STARS IN YOUR EYES

Summer entertaining made simple – good times are guaranteed with these special seasonal dishes from Ginny Grant.

Here's what I want for Christmas: the chance to gather outside of my bubble in any shape or form. Nothing else. Of course, being with others would be even more welcome if accompanied with a drink, a meal or a barbecue, especially the latter. When the sun is out, I want a languid timeframe. I don’t want to rush anywhere; I want to linger, to talk, to listen and to laugh with those who are nearest and dearest. And I want lots of these occasions lined up so we can enjoy these social moments while we can. No number of video sessions involving dress-ups or costumes can change the intimacy of that.

And with that in mind, the recipes here are for easy and flexible entertaining so you can appreciate time together with minimal fuss. Here are a few recipes for the barbecue, a simple but seasonal sponge cake and a low-cooked salmon, lightly cured overnight, that will work for any time of day. And, as always, I’ll suggest some vegetarian alternatives.




CIBO

IN BRIEF

Exuberant, luxuriant, unadulterated dining pleasure.

WHY CHOOSE THIS RESTAURANT?

If you are looking for the whole package, delivered by an outstanding team with an outrageous sense of fun, then a visit to this Parnell stalwart is simply a must.

ABOUT THE MENU

They say that familiarity is usually only a mouthful away when you eat the food of chef Kate Fay. And they are right. Great technique and impeccable skill are at the heart of stylish plates with fresh flavours that lean playfully towards an Asian twist. Kate’s rock-star banh mi has become a firm favourite because of her ability to elevate the familiar to the spectacular. It would be a tragedy to miss out on her sinfully silky duck parfait, and when the glorious fish of the day arrives wrapped in a big warm hug from peas and ham hock, you will be delighted by the support act of the most delectable salty-delicious clams. Magnificent dessert and cheese options abound and, of course, there is that legendary pavlova. If you know, you know… The wine list has some hefty big-hitters and a multitude of local tastes that are worth exploring.

Chicken, prawn banh mi with peanuts

Fish, peas, ham hock and clams

Kate Fay of Cibo

Outdoor dining at Cibo

ABOUT THE CHEF

With more than 20 years on the pans and in the trenches at this award-winning restaurant, Kate Fay is still hands on and clearly in it for the love. She is highly respected within the hugely competitive New Zealand restaurant industry, her elegant menus are confident and ever evolving, and they are an important ingredient in the mix that makes this sophisticated bistro a celebrated long-term player.

ABOUT THE TEAM

It is obvious that for dashing owner and host Jeremy Turner, continuing to polish and evolve the art of the restaurant has become his life’s work. He takes great care of his team and they reflect that care with both skilful service and an exhilarating performance that comes from the heart. Everything feels super-relaxed and it is absolutely all about the diner. Brad Sullivan shines brightly on the floor as the man behind your perfect experience, and Christina Turner and Shazza Cooper do the hard but important yards back of house, leaving Jeremy, Kate and Brad to steal the show.

OF NOTE

There is a reason that certain restaurants survive in these uncertain times. A meal at Cibo leaves you feeling that all is almost as it should be, despite our current anxiety and fear. It's a restaurant run by people who love nothing more than to feed us all and who have been doing that with great talent and finesse for many years.

ADDRESS: 91 St Georges Bay Rd, Parnell, Auckland
Check for opening hours post-COVID-19 lockdowns
MAINS: $34–$65
CONTACT NUMBER: 09 303 9660
WEBSITE: cibo.co.nz


Alma

IN BRIEF

Feed your soul with vivid flavours and a taste of new-wave tapas.

ABOUT THE MENU

It’s as stylish and as well designed as the surroundings. Executive chef Jo Pearson has clearly done her research, balancing a menu that includes luxury treats such as razor- thin slivers of buttery jamón from Jabugo in Huelva, or whole New Zealand scampi drizzled with tomato and garlic butter alongside fabulous pork pinchitos, their clever little pear salsa served on a flatbread that is perfectly hand-sized for whipping out the skewer and devouring in a few delicious bites. Perhaps you’d prefer the mussel escabeche with kohlrabi, or if it’s tomato season, big fresh beauties in a smoky paprika butter nestled within creamy, tangy sheep’s yoghurt will fill you with glee and the whiff of an Andalusian/New Zealand summer.

Mussel escabeche with kohlrabi

Cucumber with aioli and
pepitas

Jo Pearson, executive chef at Alma

WHY CHOOSE THIS RESTAURANT?

Don’t be fooled by the stunning brick and tile work, which gives that first impression of a traditional Andalusian kitchen; this fiery menu delivers a lot more bite and glamour than the usual tapas bar.

ABOUT THE CHEF

As the executive chef of Hipgroup’s former cafés and restaurants, Jo Pearson has overseen the design and implementation of menus for Auckland institutions such as Ortolana and Amano. With a fondness for Mediterranean cuisine, at Alma she is influenced by memories of an Andalusian adventure while teaming skilful cooking over an open fire with great knowledge of, and respect for, fresh flavours and provenance. The result is innovative food that can still include a nod to the Spanish classics. A take on patatas bravas appears with kūmara as the vessel for a spicy chilli aioli, while an octopus Russian salad elevates the predictable potatoes, peas and mayo to an earthy, lightly dressed bowl of flame-kissed octopus, with finely diced pickle and potatoes that give just the right amount of bite. This is not your typical ensaladilla rusa.

