Lauraine Jacobs

Food Writer and Author of Delicious Books

Lauraine’s blog

4 July 2024


London's dining scene is fizzing. There's such a variety of cuisines, options, wine bars and street food it's hard to know where to start. Over three days, I had some world class dining and some true comfort food. What really stood out was the freshness of everything especially the vegies and salads.

A pub not to miss

Pub lunches have aways been a Sunday thing in Britain and the midday roast at this true gastropub in Islington was just the ticket on a bleak grey day. A vast variety of roasts- we were too late for the suckling pig - fabulous array of starters and veggies and those roasts with al the trimmings. Gastropubs don't get much better than this.

Top of the list

Enter this lively first floor restaurant (rated in World's Best 50) and pass by the open kitchen where chefs are cooking over fire. Go hungry, and order as many dishes as you dare, and then more. Cleverly garnished oysters, best mussels ever with fresh orange, a generous braised lamb shoulder chop on the bone, duck rice, amazing juicy rare beef, the best freshest green salad to cut all that richness (pic above) and amazing baked cheesecake with rhubarb. Beg, steal or borrow to get a reservation. It's really worth it.

The forever classic

Chef Fergus Henderson is the master of offal (nose to tail cooking) and also putting fabulous ingredients together very very simply.

For 30 years his restaurant has been a must do destination for food-lovers. The restaurant in the Barbican was being a given a thorough renovation so the entire staff, furniture, wine and everything else took up residency in Fortnum & Mason for six weeks. A spectacular find for us and that's where I had that stunning smoked eel, pickled prune and horseradish pictured above.

Elegantly sophisticated with a bargain worth seeking SPRING

Lucky to spot this bargain of all bargain in what is undoubtably the most beautiful dining room in London. Skye Gyngell is known for stunning food, and also her commitment to the planet. The "Scratch" menu at 30bps is three courses of food made from all the little extra ingredients the kitchen has on hand and it's all delicious. Available between 5.30pm and 6.30pm Tues to Sat - booking essential.

Simplicity when you need it

Travelling and eating out can cause food overload but here's a delightful meal that was comforting and simple. With three sites for this clever operator - one a wine bar, one a cafe and this one, the wine bar and restaurant in Bloomsbury served us a silky creamy cheese souffle and a perfect salad. Everything has a cheesey aspect and lovely unusual wines. The cheese room is worth a browse, especially as British cheesemakers deliver some wonderful artisan products.


When your hotel offers no food (don't ask) you have to get out and about. The Full British Breakfast has no appeal but here's a couple of places near St Pauls and the City.

GRACE ST PAULS In the tiniest of corner stores, the owner of Grace, @SandwichPhil, makes excellent, really excellent coffee that sees a steady stream of locals pop in for takeout coffee and takeaway food. His enormous warm from-the-oven sausage rolls are famous ever since they were written up by a Korean food blogger, and we loved the spinach omelet and the porridge with fresh berries. Three seats only, perched against the window, but it was all so good we returned the next day (to the chagrin of Phil!)

THE NED This trendy huge hotel, in a street called Poultry, near Bank was once home to the Midland Bank. Now it is place to be seen or to sit and wonder who all these beautiful people are. Have coffee through the morning with pastries in the lobby or venture a little deeper past the reception and eat in one of the restaurants on the same floor. Loved my avocado on sourdough with lost of fresh greens that came, American deli style with a bottomless supply of coffee.

2 July 2024


Here are a few recommendations from a recent three days in Paris experience. My most important advice is do not leave home without reservations as you will possibly be very disappointed. And my other advice is go out for a long relaxed lunch and then in the evening just pop into a wine bar near your hotel for a couple of glasses and a platter or two of lovely French food like the one above.

Top recommendation: SEPTIME

It's been a constant on the World's Best 50 and the five course set menu at lunch for 85 Euros is probably one of the bargains of the planet. Don't despair if you're on the waiting list as you will probably get in a day or two before like we did. Simple delicious food with friendly professional service. Loved the way they didn't even blink at a couple of allergies we came up with, and how kind everyone was.

