Lauraine Jacobs

Food & Wine Writer

Lauraine’s blog

17 September 2021

CRISPY CHEESEY SCONES

These scones need light hands! They’re sure to be a hit with all ages and can be whipped up from start to finish in under half an hour. I have given you the recipe first and then lots of tips and extra information to make a perfect batch every time.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Sift 2 generous cups flour into a bowl with 2 teaspoons baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt. Grate 100g cold butter and rub this in with your finger-tips, moving your wrists up and down so the flour falls back into the bowl.
Grate 100g cheese and stir this in with a heap of freshly chopped parsley and sage from the garden. Pour in 1 generous cup full cream milk or buttermilk and use a fork to bring the mixture together. Dust the bench lightly with more flour, tip out the sticky mixture and pat it out to a thickness of 5cm. Cut the dough into 8 to 9 pieces, top with a little extra grated cheese and place on baking paper on a flat oven tray. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden and crisp. Best eaten with lashings more butter while still warm.

NOTES and TIPS

• Salted butter is best and ‘rubbing’ it in means taking the flour and butter in your finger tips and very gently squeezing it so the butter absorbs into the flour. By lifting your hands out of the bowl you aerate the flour for lighter scones.

• Use your favourite cheese but try to find cheese that’s full of flavour. I like Gran Padano and never in a month of Sundays would use that pre-grated packaged cheese. Leave that for the kids to make playdough!

• Fresh herbs are always best and right now spring sage is just wonderful. If you are tempted to use dried herbs this is the only place in the recipe where you should be frugal.

• My favourite milk (Durham Farms organic Jersey milk) comes in big bottles and is often near or has passed the Use by Date but that is absolutely perfect for scones as it adds a savoury tang.

• When adding milk use your judgement. You really want a pretty wet sticky mixture so if it’s looking a bit dry and not coming together easily, add extra milk around the edges of the dough and draw that in.

• Don’t be afraid to add a little paprika or some chilli flakes for extra bite but the kids won’t be pleased.

• And if you’re like my husband you can slather jam on the warm scones as cheese and jam are a great combo.

• Enjoy!

9 September 2021

EXTRAORDINARY KAI AT HIAKAI

My photo above, shot in pretty dull inside light on Friday 13 August shows a dish, Ika and Kūmarā, which I consider to be as perfect a dish as I have ever eaten in my long life. It’s almost a month since I ate at Hiakai. Wretched Covid has caught up with us all, we’re in Lockdown again with no takeouts, no cafés or restaurants, and as someone and everyone says to me, I should consider myself lucky to be alive! (Probably the best of my luck is I can cook and know how to order good food on line.)

But it sure is more than just luck is that in the weekend I did go to Wellington before this mess descended upon us, I got to dine at Monique Fiso’s amazing Hiakai. It was the third occasion I’ve eaten there and I am absolutely astonished and delighted just how perfect the Hiakai experience has become.

This talented chef, who has fast developed an international reputation due to her appearances on Netflix and Gordon Ramsay’s worldwide series, has refined her focus and pays homage in the most delicate way to the indigenous ingredients of our country, Aotearoa New Zealand. Her food is sophisticated yet approachable and presented with precision. The waitstaff convey the story behind every dish, every ingredient and deliver it with confidence, perfect Te Reo Māori and show due respect for both food and the diners. The kitchen is calm, the pace spot-on and above all every single bite is delicious.

Each menu that Hiakai presents shows not only the evolution of Fiso’s cooking and ideas, but it also contributes to the developing story of our food in ways that other chefs only dream about. The current menu concentrates and centres on indigenous ingredients, with each of five courses centred on one of those. The first course, a platter of ‘snacks’ showcased one of these ingredients (harakeke, horopito, manono bark etc) which made a reappearance in the subsequent courses. Each course an adventure, without flaw and spot-on.

On the menu that evening, Te Whanau Kinaki –the starters, Harakeke - a course of stunning vegetables, Tītī, Cabbage dressed as Mutton) - sublime cabbage and mutton bird, the afore mentioned Ika and Kūmarā – fish and chips with a fermented tomato sauce, Horopito – stunning rare beef with exquisite kale and sauces, and two desserts, Apple and sorbet and Forest Floor – chocolate, with manono sorbet and ‘mushroom’ meringue.

Perfection! And all matched to either truly interesting wines or innovative non- alcoholic drinks. Bookings may be harder to find than MIQ spots but it is absolutely worth it. I am going to say it here. Currently Hiakai is NZ’s absolutely best restaurant! Nga mihi Monique.