OF NOTE

The contents of the dazzling tiled bar at Alma are impressive, starting with an extensive list of Spanish varietals alongside our own home-grown tempranillo, verdejo and albariño. Of course, the famous sherries are there, but it is the delicious vermouth selection that deserves your undivided attention. You might also want to linger over their sizeable gin list, because you can’t do a good summer in Spain without a decent G&T.

ADDRESS: 130 Quay St, Auckland
Check for opening hours post-COVID-19 lockdowns
MAINS: Sharing plates $12–$90
CONTACT NUMBER: 09 801 6021
WEBSITE: alma.nz

 


EVERYTHING I LOVE TO COOK

Wow, Neil, that’s a title with a big promise. Almost restaurant royalty in Australia, thanks to a career spent at the helm of the likes of Rockpool and Spice Temple, Perry gives us a book that is refreshingly uncheffy. The introductory pages, with advice to always read the recipe and check you have all the ingredients, and which pots and pans and knives to choose, seem aimed at the novice, or nervous, cook, and here is a chef who is not afraid to give recipes for such simple staples as egg sandwiches, green salad and macaroni cheese – and who wouldn’t benefit from a reminder on the basics? I did get off to a shaky start with his introduction, “During the week, dinner will likely be simple and may consist of just one dish…”. It was the ‘may’ that wobbled me. In search of something with a little more pizzazz, I’m reminded that Perry is the master of capturing flavours. Miso- glazed squid, a macadamia tarator alongside scallops, and a spice butter to smear onto prawns – seemingly straightforward dishes are ramped up a notch of delight. Clearly I am not Perry’s ideal cook as I failed to check the recipe and made twice as much of that heavenly spiced butter as I needed. I discovered that even on a dish of simple steamed carrots it made my single-dish midweek dinner a treat. TRACY WHITMEY


HOME

STEPHANIE ALEXANDER, PAN MACMILLAN, $65

For several weeks now I have been sitting quietly with this book, absorbing its air of calm reflection. It’s very much the grande dame of Australian food in a contemplative mood; and with more than 60 years of cooking, writing, travelling and eating in hundreds of restaurants and food-loving homes, Stephanie Alexander presents a treasure trove of favourite ingredients, flavours, recipes and food to dip into. Her influences are mainly from France and Italy, and when it comes to Asian food she confesses to being “a tourist dipping in my fork or spoon or chopstick, intrigued but not truly knowing.” These are dishes that she likes to cook at home, so the recipes are tried and true rather than modish, and the experience is not just about getting a meal ready, but taking enjoyment in the process. In longer essays Alexander delves into her thoughts on topics such as travel, food writers and her work with children in schools. I urge you not to skip all the recipe notes, essays and introductions, as herein lie the nuggets of experience, wisdom and appreciation – the seasonings that make the dish, if you will – introducing us to a host of cooks and writers, and the genesis of recipes that have evolved from her first rendering to the version she gives today. For me, the why, with whom, when and where are every bit as important as the how of the recipes. A book not to be astonished at but delighted by. TRACY WHITMEY


A COOK’S BOOK

NIGEL SLATER, HARPERCOLLINS, $59.99

Never did I think I would see the word ‘clarty’ – a word from deep in my childhood – in a cookbook, let alone about cheesecake. Look it up. It’s a measure of Nigel Slater’s exquisite skill with words that the way he writes gives me as much joy as what he writes about. In his world, broccoli resembles a goblin’s wedding bouquet; a dish of orzo is as comforting as a cashmere throw; and if heaven has a smell it is probably that of warm ironing and apple crumble. Don’t think for a moment though that the food comes second; Slater’s dishes are always delicious, sometimes surprising, often deeply greedy. This is food to be cooked at home, to bring comfort and deep contentment, but also reflects the glee of someone who loves to eat. It’s a book that not only imparts trustworthy recipes, but also tells of the quiet moments of sheer pleasure to be had along the way of cooking, eating and sharing. Neither faddy nor old-fashioned, it’s full of food I want to eat. Piping-hot salty potato chips are plunged into a mound of cool, snowy curds, a lemon trifle lollops with slovenly folds of whipped syllabub, blackcurrants are rippled through the soft, almond-rich crumb of a pretty tea-time cake. As it is a collection of Slater’s best-loved recipes, sharp-eyed fans will notice some old favourites reappearing, but after dishing the goods for more than 25 years that can be forgiven, especially as tweaks and new versions reinvigorate. TRACY WHITMEY


