Five great NZ cookbooks

Less than two weeks to go until Christmas and I haven’t bought a single present. After spending a couple of months in Europe earlier this year with just a backpack I’ve been aspiring to have less stuff in my life, but I do realise that other people might quite fancy a gift or two.

If you’re in a similar position on the shopping front, here’s a quick-fire list of Kiwi-authored cookbooks published this year that I wholeheartedly recommend. If you don’t know anyone who’d like a cookbook for Christmas then you can either a) give them to yourself or b) get new friends.

World Table: Recipes from around the world made in New Zealand ($45, available from worldtable.co.nz)

Nicola Martin and photographer Donna Walsh spent a year gathering stories and recipes from people of 22 different countries now living in the Waikato. World Table has a truly global menu, with recipes from places as diverse as Afghanistan and Columbia, Hungary and the Pacific Islands. The recipes are authentic and the stories are told with great tenderness. The icing on the cake – $5 from each book goes to The Settlement Centre Waikato. I wish I’d thought of this brilliant idea.

Meat & Three ($49.99, available nationwide or from Cook The Books)

This is another great concept, executed with great elegance and warmth. Kathy Paterson’s gorgeous recipes celebrate the best of homegrown beef and lamb while maintaining a keen awareness of modern eating habits. There’s lots of useful advice on choosing the right cuts and cooking meat properly, and all the vegetable dishes are delicious enough to eat on their own. Lovely farmer profiles by Denise Irvine and evocative photos by Tam West make this a complete meal.


Ripe Recipes: A Third Helping ($60, available nationwide or at Ripe Deli)

I’ve never been to Auckland’s Ripe Deli but I know their first two books inside out. The third book  is just as great as I’d hoped – full of clever salads, delicious dinners and lots of heavenly sweet things, cleverly and logically arranged by the seasons. After 15 years of running Ripe Angela Redfern knows what her customers come back for and she’s put that knowledge to good use. Her recipes look gorgeous, taste amazing and – most importantly – always work.

Always Delicious ($49.99, available nationwide)

No one knows New Zealand food like Lauraine Jacobs and she’s much loved by the country’s artisan producers for her persistent efforts to promote Kiwi cuisine. This collection of more than 100 favourites from her Listener columns is both beautiful and useful, with lots of inspiring and achievable dishes. Now you can stop buying The Listener for the recipes…


Burger Wellington ($29.99, available from Wellington On A Plate

Shameless I know, but I couldn’t leave it out. Where else will you find all the secrets of the culinary capital’s best burgers? This is a must for burger fans, with nearly 50 recipes for burgers, buns and condiments, plus beer match suggestions. You’ll never look at a quarter-pounder in the same way again.

Aunty Pat’s never-fail pavlova

Having just outed myself as a pavlova-denier, I should probably head into witness protection for a while. To prove that I’m not a complete monster, here’s my wonderful Aunty Pat’s peerless recipe. It’s unbeatable!

Aunty’s Pat’s never-fail pavlova

At the risk of offending everyone else I know, no one makes a pavlova quite like Aunty Pat’s. She’s got no time for fussy recipes with fancy ingredients or complicated instructions – her pavlova (which may have originally sprung from a Plunket cookbook) is a ‘bung it all in the bowl and beat like hell’ number (my words, not hers). 

3 egg whites

2 cups sugar

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 tsp cornflour

1 tsp vinegar

Pinch of salt

3 Tbsp boiling water

Heat the oven to 160C. Line an oven tray with baking paper.

Put all the ingredients, except the boiling water, in a bowl. Start beating, then add the boiling water. Beat on high for 15 minutes, then scrape the mixture onto the baking paper in a rounded shape. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the oven to 100C and bake for another hour. Turn off the oven and let cool as long as possible (Aunty Pat suggests leaving it in overnight). Serve topped with whipped cream and seasonal fruit.

ROASTED GNOCCHI WITH SAUSAGE, TOMATOES AND CHEESE

In recent weeks I’ve developed a somewhat shameful addiction to vacuum-packed gnocchi. You know the stuff I mean – little huhu grubs of potato and god-only-knows-what-else stuffed into flat packets that stack so easily in the cupboard. This gnocchi, which bares only a passing resemblance to the real deal, is the Italian cousin to the mighty two-minute noodle. It’s fast, convenient and – despite negligible nutritional value – can be just what you need in times of trouble.

The trick, of course, is knowing how to pimp them up. Here’s what I did the other night, cleverly combining the contents of the fridge with a packet of gnocchi for a dinner that practically cooked itself and cheered us all up.