28 August 2021

ODE TO WELLINGTON FOOD

This morning began with a delicious taste of Wellington - the outstanding Fix & Fog Everything Butter on my sourdough toast - and it dawned on me that it’s only a mere fourteen days since I spent a brilliant weekend there. It seems a lifetime ago, now we’ve endured Lockdown for 11 days. I was in Wellington for the NZ Food Writers’ conference which also involved a day-long food discovery trip over the Remutakas to Featherston and Martinborough.

The food scene in the capital city and surrounding region was positively buzzing. It was the Big Weekend of Welly’s month long food festival, Welly On A Plate, including the extraordinary Beervana. I went to this riotous event and had a startlingly good beer cocktail, made by Bone Face from Upper Hutt and managed unsurprisingly to get my shoes pretty sticky! I also ate at the wondrous Hiakai (more in my next blog) and had dinner at Bellamys in The Beehive which most folk don’t understand is run by Logan Brown and public can dine there by reservation. Great food. It’s a tragic shame Covid has curbed the boundless enthusiasm and postponed the action of the exciting and well planned WOAP this year, again.

The conference was informative, packed with interest and great food as can be expected when some of the nation’s best cooks and foodies assemble, and lots of fun. Breakfast by Le Cordon Bleu cookery students was healthy and tasty, a hearty hāngi lunch cooked by master Māori forager Joe McLeod was a revelation to the intricacies and uses of native flora, and the delicious late morning cocktails we poured ourselves under the guidance of the Aperol Ambassador really hit the spot.

A jaunt next day began, after crossing the Remutakas in brilliant clear weather with a visit to C’est Cheese in Featherston (well recommended), and then on to a little market place set up in the Brackenridge Country Estate to showcase some of the amazing food artisans of the ‘Rapa who shared their olive oils, chocolates, honey, mushrooms, cheese? (who knew the 'Rapa had three cheesemakers, sheep, goat and milk respectively and all top notch?) coffee, stunning bread and the award winning Tora Collective who catch and sell seafood including fresh paua.

A chance to reacquaint us with Martinborough’s village led to the discovery of Deborah Coddington’s excellent and carefully curated bookshop in a back lane and was followed by Adam Newell’s delicious locally sourced lunch in the Martinborough Hotel, with fine local wine. And finally a stop at Te Kairanga Estate to have a preview of what is going to be a very fine visitor centre complete with restaurant and cellar door for their portfolio of TK and Martinborough wines and Lighthouse gin. That impressive structure will, I predict, change the face of the local visitor and tourist experience when it opens in 2022.

But amongst all that food, wine and beer, it was the ideas expressed in the morning session of the conference that have left my head buzzing. Sarah Meikle, Festival Director opened the day’s proceedings, followed by an erudite panel, expertly chaired by our VP Tash McGill, who faced up to “The Future of Food.” You had to be there to inhale and breathe the multitude of ideas and challenges thrown out by the panel. For me it was exciting because two of my absolute top food heroes in the country, Sarah Meikle and Rachel Taulelei (CEO of Wakatū’s Kono Food and Beverage Corporation) left me with so much to think about. Both of these fine Wellington wahine truly contribute at the very highest level to the fabric and direction of Aotearoa New Zealand’s culinary and cultural scene.

Every ‘Future of Food’ panellist contributed smart and sassy ideas. Climate change looms big in everyone’s minds, as to be expected in a country that has put its faith in growing food. Food safety and security, often side-lined in the past, are paramount as we face stepping up with innovation, diversification, regeneration of our precious soil and water and ensuring that everyone without exception does not go hungry. Change needs to come in the hospitality sector and my hero Rachel added that the Tiriti has us examining ownership of land and water. She emphasised that this constitutional partnership must empower both parties, Māori and everyone else, to meaningfully participate in the economy. Every community must begin like some of the examples shown around the country are doing where the community grows food first and foremost to feed their own before becoming commercial. (Wakatu in Nelson, Ngati Whatua at Te Pourewa gardens, and projects like Maunu Gardens in the Far North.) And wisely Rachel pointed out that we must all recognise everyone who produces food, from large corporations and businesses through to small artisan producers and food gatherers.

Sarah Meikle is the outstanding leader of championing and assisting the regions of our country to tell their food stories, and she delved into the possibilities of using the unique position we’re in to elevate the often forgotten quality of our food and the stories of those who produce it. Quoting NZTE’s recent survey across six major international markets she identified the key purchase drivers – Tasty, Affordable, Trusted Brand, Safe Products, Healthy, Fresh, Ethical and On Trend. She pointed out that our most significant storytelling challenge is how we build national pride for what we have, what we produce and by whom, and urged us all to discard ideas of which region reigns. Her final words, “Let’s all love everything about every part of Aotearoa’s food story.”