Fantastic bistro with interesting wine: JUVENILES

I dream of dining wee bistros like this - wine piled up in boxes everywhere and cramped tables and real, real bistro cooking. I adored the rice pudding drizzled with lashings of creamy caramel sauce. Tucked into side street near the beautiful Jardins du Palais Royale

Dinner on the Left Bank: SEMILLA

It's hard to go past this fab restaurant which is part of the small empire that Kiwi Drew Harre reigns over on rue de Seine. The cooking is fresh and lively, the room fills up with lovely people and the staff are really knowledgeable about wine and the clever seasonal food. Worlds away from the ubiquitous plates of duck confit, frites and tired salad that every restaurant around this part of Paris seems to dish up.

Wine Bars:


Near the Louvre and La Samaritaine, this is a perfect wine bar with fab food. (See above) natural wines by the glass but they could even find one I loved! The mushroom salad with fresh grated cheese and good olive oil remains fast in my memory.


A noisy little bar with lovely wine and great French cheeses a mere stone's throw from the Seine on the Left Bank, opposite the almost restored Notre Dame.


Perhaps the wine bar you will love the most. A lively place that's part of Drew Harre's empire in rue de Seine where fun, great wines and excellent bar food is served.


HOTEL PLACE du LOUVRE If you don't want to spend a fortune on Paris hotels this is a cosy place adjacent to the Louvre, and even better really, really close to the brilliantly restored Samaritaine and some other terrific stores. Don't blame me if you spend a fortune in Uniqlo or the very sophisticated (!!) Zara store. Yes, true!

19 June 2023


One of my favourite ways to cook cauliflower is a Madhur Jaffrey recipe that I have tweaked over the years. It’s a great dish to serve with grilled steak, lamb or fish and can be served as part of an Indian banquet with naan bread and a yogurt relish. It is substantial enough to serve as a vegetarian dish on its own, perhaps with the addition of some green peas or fresh beans. It is not too spicy and if you wish to either lessen or increase the heat of the dish just adjust the cayenne pepper.

RECIPE *1/2 cauliflower *4 medium potatoes, scrubbed *8 tbsps vegetable oil *2 onions, finely sliced *5cm piece of ginger, peeled and cut into fine slivers *1 cup light tomato puree or pure tomato juice *¼ tsp cayenne pepper *½ tsp ground turmeric *1 ½ tsps ground coriander *1 tsp salt *1 tsp garam masala *½ tsp roasted cumin seeds

Break the cauliflower into florets. Cut the potatoes lengthways in to halves. Heat the oil in a wok or heavy, deep frying pan. When hot add the potatoes and fry them until they’re medium brown and barely cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper towels. Put the cauliflower florets into the same oil and fry until golden and just barely cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoons and drain on kitchen paper towels.
Remove most of the oil from the pan so only about 3 tablespoons remain. Add the onions to this oil and stir over gentle heat until they are golden. Add the ginger and continue cooking until the onions start to brown. Add the cayenne, turmeric, coriander and salt. Stir in and fry for a minute, then return the potatoes and the cauliflower to the pan, stirring to mix gently. Stir in the tomato puree or tomato juice and bring to a gentle simmer. If necessary sprinkle a tablespoon of water over the vegetables (more if needed) and cover the pan. Turn to low and cook gently for 5-8 minutes. Finally uncover, add the garam masala and the cumin seeds. Stir gently to mix and turn off the heat. To serve, tip into a heated bowl and decorate with coriander leaves. Serve with yoghurt and lime wedges. Serves 4 with fish or chicken, or serves 2 as a vegetarian meal.