SALAD

TWO RAW SISTERS, ALLEN & UNWIN, $45

Salad has come a long way. To prove this (if that were needed) the Two Raw Sisters – aka Margo and Rosa Flanagan from Christchurch – are back with a book crammed with vege goodness. In fact, to call it Salad doesn’t do the book justice, but ‘plant-based mains and sides’ doesn’t have quite the ring. There are 70 dishes here for every season, with platters of crispy, crunchy fresh veges, and veges that are roasted, charred and grilled, stir fried and baked. There’s even a sweet section – though no ‘fruit salad’ in sight – featuring a truly startling beetroot avo mud cake with peanut butter and raspberries. There are plates where veges are the prima donna, and lots where they share the billing with grains, legumes, noodles, nuts and seeds. And for those trying to eat less meat, what better way than to start your planning with the veges, then add meat as a side. So if your vege repertoire is looking a bit tired, refresh with sumac roasted cauliflower with pomegranate caper salsa and tahini, scatter a tamari ginger crumble over carrots roasted with miso and sesame seeds, roast radishes until melting into salty sweetness, or toss around some millet, sorghum, buckwheat or bulghur for nutty, chewy texture. Drizzle, toss or dollop on a dressing from the 28 different ones on offer and carry a platter to the table. This is eminently doable at-home food but you could gripe that it’s not wildly innovative – I see lots of Ottolenghi- esque inspirations, but that gets no complaints from me. TRACY WHITMEY


Felicity O’Driscoll Book Reviews Issue 208

Felicity O’Driscoll of Cook the Books shares her favourite cookbooks for celebrations. Find out more at cookthebooks.co.nz or 19 Williamson Avenue, Grey Lynn, Auckland

MORO: THE COOKBOOK
SAM & SAM CLARK, EBURY, 2003, $54.99

I can clearly remember the first dinner party I cooked from Moro. Butterflied lamb with Spanish marinade, saffron rice, grilled asparagus, feta and spinach salad. A platter of patatas bravas to start – to this day it remains my best recipe for bravas sauce. A plate of Nigel Slater’s chocolate truffles (from Appetite) to finish. It’s everything a classic cookbook should be: a pleasure to read, to cook from and to eat.

PIATTI
STACY ADIMANDO, CHRONICLE BOOKS, 2019, $59.99

To me, the food for casual entertaining is food that is abundant and meant for sharing. It can be as simple as a hunk of charred bread with creamy dip and crisp, pickled vegetables. Of course, Piatti is Italian. It draws on a tradition of cooks who know how to pull off an impressive spread without formality or fussiness, with ease and elegance. This is how to eat and entertain when you want to be enjoying the party, not stuck in the kitchen.

NOPI YOTAM OTTOLENGHI & RAMAEL SCULLY, 2015, EBURY, $70

There’s not an Ottolenghi book I don’t love, but when you want to be just a bit fancy, you can’t go past Nopi. If your Christmas celebration is a refined affair, I recommend the chicken livers with red wine, smoky bacon and cherries. And when heirloom tomatoes are at their peak, try the salad with wasabi mascarpone and pinenuts. As the introduction says, this is a restaurant cookbook with a degree of complexity, but so well explained it is completely attainable for a home cook.

COOK THIS BOOK
MOLLY BAZ, POTTER, 2021, $65

This is not your normal cookbook. In many respects it’s written for people who don’t usually read recipes but instead cook intuitively. That’s not to say this is a book of basic; far from it. Its carbonara (the classic technique, elevated with smoky chorizo and crispy chickpeas) and crispy-skin roast salmon (the richness cut through with a citrussy fennel salad) is the food we’ve eaten in some of our hippest restaurants, made accessible and demystified for the home cook.


Brood FermWares / Lauren Yap

Buy one of Lauren Yap’s handmade pottery fermenters, and tucked inside will be a handwritten recipe to get you started making kimchi, a dish Lauren describes as “the gateway to fermentation”. It’s Lauren’s own recipe, one she has been using for years, and she knows it works because as well as running Brood FermWares, Lauren is a fermenter of long standing.

So, form and function: Lauren knows how fermenting works and what it needs, and knows how to create tablewares and fermentation vessels that fulfil those needs beautifully. A kombucha vessel will have a spout at the bottom and legs to lift it off the ground to keep the contents cool; her kimchi fermenters have the airlock crucial to keeping out oxygen that would cause the food to spoil. “It’s hard to be inspired and feel connected to a piece if I can’t use it myself,” she says, describing how a recent foray into cheesemaking has her creating cheese moulds exactly the size and shape she wants to use.

Lauren’s website and Instagram show mugs, jugs and vases, fermenters, butter dishes, bread bowls for sourdough and pasta plates. They represent the coming together of almost a decade of pottery work, beginning in Portland, Oregon, and leading to Nelson; work as a farmer and fermenter; a hands-on role in Brood Fermentation, a beer-brewing and natural winemaking enterprise run with her partner; and a full- time job working in Nelson’s hop fields. That’s a lot to imbue into the form of a plate.

Lauren’s clay wine tumblers are the result of a classic ‘made it because I needed it’ situation and now are among her most popular pieces. When working in a brewery, it is best practice to keep glass away from the brewing process. But vessels are needed for sampling, tasting and mixing, so Lauren began making the little clay cups. Formed from 100% New Zealand clay, they fit snugly in your palm and work as well for tea as for a tipple. instagram.com/broodfermwares, broodfermentation.com TRACY WHITMEY