26 August 2021

ORAKEI TE POUREWA GARDENS

For my last column in the now lost and lamented local publication The Hobson, I visited Māra Kai (food gardens) in the Ōrakei Te Pourewa gardens in Kepa Rd, the initiative of the local Ngati Whatua Trust of the local Ōrākei marae.

I wanted to learn that more about the plantings of their first food crop of kumara as Matariki was imminent. This root crop is much loved by Māori and one of the tāonga or treasures of traditional cuisine. Widely accepted that kumara was introduced to New Zealand in the fourteenth century from Polynesia, it has been cultivated in the northern climate ever since and local iwi Ngāti Whātua, who run these gardens, harvested 3 tonnes of delicious kumara in their first growing season. In addition over 3000 kg of other vegetables crops were harvested there and distributed last season.

The gardens are really worth a peek as they provide an opportunity to feed the needy and hungry with a range of traditional native and colonial vegetables planted according to the knowledge and science gleaned from the stories and experience of the whenua and those who first cultivated land on the Auckland isthmus. Native puha, kamaho and watercress, much loved in traditional diets will be grown in 2021 along with five varieties of kumara and a sophisticated electronic-controlled composting system will produce copious quantities to nurture the two edible native mushrooms, tawaka and harore. Observant onlookers and passers-by will have noted the development of the gardens, with their native tree nursery and garden in full production on the land formerly known as the pony club paddocks.

Roger Small, the curator and designer of the mara kai gardens was formerly a director of Regional Parks in the Auckland area, responsible for the Auckland Botanic Gardens in Manurewa and explained that the layout, a grand circle represents energy with paths crisscrossing from east to west and north to south within the garden. The science behind the plantings has been gleaned and learned from the experience and stories handed down from the kaumatua of the area. As he said, the people of the Tamaki isthmus “Once Were Gardeners” and the local members of the Ngati Whatua carry on these traditions. Local specially grown traditional crops will include five varieties of kumara this year, prized kamokamo and puha, and an impressive watercress pond with fresh running water.

An electronic compost machine will provide two large recycled containers with enough dark matter to raise harvests of the two edible native mushrooms. Alongside these native plantings there will be plenty of traditional colonial vegetables and herbs.

The vision, which includes a Wellness garden with a centre of excellence to learn about traditional healing, and a Weaving garden to provide fifty species of plants and shrubs for harakeke and dyes, is for Te Pourewa to welcome people and show Ōrakei to the world through produce, expertise and innovation.

Recipe for KUMARA GRATIN & PORK BELLY IN THE RECIPE SECTION OF THIS SITE

8 April 2021

SAGE ADVICE

Amongst the more wintry herbs, there are two that are truly rewarding to grow in the home garden or in a patio tub all year round. The sturdy rosemary bush, found in so many urban gardens will give endless pleasure, adding a lovely scent to cooking, both sweet and savoury. And then there’s the much smaller sage bush with leaves that add amazing savoury flavour for a surprising lift to meats and vegetables. Both these herbs are hardy, can be pruned back viciously and have leaves that are far better lightly cooked rather than the fresh raw tastes of their summer companions, chives, basil and parsley.

Sage has become one of my favourites. Don’t be put off by the very strong flavour of those dried sage leaves, packed into small boxes on the supermarket shelves, which can become assertive and dominant in stuffings and casseroles. Using freshly plucked leaves from the bush, especially when young and tender, will make all the difference to your food. Sage originated in the Mediterranean and on the popular Dalmatian coast bees feast on endless bushes to produce a very special flavoured honey. (Our equivalent here in New Zealand is the lovely wild thyme honey from Central Otago.) The ancient Romans established sage everywhere they travelled, loving its health-giving properties, to aid digestion and prolong youth. In Italy sage is still much loved today, and one of the star recipes of Italian cookery is saltimbocca, fried thin slices of veal wrapped in prosciutto with sage leaves tucked in.

The Italians also sauté fresh sage leaves in butter briefly to make them crisp and sweet to add to all manner of dishes. When I am in a hurry and in need of a tasty lunch I will heat a little oil and butter in a very small frying pan, drop in fresh sage leaves and as they start to sizzle I carefully break two eggs on top of the leaves. I flip the eggs over and cook until almost set and then enjoy a perfect quick meal. Sage fried eggs - so tasty and prepared in less than five minutes.