17 March 2023


It would be easy to drive past the Headwaters Eco Lodge in Glenorchy and dismiss it as another quirky accommodation offering, with its rustic wooden chalets visible from the main road in this beautiful end-of-the-earth spot. The little town is famous mostly as the jumping off point of the famous Routeburn Walking Track, or to board a Dart River Jetboat to experience all the thrills of adventure tourism. But this lodge is exceptional in every way, an example of an eco-friendly destination that New Zealand accommodation operators should all aspire to create and run.

Paul and Debbi Brainerd, American tech philanthropists, bought the very run down campground in Glenorchy and have fashioned it into a beautiful lodge, now named Headwaters Eco Lodge where the hospitality is warm, welcoming and uniquely comfortable. It’s the first-ever accommodation facility designed and certified according to the Living Building Challenge and was recently awarded world’s first ILFI Certification of Sustainability for Visitor Accommodations which is a rigorous sustainability standard globally - created in collaboration with the local community, national and international experts including many artists, craftspeople, and energy management specialists.

Debbi’s passion is evident everywhere - repurposed and recycled materials fashioned into stunning almost artwork-like rooms and walls, solar powered buildings, seemingly simple gardens with native plantings (including a close by very impressive kitchen garden) and the ultimate in composting toilets that treat users to a breezy but brilliant experience. The stonework on the floors and paths represents the flow of the rivers of the headwaters of Lake Wakatipu and alone are worth the 45 minute drive from Queenstown to view. It’s ideal for anyone wanting to get away, to rest, or with accommodation options for up to fifty guests, the perfect spot for a corporate retreat as far as you can get from the complexity of any city, with lots of activity options too.

And there’s more, with their love of the local community, this generous pair of founders have set up the Glenorchy Community Trust, administered entirely by local trustees, to benefit from company profits. The Trust’s mission is to give back and increase the vibrancy and resilience of the town and its people. And it does.

Recently the lodge kitchen, which was functional and originally set up for self- catering in true camp style, has been upgraded with top class cooking equipment and Arrowtown’s legendary chef Pete Gawron (ex Saffron) heads the kitchen, making way for his excellent and enthusiastic dinners and breakfasts,. The theme of recycling continues for the crockery is all vintage Crown Lynn, acquired by the effervescent owner Debbi Brainerd who oversees everything that is so utterly tasteful about the lodge. Dinner might be cooked to a theme, but everything is delicious and where possible is sourced locally (Royalburn lamb from Nadia Lim’s Farm –mouthwatering) and harvested from the year round lodge garden.

Next door the property boasts the eccentric Mrs Woolly’s country store which maybe the most tastefully stocked rural store in the country, with a kitchen to match, producing the hearty sort of food any traveller craves through the day.

It is a very special experience and my question and challenge is this: Here we have exactly the blueprint for an exemplary and very special New Zealand experience. Can we have more of these please? How lucky we are to have such amazing American benefactors invest in our beautiful country for the benefit of everyone.

14 December 2022


HISTORY: This is from my Listener Column of 22 December 2012: CHERRIES

It’s cherry season. A true fruit of celebration, cherries appear in different cultures, where the promise of spring is heralded by the glory of a cherry tree in blossom. The Japanese are perhaps the most famous for honouring the cherry, as they picnic joyously under the bountiful, glorious blossoms. That tradition is one of the more significant seasonal observation a large population makes anywhere around the world. Here in New Zealand we mark the cherry blossom season with the grand annual parade in Alexandra.

The first cherries, harvested from Hawke’s Bay, arrived in the markets in late November. They were sweet, soft fruit, light red in colour and were best eaten fresh as they did not, like most cherries, have great keeping quality. As the cherry season progresses, a seemingly short period of eight to ten weeks that passes all too swiftly, we see later crops of more sturdy varieties in the markets.

Cherries are grown in Nelson, Marlborough, and of course Central Otago, producing a significantly large crop that is exported around the world. The most prized cherries tend to be crisper, darker and have those fabulously intense juices that stain everything in sight, including lips and teeth. Fabulous eaten fresh, the firm flesh of the later varieties makes them ideal for cooking too.

