are helping to keep money in your local community and helping to support local farmers, growers and businesses and that’s got to be good for everyone.

4. The Produce is Fresher
Food at your local Farmers’ Market is fresher because it has been grown locally and hasn’t had to travel great distances to get to you. In many cases eggs will have been laid in the last day or so, fruit and vegetables picked yesterday or the day before and in many cases early that morning – that’s why everything looks and tastes so good.

5. It Gives You the Opportunity to Teach Your Kids Where Their Food Comes From
If you have kids take them along with you when you go your Farmers’ Market and they will start to learn where their food comes from and how it is produced, plus it is also a great opportunity to start teaching them life skills such as how to shop for food and when you get home how to prepare and cook it.

6. It’s Fun
Most importantly shopping at your local Farmers’ Market is fun – you don’t expect to be able to get everything at one stall so you have a wander around and check out what looks good and buy what takes you fancy which means you end up with a fabulous basket or bag of wonderful produce. Plus on the way you are bound to meet other likeminded people and there are always lots of samples to taste.

Napier Urban Food Market – every Saturday, 9am to 10pm in Clive Square, Napier
Held every Saturday, this street market is a smaller version of the well-known Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market held every Sunday at the A&P Showgrounds, Hastings. With over 20 stalls this is great place to stock up on fresh Hawke’s Bay produce, artisan products such as bread, preserves, olive oil, honey, cheese, yogurt and more. To sustain you while you browse the stalls there is freshly brewed coffee and a selection of breakfast fare.

Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market – every Sunday, 8.30am to 12.30pm at the A&P Showgrounds, Kenilworth Rd, Hastings
As the oldest Farmers’ Market in New Zealand this is a must-do if you are in Hawke’s Bay on a Sunday. During the summer this market operates in the historic Waikoko Gardens with over 60 stalls selling a huge variety of Hawke’s Bay seasonal produce and artisan products. There’s also coffee, juices, smoothies, ice-cream and breakfast fare to keep you going while browsing the market.

I am still undecided which market I am going to shop at this weekend – so I think I will go to both!

Happy cooking and eating.

My Favourite Cookbook

EssentialItalianCookingA career spent working in food and publishing and a love for books has resulted in a collection of cook and food related books which more than fills a room in our house. I frequently sit in this room
researching or just reading these books for pleasure. This collection includes a few books which belonged to my mother and my
grandmother but most I have collected during my career.

From time to time I plan to dip into my library and tell you about one of the books that you could find there. At other times I will tell you about a recently published book which I have purchased and am enjoying cooking from.

My all-time favourite cookbook and one which I have cooked from more than any other that I own is Marcella Hazan’s The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking MacMillan London Ltd 1992. This book is not just a cookbook but also a great reference book for all things to do with Italian food and cooking. The publication of this book in 1992 was the combining of two books written almost 20 years earlier – The Classic Italian Cook Book and More Classic Italian Cooking. At the time these books were considered to be “the most authentic guide to Italian food ever written in the U.S”. It was with great sadness that learnt a few months ago that Marella Hazan had died at the age of 89 – Italian by birth Marcella did not come to cooking until she married her Italian American husband, Victor, and moved to New York in the 1950’s.

It is hard to choose my favourite recipe from this book but after much deliberation I have decided on the following fish recipe.

In the original recipe bluefish is used however choose whatever looks good in the fish shop on the day, I found that this recipe works best with a meaty fish such a bluenose, snapper, blue cod or blue moki.

Baked Fish Fillets with Potatoes, Garlic and Olive Oil, Genoese Style

In Genoese cooking, there is a large repertoire of dishes in which the lead role is taken each time by a different player, while the supporting cast
remains the same. The regulars are potatoes, garlic, olive oil and parsley, the star may be fish, shrimps, prawns, small octopus, meat or fresh
porcini mushrooms. The recipe that follows illustrates the general

In Genoa one would have used the freshly caught silvery anchovies of the Riveria. I have found the bluefish available on both sides of the Atlantic to be a successful replacement, so good in fact that one may even prefer it. Where bluefish is unobtainable, the fillets of any firm-fleshed fish may be substituted.

Serves 6

675g boiling potatoes
an oven-to-table dish approximately 40 x 25cm, preferably enamelled cast-iron ware
8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
freshly ground black pepper
6 thick firm fish fillets – approximately 150g each

1             Preheat the oven to 230°C.

2             Peel the potatoes and slice the very thinly, barely thicker than crisps. Wash them in cold water, then thoroughly pat them dry with a tea towel or kitchen paper.

3             Put all the potatoes into the baking dish, half the olive oil, half the garlic, have the parsley, several liberal pinches of salt and black pepper. Toss the potatoes 2 or 3 times to coat them well, then spread them evenly over the bottom of the dish.

4             Put the potatoes in the uppermost third of the preheated oven and cook them for 12-15 minutes, until they are half done.

5             Take out the dish but do not turn off the oven. Put the fish
fillets on the potatoes. Mix the remaining olive oil, garlic and parsley in a small bowl and pour the mixture over the fish, distributing it evenly. Sprinkle with liberal pinches of salt and black pepper. Return the dish to the oven.

6             After 10 minutes, take the dish out, but do not turn off the oven. Use a spoon to scoop up some of the oil at the bottom of the dish and baste the fish with it. Loosen the potatoes that have
become browned and are stuck to the sides of the dish, moving them away. Push into their place slices that are not so brown. Return the dish to the oven and bake for 5-8 more minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish fillets.

7             Allow to settle a few minutes after removing from the oven. Serve directly from the baking dish, scraping loose all the potatoes stuck to the sides – they are the most delectable bits – and pouring the cooking juices over each portion of fish and potatoes.

Reproduced from The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan with a few minor changes made by Rachel.

Rachel’s notes: I have reproduced this recipe pretty much as it appears in the book so it gives you an idea of how Marcella writes and why I love this book.

  • I have made this recipe numerous times and as mentioned above use the best fish available on the day.
  • I use a vegetable peeler to make the thin slices of potato.
  • I also tend to cook the potatoes in Step 4 for longer than Marcella and turn and
    loosen them several times before adding the fish – but as I do not have the dish
    Marcella recommends I use an ovenproof glass dish which does not get as hot as an enamelled cast-iron one. When I cook this recipe by the time the fish is added to the dish the potatoes are cooked and have the delectable browned bits that Marcella
    refers to Step 7.

This book is still in print and should you wish to find out how to get a copy of it contact Beattie & Forbes Booksellers at 70 Tennyson St, Napier or phone (06) 835 8968.

Cooking & Eating in Hawke's Bay, New Zealand