Fried potatoes with sage is another way to take your cooking up a few notches. Take those beautiful little perla potatoes, rinse them and if they are larger, wash and cut the potatoes in half or into even chunks. Place them in a steamer over boiling water and cook until tender, which should take about 10-12 minutes. Put a little oil and butter into a heavy frying pan and gently heat until the butter is melted. Make sure the potatoes are well drained and dry and add to the pan with a handful of fresh sage leaves. Cook over gentle heat for about 15 minutes, tossing frequently so the potatoes turn golden and the sage leaves become crisp. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and serve hot.

In this easy roast recipe, take advantage of the array of the autumn harvest. A tray filled with delicious sage roasted vegetables makes a lovely meal to accompany steak or baked chicken. To finish the dish you can add anything that takes your fancy such as olives, feta or little cherry tomatoes.

Sage roasted autumn vegetables

  • 2 medium agria potatoes
  • 2 medium kumara
  • ¼ small pumpkin
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 red sweetie pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • A large bunch of fresh sage leaves

For the dressing: 2 tsp wholegrain mustard 1 tsp salt 1 lemon, juice and grated zest 1 tbsp maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 190°C Peel potatoes and kumara carrots and cut lengthwise into quarters. Peel the pumpkin and cut pieces roughly the same size as the potato pieces. Slice the eggplant in half and then cut into similar sized pieces. Peel the onions and cut into quarters, leaving the root end on each piece. Cut the pepper in half, remove the seeds and cut into six pieces. Peel the garlic cloves and squash them gently. Put all the vegetables except the pumpkin in a large roasting pan and toss well with four tablespoons of the olive oil and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Place the pan in oven and roast for about an hour, adding the pumpkin and sage leaves after 20 minutes. Turn the vegetables once or twice, to get nice browning on all sides. While the vegetables are roasting, whisk together the remaining olive oil, lemon juice, mustard and maple syrup with a little salt. About ten minutes before the vegetables are ready, scatter over the remaining sage leaves, and continue roasting. When all is cooking and smelling aromatic, take the pan out and place the vegetables on a serving platter, and pour the dressing over. You can add little cubes of feta, some nice olives or halved cherry tomatoes to add even more interest and flavour, if you want. This is lovely served warm or can be prepared ahead and served at room temperature. Serves 6.

7 January 2021

FRESH SNAPPER CEVICHE

Summer is a time for fun and I am always happy when the weather gods permit my husband to take off in his boat towards Hauturu Island to hopefully and helpfully catch some fresh fish. (Yay for Knowing My Fisherman!)

Yesterday was such a day and he was back in a few hours with his permissible catch of seven snapper – enough to feed a few neighbours and for me to make some tasty ceviche to nibble on while the barbecue did its magic on a sturdy piece of delicious beef prime rib.

I have had a few requests for my very simple recipe for the very fresh snapper so here goes:

*500g of filleted and skinned snapper fillets *1 very juicy local lime *flaky sea salt *small bunch of fresh chives, snipped into tiny pieces *2 tbsp Lot Eight infused fennel olive oil *1 tsp pink peppercorns

Using a very sharp knife, slice the ice cold fish thinly and lay out on a white platter. Grate the lime zest over the fish and then squeeze the lime juice over. Sprinkle a generous amount of flaky sea salt over the fish. Scatter the chives and peppercorns evenly over the fish. Finally drizzle the olive oil over everything and serve at once. If you want to prepare this ahead (no more than two hours) cover tightly with cling film wrap and refrigerate until serving. Serves 6 to 8 as a pre-dinner treat.

20 December 2020

SUMMER CUISINE AND A FOODIE CHALLENGE

I spent 22 years at Cuisine, happy there until the last year when we had an editor who knew little about wine, less about writing and even less about food and how to cook. In the inevitable clash I lost one the best parts of my life as I was passionate about that magazine. That editor returned to Australia not long after my departure and the magazine was never quite the same as in its early heyday when Ms J Dalzell was owner, publisher and editor.