And even though the rich colour of dark-hued fruit appeals most, don’t overlook the fabulous varieties of white cherries. These are slightly misnamed as white cherries have pale yellow and coral coloured flesh with sweet yellow flesh. They are just as sweet and delicious as their cherry-coloured counterparts.

Anytime you’re invited somewhere special over the next few weeks and you want to take a gift that will be truly appreciated, consider a box of cherries, everyone’s favourite. Packed into 1kg or 2kg boxes, they can be found in all good supermarkets and specialty fruit and vegetable stores. You can also order them online from any number of growers, found easily by searching ‘cherries’ on the internet.

If cooking with cherries, it is well worth the effort to remove the stones. It’s quite a task to cut each cherry in half to find the stone, but can be made much easier by using a cherry pipper. This nifty little gadget punches through the cherry to push the stone out through the base. One of my all time favourite food writers, Jane Grigson suggests in her Fruit Book that stoning cherries “is a trying business so avoid pampering your family as half the fun of a cherry pie is putting the stones on the side of the plate and counting them out.”

Cherries go well in both sweet and savoury dishes. I immediately think ‘duck’ when I see fresh cherries, and if I want a sweet dish, some form of chocolate makes the perfect partner.


*4 boned duck breasts *1 tsp salt *Freshly ground black pepper *1 small onion finely chopped *1 tbsp butter *Scant tbsp flour *300mls chicken stock *150mls red wine *1 orange, grated zest and juice *2 tbsps balsamic vinegar *20 cherries, stones removed and cut in half

Trim any excess flaps of fat from the duck breasts. With a very sharp knife score the skin of each duck breast to make a diamond pattern. Generously season each side with salt and pepper. Place the duck breasts, skin side down in a heavy based frying pan, and place over a moderate heat. There is no need to oil the pan as the fat will immediately start to run from the duck. Turn the heat to low and allow the duck to cook gently for about 10-12 minutes. Once the skin is crisp and golden turn the duck breasts over and continue to cook on the meaty side for a further 2 minutes. The meat should be nicely rare. Remove from the pan and keep the duck breasts covered in a warm place to rest for at least 5 minutes before serving. There will be at least one cup of fat in the pan, so store this in a container and when cool, refrigerate. The duck fat can be used to roast delicious potatoes and keeps for months if refrigerated. To make the sauce, put the chopped onion and butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook gently until the onion is golden and soft. Stir in the flour and continue to cook until the flour is golden. Add the stock, red wine, orange zest and juice and stir while bringing to the boil. to simmer for at least 10 minutes so it reduces and becomes syrupy. Add the balsamic and cherries and cook for a further minute. Allow the sauce To serve, place the duck breast on a heated plate and pour the sauce and cherries over each portion. Serve with steamed baby new potatoes and blanched baby green beans, garnished with a little chopped parsley. Serves 4 Wine match: a Central Otago pinot noir

23 August 2022


Imagine writing about food and being forbidden to mention feta cheese. That’s the fate we face as food writers in 2032. Feta, in all its forms, is a cheese most of us have grown to love, one we consider essential to salads, our cheeseboards and in numerous cooked dishes and importantly, in recipe writing.

The appointed New Zealand trade negotiators bowed to pressure during the recent round of ‘free’ trade talks where big inroads were made into the European Union for freer access for our fruit (kiwifruit, apples and more) and for services and manufactured goods. It would seem, as Daniel Shields, NZ Specialty Cheesemakers Association board member and lobbyist, says, “Our small business cheesemakers were expendable and became the bargaining chip in the negotiations. There was no real gain for New Zealand’s dairy and meat producers. The only concession was we now have nine years (previously five) before the name ‘feta’ is completely banned in cheese production here. That may be better than nothing and we were also permitted, under this round, to continue to use the terms gruyere and parmesan. But there’s no block to Europe in the future banning the words halloumi, havarti or any other on our locally made cheese.”

