Spaghetti vongole is one of the simple pleasures of fresh shellfish – steamed clams with a few additions, combined with pasta to give a salty, sweet taste of the ocean. Here I have built on this simplicity by stirring through a fresh herb paste.
I often keep a batch of this strained stock in the freezer – by adding fresh ingredients each time and enough water to bring the stock up to 3 litres, the flavour becomes more nuanced.
The magic of cooking with fire is that it allows you to slow down and let all your senses interact with the process. You’re forced to be more intimate with the ingredients and the heat source that is transforming them.
Whether you’re watching with hawk eyes for the edges of your rosti to crisp, waiting for the aromas of a freshly charred chilli to infuse in warm oil, pressing the thigh of a saffron-butter-smothered chicken to monitor its progress or listening for just the right amount of sizzle as your crumpet batter is poured into the pan, there is a deep connection to be had with what you are cooking, eating and sharing with others.
The hot meringue/cold ice cream combination of baked Alaska is a winner, but they can be fiddly to put together at the last minute. Here I have simplified the whole process into a flat slice, so it takes only a few minutes to whip up the meringue and grill the top. If you want to finish the whole thing ahead of time, just gently cover the slice – trying to keep the wrap off the meringue – and freeze for up to three days. Let sit at room temperature for five minutes before serving.
My mum used to make a thick mushroom stew, flavoured with a little miso or often Vegemite (!), which she would serve on brown rice. I’ve taken the memory of that stew and dialed up the flavour with a punchy spring onion and ginger sauce.
Three ingredients I simply adore – corned beef (hot or cold), peas (fresh, frozen, even the dehydrated ‘Surprise’ variety) and eggs any which way.
I grew up on the farm eating corned beef most weeks. We would kill a steer once a year and while the fillets and roasts were always enjoyed, to me there was always something exotic about a large ‘chunk of pink’ simmering away in a pot with its familiar perfume of malt vinegar, brown sugar, bay leaves and vegetables permeating the air. Always served with mash, cabbage, leeks and mustard sauce, it could never be described as a pretty dish but, comforting and satisfying to the soul, there was nothing better.
I have accompanied my beloved corned beef here with a pea hash, which is also a kind of throwback to ‘bubble and squeak’ that was often served the next morning for breakfast made with the previous night’s leftovers. Crowned with a couple of fried eggs with runny yolks, a lick of hot mustard and a pot of coffee, that’s nostalgia right there!
"I grew up on the farm eating corned beef most weeks. It could never be described as a pretty dish but – comforting and satisfying to the soul – there was nothing better."
Helen and Richard Dorresteyn of Clevedon Buffalo were the first people to farm buffalo in New Zealand and are famous for their Italian-style cheeses and yoghurt. This new-to-the-market cheese is a beautifully creamy number, meltingly soft and marinated in olive oil, thyme and roasted garlic. It’s easily spreadable and has a light, tangy flavour.
It’s such a brilliant product that I am loathe to play around with it, instead keeping the preparations simple to allow the flavour to shine through – although it (and some of that delicious oil) does go well tossed through a tangle of spaghetti with some chilli flakes and a few herbs, or dolloped onto an Italianstyle frittata with seasonal vegetables.
Soup is one of my Mum’s favourite foods and in winter there was always a pot bubbling away on our range. Inspired by Mum’s soup, I’ve added a touch of spice to this velvety cauliflower and leek soup. If using homemade vegetable stock, use raw vegetables, not roasted, to keep the stock light.
This is such a great standby for serving before a meal – white beans such as cannellini are a staple in my pantry and there is usually a loaf of bread to hand.