Eleven years have passed and I can confidently say that the latest issue is THE BEST magazine published since I left. Not only is the cover bold and up there with many amazing covers of the past (remember the tag line – We Do Amazing Things) but the content nails the world of the food lover. The recipes are exactly what we all need for the summer – simple yet sophisticated and original without being too clever. I can almost feel myself wanting to dip my fingers into the stunning photographs and lick them clean. I can’t wait to cook Asher Boot’s roast chook with sage and onion stuffing (it’s that spiced butter to slather on after the chook is cooked that really appeals), or Ginny Grant’s clever tomato tonnato, or Emma Galloway’s mango and lime crumble cake (perfect in the tin for a picnic) and every single dish from Sean Connolly’s new Esther restaurant. Everything looks pretty, easy, and nothing is ‘cheffy.’

But there’s far more to food than recipes. Cuisine is now in the same position as the old days. The editor, Kelli Brett is co-owner, and publisher too. She is smart and sassy (even called her publishing company Slick & Sassy Media), she has that boldness that many Australians have, but most importantly she is totally passionate about New Zealand and our good food. In Cuisine's 33 year history no editor has been quite as obsessed about fabulous food as Kelli.

So not only is this a magazine to cook from, it’s got a heap of reading to do too. ‘The Cuisine 100 Tastes of New Zealand’ is breath taking in its accuracy, its innovation and its deep dive into all manner of things connected to food from cheeses, oysters, meats, ice creams and other favourites to books, shops, plates, drinks and more. (I am rather embarrassed to write my latest book is there – Always Delicious. I nearly fell over and broke my wrist again when I spotted that in the list. In very distinguished company too, with Hiakai and Eat Up New Zealand.)

The Crispy Bites is jam packed with restaurant news, the reviews are delivered in the casual get-to-know-this-restaurant style that does not judge but instead tells you exactly why you need to get to these places, and there’s a great guide to summer drinking with the best sauvignon blanc and rosé wines that will be perfect for my summer. And right at the end is a straight from the heart essay from Sean Golding, one of the owners of the excellent Shepherd restaurant in Wellington. He explains exactly why he and co-owner Shepherd Elliot refigured their restaurant and raised prices but never lost a customer. The true price of food is in the ingredients and that without profits, a business, or a grower, or a supplier, is not sustainable. Plenty of food – for thought too.

I defy any person who considers themselves well steeped in our New Zealand food lore and the culinary scene to read every word in this issue and tell me there’s not something new they have learned. Go on. Do it. There’s your challenge.

19 November 2020

CITY OF SNAILS

Auckland is firmly claiming a new designation, City of Snails. Some unkind folk have called, for good reason, this to be a City of Cones – not because of the wonderful volcanic maunga that dot the city – but due to the everlasting use of road cones that inevitably bring the city traffic to a snail’s pace while just everything is being rebuilt and reorganised.

Regardless of the traffic snarlups there’s another great snail pace reason to claim this the City of Snails. There’s so much renewed interest in food, there are so many wonderful new restaurants opening despite the curse of covid, and now the city has a bunch of local businesses who have recently been awarded the Slow Food ‘Snail of Approval’ certificate.

The Slow Food movement is worldwide, started last century in Turin by an Italian food aficionado Carlo Petrini, outraged by McDonalds fast food outlets opening in his country. He aimed to change the attitude of the world through food, and to celebrate and treasure the love of food cultures, rituals and traditions. There are now thousands of members all over the world and events, programmes and simple gatherings to follow his lead. One of the internationally recognised Slow Food programmes is the Snail of Approval designation for small businesses that exhibit passion for everything local, that celebrate locally grown and produced food that is good, clean and fair, and to distinguish intent, passion, and effort rather than perfection.

So congratulations to the following Auckland Small Businesses with the Slow Food Snail of Approval:

• A Lady Butcher •
• Brick Bay Wines •
• Cazador •
• Clevedon Buffalo •
• Curious Croppers •
• Earthbound Honey •
• Foundry Chocolate •
• Giapo •
• Hāngi Master •
• Kelmarna Gardens •
• Ooooby •
• Pasta & Cuore •
• Rangihoua Estate •
• Scarecrow

A terrific list that is really assisting Auckland in its position as culinary capital of Aotearoa. Please get out, support and buy from these fabulous, conscientious people.

Pic above. The excited Giapo ice cream kids - next generation Slow Food fans.

15 October 2020

E HOA at VISA WOAP

On a whim I booked tickets to a Visa Wellington On A Plate event. I was travelling there to speak at the Farmers’ Market conference so this rather special lunch the day before and the amazing Van Gogh on a starry night (well worth the visit) really appealed.