It’s a dilemma that New Zealand’s food and beverage production have had to face before. Remember the fuss over Champagne back in the nineties? That was predictable because Champagne is the name of a place and needed to be fiercely defended by the Champenoise. Especially in the face of marketing of brilliantly made wines from the new world posing a threat to this centuries-old tradition of that region of France. Kathie Bartley who was brand manager at Corbans, one of NZ’s largest wineries in the 90’s, remembers how they also had to cope with the use of the terms Burgundy, claret and other French wine terms being banned. “It was an expense we didn’t need but we overcame it with innovative names and our wine didn’t suffer long term.” Equally, there are alarm bells ringing in the hives of our honey industry currently as our scheming Aussie friends over the ditch attempt to cash in on the term Manuka. It’s a worry to see an overseas industry appropriating another country’s language on their labels, especially given the premium position our New Zealand honey producers have managed to establish worldwide. Let’s look at what this change for feta means for our cheesemakers and importantly, the implications for all of us who write about food in the coming years.

Authentic feta is the most famous cheese of Greece. As British food writer and Greek cuisine expert Rosemary Barron says in her highly regarded book Flavours of Greece, feta is “made from sheep’s milk exclusively, it is white and crumbly with a slightly sour, salty flavour, and stored in brine.” She goes on to write this cheese is best eaten young and will only last a few days when removed from the brine and refrigerated. And she recommends not to use feta in cooked dishes as cooking dissipates its fresh flavour. Feta has become a cheese made in many places. Denmark produces more feta than Greece and presently flies in a face of such rules continuing to label their cheese “feta.” If you walk around the cheese section of any of our supermarkets you will see imported feta from many countries. Bulgaria, whose feta is a big seller here, is already moving to re-labelling its cheese but as yet no obvious name has emerged. The UK has labelled feta as salad cheese for many years.

Back here in New Zealand currently feta has become a generic term for a range of salty white cheeses. Our Specialist Cheese Association regards feta as a category of cheese which includes cow, goat and sheep milk feta style cheeses. That must change. Specialist cheese makers are mainly our small artisans who make their cheeses on a small scale, in open vats using traditional methods. As Shields says, there is so much work to do over the next few years under this new dictum agreed to by the NZ Government and it is going to be expensive.

Will New Zealand find a name that the feta category can carry across the large range of cheeses that currently bear that name? Who will decide? Who will do all the work of rebranding? And who will pay? Kapiti cheese, a boutique cheese brand that adheres to the criteria of Specialist Cheesemakers for its artisan style cheese, is owned by parent company Fonterra. This task to rename cheeses was an exemplary job as the marketing team worked with local iwi to find suitable names using Te Reo Māori but they were still were widely criticised by some parties. Wisely Fonterra trademarked all those names and thus tell a great brand story but of course their use of Rarama, Pakari, Kōwhai, Te Tihi, Kirimi and more will not be shared with other New Zealand cheesemakers. We all wait the name that the end process will bestow on our home grown and produced feta. Wheta and Weta have been suggested but the rules prevent the use of anything remotely similar to feta. It is worth food writers thinking deeply about how to approach recipe writing, articles and story-telling over the next eight years. Will the word feta in our recipes and writing now cause future legal trouble once 2031 comes round? Will the use of feta in today’s recipes mean that after 2031 consumers will bypass local freshly made feta cheese in favour of turning to imports from countries where feta is permitted when appearing in a recipe? As one of the Food Writers Life Members, Kathy Paterson says, it is really important that New Zealand foodwriters get behind the dairy industry and not just spread the word about any changes in nomenclature, but also adopt with enthusiasm any new directions that the industry undertakes. We will become a very important part of consumer understanding of feta in the cheese industry’s future.

