Sticky rice is my favourite dish at yum cha but it always comes with pork or chicken so, as I try to only eat free range, I either have to forgo my principles or miss out. So instead I make my own vegan version, packed with flavours and still ‘meaty’ with mushroom and eggplant. Add the chilli bean paste if you like a bit of heat.
It is best to use firm apricots for this as soft ones will collapse. If you have a very light, soft goat’s cheese you can forgo the crème fraîche. Trim the tough stalk of the fig leaves off with a sharp knife, trying not to cut through the leaf. I have served these with ice cream but if you wanted to serve them as more of a cheese course, you could have with a fruity bread or cracker and the honey syrup.
These tasty parcels are a great addition to a Pacific feast. They are best cooked and served immediately, though I have pre-cooked them then heated them quickly for 5 minutes in a hot oven and they were still great. Frozen banana leaves are available from Asian supermarkets. The mixture also makes great fritters if you simply want to fry in a little oil.
These simple little small bites make perfect nibbles for a party or as part of a larger barbecue. Pandan imparts a very distinct flavour and aroma, but don’t eat it!
Fish wrapped in vine leaves is a great Mediterranean dish; oily fish such as sardines are popular, but NZ mussels work well as they are big and meaty. If your leaves are small, you may need to overlap two.
These tamales are based on a fresh corn style and can be eaten as an entrée alone or as an accompaniment to a Mexican or South American meal. I like them simply with barbecued chicken or vegetables. To make them vegetarian, replace the chorizo with kidney beans fried up and lightly mashed with oil, onion and some
spices such as cumin, coriander and smoked paprika.
Masa harina, a fine, yellow corn flour is traditionally used,
but I find buckwheat flour also tastes great, it’s just not such
a good colour.
This is our grandmother’s steamed pudding recipe, which our mum taught us. It is one of those timeless recipes that we always come back to. Our addition of kawakawa to the butterscotch gives the dish an added herbal note which we think makes this dessert even more special. It is amazing how easy it is to find kawakawa growing all over New Zealand. Google the plant and you will be able to keep an eye out for some when you’re on your next walk.
Laplap is a plant closely related to banana. In Vanuatu it is used to wrap vegetables, fish and meats for cooking in an earth oven. My version uses banana leaves and is cooked in a charcoal kettle barbecue. You can vary the use of vegetables in the base; traditionally taro, cassava or plantain would be used, but use what you have available.
This year I am determined to plant a curry leaf plant as the smoky, citrus flavour is one of my favourites. Fortunately, in the meantime, my local fruit shop sells them by the bagful. They do freeze well but I’d be inclined to use the whole bag for the curry leaf rice. Turmeric lattes have never been my thing, but I’m more than happy to use the rhizome in my cooking. It, too, freezes well (try grating it from frozen to cook with). Taro or kumara could replace the potato, but allow extra time for cooking taro which takes longer to become tender. Adjust the tamarind as you see fit – I like the curry on the sour side.