The lunch was at New Zealand’s restaurant of the minute, Hiakai. In stunning surroundings our newest food hero, Monique Fiso, is knocking diners out with her amazing use of indigenous ingredients and clever, almost intellectual, approach to cuisine. She wanted to pay tribute to her culinary mentor, the legendary chef Martin Bosley with a collaborative menu that reexamined his daring ground-breaking dishes at his eponymous Martin Bosley’s in the Port Nicholson Yacht Club and at Brasserie Flipp. Adding, of course, touches of the food she’s developed for Hiakai.

It was an afternoon of memories, excellent food and fun for the thirty guests. As always the menu started with generous snacks. A lovely soft bread roll with Hiakai’s already famous tītī butter and a fabulous gin cocktail was followed by clever plays on the Bosley chicken liver parfait, essential just shucked oysters in the shell with salmon roe, a stunning tomato tart, the cleverest rendition of chips and dip ever invented in a kitchen, and meaty rib seasoned with local herbs and spices.

Then came the serious courses. ATOM proved to be asparagus, tomato jelly and a perfect icy sorbet, (somewhat ruined for me by an “orange” wine), then a delicate cedar planked salmon which was always, always, a best seller at MB. Next up the perfect piece of beef that literally melted in my mouth with an accompanying mushroom pie and various sauces to enhance the wonderful Escarpment pinot noir and finally a stunning plate of desserts that included MB jelly, a Milo chocolate bomb from Hiakai and other brilliant treats from the kitchen that were sweet but not sugary.

What was so special apart from the reinterpretation of food memories and the spirited play was to see the respect the Hiakai staff had for Martin Bosley. They all gathered around him at every opportunity and hung on every word of this absolute taonga of a chef. The food was not complex, standing in the great space that lies between then and now. Bosley’s avant garde approach to the culinary scene of Aotearoa and his influence on a generation of its chefs has been considerable. It was a total privilege to observe the baton being passed to Fiso whom I have no doubt will be the biggest influence on the next generation.

11 September 2020

DEFINING THE CUISINE OF AOTEAROA

For years everyone in the food industry from chefs to food writers have struggled with the concept of a unique and identifiable NZ cuisine. Although we serve traditional roasts, whip up cream laden pavlovas, eat Weetbix or muesli for breakfast, and fill our plates with meat and three vegies that way of eating is mostly often emulating the very British fare that early settlers ate. Or we mumble about hāngi feasts without knowing and understanding the layers of rich tradition involved.

I have often puzzled about this, written for various publications and spoken at length in discussions, workshops and conversations. But not in a million years did I think that this difficult year, the Year of Covid, would be the year that finally the clues and stars to defining a true and unique cuisine for Aotearoa align.

Like many countries with their own admirable and recognisable cuisine, the focus is ingredients, shaped in the kitchens of leading chefs. We have being hiding the trump card in our deck, the indigenous fare of Aotearoa, for too long. The sheer brilliance of a small coterie of chefs are now proudly putting these ingredients on their menus, cooking them selectively with the influences and style they’ve been exposed to in the work around the planet.

Monique Fiso is not the first to track down the natural flora and fauna that is now showing up on menus, but it is her seminal work in her Wellington restaurant Hiakai, and the just released this week book of the same name that has finally made it to the mainstream. As I stated in my review of her book, originally written for the new website ketebooks.co.nz (see the post below,) I sincerely hope this book appears on every good chef’s shelf and is used frequently.

Over the past two years Vaughan Mabee has been doing some splendid cooking at Amisfield in Central Otago and most of his dishes could only be described as New Zealand on a Plate. His artistry plays homage to much of the traditional taonga and his foraging and hunting is noteworthy. Ben Bayly has opened Ahi in Auckland’s new Commercial Bay and his menu reflects traditional cooking styles and the very best ingredients that we grow or produce. In my local area, Chef Will Michell at the Sawmill Brewery’s Smoko Room is cooking some stunning food that shows the influence of a stint in the Hiakai kitchen and makes terrific use of some of our lesser known kaimoana. In Dunedin, Hannes Bareiter is sourcing wonderful indigenous ingredients in his recently opened restaurant, appropriately named Titi. And of course, Monique's work at Hiakai is outstanding in every way and true to this newly recognised cuisine.

We can also look at other recent openings and see the respect being paid to our brilliant ingredients and the adoption of much of the traditions of Māori cooking, done with subtlety, empathy and care. We have myriad chefs who have grown up elsewhere, and they’re keen to be part of this new identifiable direction. Their traditions, whether they’re Japanese, Korean, European or Middle-eastern, melded with our amazing flavourful food will take the cuisine of Aotearoa on an exciting path in the next few years. I can’t wait.

(Dish is paua and kahawai at Ahi)