*This was originally published in Digest, the NZ Food Writers newsletter

24 July 2022


Feel like brightening up these gloomy winter days? Here are three easy vegetable dishes from my Mahurangi Matters Cuisine column that are bright and colorful and use the best of the winter seasonal vegetables. First

Gingery Carrots & Parsnips with Orange

3 large carrots, peeled and chopped * 2 parsnips, peeled and chopped * ½ tsp salt * 4cm piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped * 1 orange * 3 tbsp butter * Small handful of mint leaves * Black pepper

Cover the carrots and parsnips with water, salt lightly and bring to a simmer until tender. Drain well, return to the pan with the ginger and the butter and mash until well mixed. You can use a food processor for a smoother finish but I like the mash to be a bit chunky. Grate the rind of the orange finely and add to the finely sliced mint leaves. Stir in the orange juice and gently reheat the mash. Turn into a serving bowl and top with the grated orange rind and the mint. Garnish with a good grinding of black pepper. Serves 4.

Fried Brussels sprouts with walnuts, lemon and feta cheese

600g Brussels sprouts, sliced into 3 or 4 pieces *1 tsp salt *3 tbsp good olive oil * 3 tbsp walnuts * 1 lemon * 100 g crumbly feta cheese

Bring a pan of salted water to a simmer, add the Brussels sprouts and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain immediately and refresh under cold water. Make sure the sprouts are free from excess water by patting with paper towels. Heat the oil in frypan and add the walnuts. Allow them to toast in the pan for about three minutes until they start to smell nutty and toasty. Add the sprouts to the walnuts, turn up the heat and toss well so the sprouts start to turn golden (about 6 to 7 minutes.) Turn into a heated serving dish, crumble the cheese over and grate lemon rind over with some extra citrus pressed olive oil drizzled over if you have any. Serves 4.

Baked kale with potatoes, olives and garlic

750g kale or cavolo nero * 750g small waxy potatoes * 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling * 20 pitted black olives * 2 garlic cloves, chopped * ½ cup water * ¼ cup vermouth or white wine * Black pepper * ½ lemon

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Wash the kale well in plenty of water and drain. Strip out the thickest stems, but there’s no need to remove the smaller stalks. Slice the kale into 2 cm slices. Scrub the potatoes and cut into very thin slices. Heat the oil in a large casserole dish. Add the garlic and stir until it softens. Add the potatoes tossing well. Add the kale, olives, water and vermouth/wine and bring to a simmer. Cover the dish tightly and bake in the oven until the potatoes are just barely tender (about 35 to 40 minutes) shaking occasionally. Add a little extra olive oil to finish and serve hot or at room temperature with freshly ground black pepper and a squeeze of lemon. Serves 4

27 June 2022


I have been watching the fantastic Matariki Celebrations around the country with envy. Damned Covid has prevented me attending some feasts including the spectacular Tohunga Tumau dinner in Wellington on Thursday. The best I can come up with is to retell the story, with Matariki recipes I wrote in the very good (and now lamented) The Hobson magazine last July. In that publication I also wrote a more extensive story about Ngati Whatua’s Te Pourewa Gardens in Orakei mentioned below below - those too are a sad story for me as I so wished to join the community planting there on Saturday but am locked up! From The Hobson: There’s a food celebration on the horizon. Matariki (Pleaides constellation) rises at the end of June in the north eastern sky signifying the commencement of Maori New Year. The pinnacle event on the Maori calendar, Matariki is a time of traditional celebration and opportunity to plan for the year ahead. Gatherings on the marae, around the family table and special events will provide an exchange of stories, performances and most importantly, feasting together. New Zealand will recognise this event with a national holiday from next year, our first public holiday to recognise Te Ao Māori and its long held custom to mark Matariki.

The first day of the month-long observance which begins in June is when the first crescent moon appears after the reappearance and rising of the cluster of stars known as Matariki (Pleiades.) Of the more than 1000 stars in this cluster, only seven are visible to the naked eye, with four of them signifying connections to food. The brightest of these four observed on that first day will be used to shape food customs, planting, fishing and hunting for the coming year. The four stars guiding this are Tupuārangi, signifying food from the sky, Waitī, fresh water, Tupuānuku, food grown in the earth or Waitā, the harvest of the coast and ocean.