Roasted Gnocchi With Sausage And Cherry Tomatoes

Roasted gnocchi with sausage, cherry tomatoes and cheese

Feel free to add any suitable vegetables here – eggplant or zucchini would be excellent when they’re in season. Tucking extra cheese in (feta or halloumi, perhaps?) is a good idea if you’re not fond of sausage.

Extra virgin olive oil

2 red onions, peeled and roughly chopped

1 bulb fennel, trimmed and sliced

1-2 red peppers, cut into chunks

6-8 good quality pork sausages, cut into small pieces (use scissors)

2 cups cherry tomatoes, washed

500g vacuum-packed potato gnocchi

2-3 handfuls finely grated Parmesan cheese

A handful of finely chopped parsley

Heat the oven to 200C. Set a large pot of water to boil over high heat.

Pour a splash (about 1 1/2 Tablespoons) of olive oil in a heavy roasting dish. Add the onions, fennel, peppers and sausage chunks. Toss together, season well with salt and pepper and bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

When the water is boiling, add a handful of salt and the gnocchi. Cook for two minutes (the gnocchi should float to the top), then drain immediately. Tip the gnocchi into the roasting dish of vegetables and sausage. Add the cherry tomatoes and stir together. Drizzle with more olive oil and scatter over the grated cheese. Return the dish to the oven and bake for a further 10-15 minutes, until the sausages are cooked, the cheese is crispy and everything smells delicious. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve immediately with a green salad on the side. Serves 3-4.

Common Household Biscuits & Slices Of New Zealand

Are you a ‘lickalda jamoffit’ kind of person? Or do you prefer a ‘picquanacium fuchsia’ to brighten up your morning tea break? Either way, I wager that you’ll be delighted by the new tea towel and poster edition of Common Household Biscuits & Slices of New Zealand.

This brilliant concept, which mixes scientific accuracy with subversive humour, caused quite a storm in a biscuit jar when it was first released as part of the beautiful children’s compendium, Annual 2, in 2017. Biscuit eaters across the nation (and from further afield) were gratified and grumpy in equal parts when they discovered that some of their most detested biscuits and slices had made the cut while their favourites had missed out.

For me, the icing on the, err, biscuits and slices is the Latin names found under each one. Illustrator Giselle Clarkson has used her Latin knowledge to come up with names like ‘Lestwee forgetum’ (the noble Anzac biscuit), ‘Custurdis betwixtus’ (the melting moment) and ‘Disappointus minora’ (the much-maligned sultana pasty).

You might not have done enough for a chocolatum rotunda, but you definitely deserve one of these tea towels or posters. And just think what good presents they’ll make…

The Common Household Biscuits & Slices of New Zealand tea towel and poster are available here.

Pearl barley, lemon and avocado salad

Spring is a tricky time of year for salad lovers. In theory we should all be eating new baby greens and skipping about the place like newborn lambs. In practice, at least in Wellington, we’re as likely to be huddled over the soup pot muttering incantations to the weather gods. The following salad is my answer to this kind of climatic conundrum – it makes use of the things that have now sprung back into season (avocados, parsley, lemons), but it has enough heft to keep you warm on a less-than-optimal day. It also makes a great take-to-work lunch, even if it’s not warm enough to sit outside and eat it.

Pearl barley, lemon and avocado salad

Serves 4-6

Pearl barley is brilliant for salads like this as long as you remember to keep it in balance with the other ingredients – I can happily eat it unadorned but that can be a bit confronting for first-timers. I aim for a 50-50 ratio: 50 per cent barley, 50 per cent other things. Meyer lemons (actually a lemon-mandarin hybrid) are sweeter than ‘real’ lemons and have golden skin and flesh.

1 1/4 cups pearl barley

3 large Meyer lemons, washed

6 spring onions, finely chopped

1 avocado

3 big handfuls fresh mint and flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

4-5 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Put the pearl barley in a sieve and rinse well under the cold tap. Tip the barley into a medium saucepan and add 2 1/2 cups boiling water. Set over medium heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes, until the barley is tender and has absorbed most of the water. Set aside to cool completely.

While you’re waiting, cut one of the lemons into small dice – including the skin, but making sure to discard any pips. Put into a bowl. Add the zest and juice of the other two lemons into the bowl, plus the spring onions. Peel and stone the avocado and dice the flesh into the lemon mixture. When the barley has cooled, add this to the bowl with 4 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Fold together gently, then stir through the chopped herbs. Taste – add more oil if necessary and season well with salt and pepper. Pile onto a dish and serve. Any leftovers should be kept in a tightly covered container in the fridge. The avocado may brown a little but it will still taste good on day two.