All Matariki feasts (in fact all Māori feasts) include kumara. On a recent visit to the newly created Māra Kai (food gardens) on the Ōrakei Te Pourewa gardens in Kepa Rd, it was interesting to learn that more about the plantings of their first food crop of this root vegetable. It 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 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.

It’s time to mark this new custom in our homes and our suggested menu for a feast for this month involves the kumara. The creamy kumara gratin was inspired by Monique Fiso, the young Wellington chef who has led the way in the revival of Māori food practices with her spectacular menus at Hiakai her restaurant, and in her book of the same name which won overall Book of the Year in the 2021 Ockham NZ Book Awards. When I asked her for a recipe suggestion she told me to use cream “because everything tastes better with cream and butter.” Perfect fare for Matariki celebrations, especially when paired with a crisp and tasty pork belly roast, all tempered by another prized Māori tāonga, spicy fresh watercress salad with new season’s oranges.

Kumara gratin with horopito pepper and cheese

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 100ml milk
  • 300ml cream
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1.5kg red-skinned kumara
  • 2 pinches horopito pepper
  • 50g parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Butter a deep ovenproof dish, around 25 cm x 20cm. Bring the milk, cream and bay leaf to the boil in a saucepan. Leave on a very gentle simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, then remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. Finely slice the kumara and layer this in the gratin dish in neat layers. Cover with the hot cream and horopito and shake gently to distribute the liquid. Sprinkle the top with parmesan, cover with tinfoil and bake for 50 minutes or until the kumara are tender when a skewer is pushed into them. (Tip. It is a good idea to put a tray under the dish as it cooks as the cream can bubble up and spill over.) Serves 6

Crisp roasted pork belly

  • 800g piece of pork belly with skin attached and scored
  • 2 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 lemons
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 sage leaves
  • ½ cup white wine

Score the surface of the pork belly skin with a very sharp knife or a clean Stanley knife. Pound the fennel seeds, salt, and pepper together with a mortar and pestle or in a spice processor until finely ground. Rub this mixture well over the pork surface and the skin. Crush the garlic and sprinkle this over the pork with the grated zest of the lemons and the sage leaves. Leave, covered so the flavours to permeate the meat for at least two hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Heat the oven to 220˚C and place the pork in a roasting pan with the scored fat sitting upwards. Cook for 15 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 160˚C and continue cooking for another 60 minutes. Take the pork from the oven, place on a carving dish and cover with foil. To make a sauce, deglaze the pan with the wine and the juice of one of the lemons and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer, reducing by half. Strain this sauce, season to taste. To serve, carve the pork into neat slices and serve with the sauce, kumara gratin and a freshly tossed watercress and orange salad. Serves 6

24 May 2022


Is Makoto Tokuyama of the well regarded Cocoro (Three Hats in Cuisine Magazine’s Good Food Awards, every single time) New Zealand’s best chef? I am bold enough to say so, and there are many food lovers who have eaten in his restaurant who then declare it the best meal they have ever had. His Japanese cuisine, traditional, but always created with the best of New Zealand’s top seasonal ingredients has been a revelation to many diners.

He’s a Lifetime Ambassador for Ora King Salmon, a popular guy amongst his peers for his quirky sense of fun and expert skills with fresh fish, and now Makoto-san has been appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for Japanese Cuisine – an absolutely top honour for a Japanese Chef working outside Japan. Yesterday I was really honoured to be invited to an intimate ceremony at Cocoro in Brown St, Ponsonby where Japanese Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Ito Koichi, presented him with the official certificate and designation.

The Japanese Ambassador spoke about how early in his career he knew that Japanese cuisine, an inherent part of his country’s culture, was still to be discovered in many parts of the world. In 2013 UNESCO recognised the importance of Japan’s Washoku, for the Intangible Cultural Heritage, and there is no doubt that the seasonal, and other aspects of the cuisine play an important role in social solidarity and are now acclaimed worldwide.

Makoto-san has led the way in New Zealand, coming here more than twenty years ago and produces food that has deep roots in his traditional food culture. Every single bite on the plates he and his team prepare are a showcase for both Japan and New Zealand’s finest fare. Congratulations to both the Japanese Government representatives for this Award and to Chef Makoto for being so very deserving. It was a privilege to attend.

(But there’s more! Chef Makoto has partnered recently with Jason Lee, a chef he worked with at Rikka restaurant when he came to NZ 20 years ago, to open a new venture, WakuWaku, where their concept is ‘Old Value, Modern Japanese’ style set in a stunning and stylish new restaurant in the heart of Remuera. Exciting times for Japanese cuisine in Auckland.)

26 January 2022


Sweetcorn. Tomatoes. Watermelons. Herbs. There’s always an abundance of wonderful fresh from the garden vegetables in the middle of summer that are perfect to serve at any meal and quickly get you out of a hot steamy kitchen.

Salads are the saviour of the season. Easy to whip at a moment’s notice they can be made ahead, and popped into the fridge for an hour or two to chill, making for an easy meal. It is essential to find very fresh veggies and leaves for a salad. Of course not all salads are based on green leaves but at this time of year the fresh crispness of lettuce leaves can’t be faulted.

I like to make any sort of leafy green as the base for my salads, preferring to lay the well washed and dried leaves out carefully to cover a wide platter, rather than have them disappear into a tangle in a deep bowl. Then whatever is fresh and appetising can be added, carefully placed so there’s an even spread of everything to be seen throughout the serving dish. I only ever really “toss” my salads when they are entirely composed of leaves. Spreading out the other delicious ingredients on top means that the best bits don’t disappear to the bottom of the bowl or all clump together so one lucky diner scores all the goodies.

A salad like this one is fairly basic but careful thought means you can substitute anything lovely you have in the fridge or in your garden or straight from the orchard. The sweetcorn gives the salad a little substance but you could use thinly sliced and steamed carrots, potatoes or radishes instead. Replace the mozzarella if you wish (it can be expensive and does not last in the fridge for more than three or four days after opening) with feta or a crumbly goat cheese. And rock melon, berries or any stone fruit can be substituted for the watermelon. Just remember to squeeze extra lemon over cut stone fruit so it doesn’t turn brown.

As for the salad dressing it is really important it is not too acidic. If you’re making your own dressing be absolutely certain to taste it before drizzling over the salad. A pinch of sugar never goes astray, especially when the salad is fruity.


1 large cob freshly shucked corn * 1 iceberg, romaine or cos lettuce * ¼ watermelon * 6 small ripe tomatoes * 1 ball mozzarella or bocconcini * A handful of freshly picked herbs and herb flowers

Dressing; 1 lemon, juice and zest * 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar * 1 tsp mustard * 3 tbsps olive oil * A small pinch of sugar or ½ tsp honey * Salt and pepper to taste

Shuck the corn and plunge into boiling salted water for 4 to 5 minutes. Allow to cool and gently cut the corn away from the cob. If you can manage to keep some in nice even pieces it will look really good on your salad. Carefully pull the leaves of the lettuce apart and wash thoroughly in cold water. Shake dry in a tea towel so no water remains on the leaves. Lay the leaves as a base over a nice serving plate. Cut the rind from the watermelon and cut the flesh into nice large wedges or fingers at least 5 of the tomatoes into quarters. Drain the cheese and slice it into chunks. Arrange the watermelon over the lettuce leaves, then arrange the corn and tomatoes on the greens. Strew the herbs over the top. Make the dressing by shaking all the dressing ingredients together in a jar and then drizzle this over the salad. Finally decorate with herb flowers. You can make the salad ahead, and cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate it but it is better to add the dressing only half an hour before serving. You can scale up the quantities easily if you have a large crowd. Serve 4-6 with barbecued chicken, fish, lamb or beef or by itself as a light meal.

First published in MAHURANGI MATTERS