Thursday, 26 November 2015

Fiesta Cheesecake

As my regular readers will know, last month was the end of our peafowl cull for 2015. In a couple of weeks we will be having a BBQ for our volunteers, to thank them for the work they have done for us over the year. I love these kinds of celebrations, since I get to pull out all the stops to create a feast. Part of the feast will be the first run of my UFO steamer; I will be making a sort of contemporary hangi. Dave will be chained to his BBQ, cooking many different wild meats. It is going to be a great day. When people first arrive, I will have prepared all sorts of treats to nibble on while we wait for the meat. One of these is the single most requested thing I make and it is so popular, I cannot work out why I have not shared it before. It is a savoury Fiesta Cheesecake, finished with tomato, black olives, capsicum and spring onions – something for everyone.

Before we get into the recipe, here are a few facts about cheesecakes. Cheesecakes have been recorded in history since the times of the ancient Greeks. It is written about in Cato the Elder’s  De Agri Cultura – the oldest surviving work of Latin prose, dated around 160 BC. So, for well over 2000 years, people have been eating them.

Cheesecakes have survived the test of time in many forms. As the years have gone by, little has changed in the basic way it is made. The recipe for Cato the Elder’s cheesecake contained what was called “tender cheese” and we now call Ricotta. It also contained bay leaves, eggs, honey, orange and lemon zest and flour.

Around the world now, in 2015 those same ingredients are still used to make cheesecakes. Variations can be the use or type of flour, the type of cheese (generally Ricotta or Cream Cheese), and the flavours. Cato the Elder’s cheesecake was baked; ours can be baked or contain gelatine for a set cheesecake. Sweetness can come from honey, or from any other available sweetener. Unless you are making the cheesecake we are looking at today, which happens to be a savoury cheesecake.

Savoury cheesecakes are not very common. They are absolutely delicious and everyone likes them a lot. You will see in my recipe that I generally use ground corn chips for the base. Lately I have been testing ground crackers for the base and I am getting some good results. Feel free to test your own base and let me know how you get on.

Thanks for the feedback from those who heard me on the National Radio last week; they have asked me to come back again. I will let you know when.

Kia makona,
Mawera Karetai – The Wild Cook

Fiesta Cheesecake

1 1/2 cups finely crushed tortilla chips
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
550 gms cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups grated Tasty cheese, or other aged cheddar
1 small can chopped green chillies, well drained
1/4 teaspoon ground red chilli pepper
225gms sour cream
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1/2 cup chopped sweet yellow pepper
1/2 cup chopped sweet red pepper
1/2 cup spring onions, chopped
2 bunches fresh coriander or parsley (optional)

·      Combine tortilla chips and butter; press onto bottom of a lightly greased 9-inch spring-form pan.
·      Beat all of the cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer for 3 minutes or until fluffy; add eggs,one at a time, beating after each addition.
·      Stir in cheese, chillies and ground red pepper.
·      Pour into prepared pan, and bake at 160 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes.
·      Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Gently run a knife around edge of pan to release sides,
·      Spread sour cream evenly over top; cover, chill and let cool completely.
·      Remove cake to a plate. Serve on a bed of fresh coriander or parsley, if desired.
·      Arrange capsicums, tomato, olives and spring onion on top as desired. The spring onion section is my favourite. Serve with corn chips on the side.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Diabetes Awareness Month

Did you know that November is Diabetes Action Month? I didn't until this morning when someone posted about it on their Facebook. It got me thinking about diabetes and the prevalence of it in our community.  Diabetes does not have a very high profile when you consider that over 240 000 New Zealanders are diagnosed with it and an estimated 100 000 others have it and do not realise. Most of us know someone who has diabetes, so this week my column is around good food and diabetes.

Diabetes is a disease where your body can’t control your blood sugar levels. If you have this disease, your either don’t make enough insulin, or your cells have become insulin resistant. Insulin is a hormone made by your pancreas. It enables your body to use glucose from the carbohydrates in your food for energy and for storing for later use.  Insulin balances your blood sugar levels. It stops your blood sugar levels getting too high (hypoglycaemia) or too low (hyperglycaemia).

We need glucose in our body for energy and in order to work for us, it needs to get into our cells. After we eat, the beta cells in our pancreas are signalled to release insulin. The insulin attaches to the sugar in our body and acts as a gate keeper, unlocking our cells to allow the sugar into enter so it can be used for energy. Once you have enough sugar in your cells, the insulin then helps to store the excess in your liver for use later when you need it; between meals, during sport etc…

Type One diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Most people who have this are dependent on insulin shots, or an insulin pump to provide the insulin they need for the whole of their lives. It is usually diagnosed in childhood, but it can develop in adults.

Type Two diabetes is the result of the body not creating enough insulin to manage the sugar in the body, or the cells becoming insulin resistant and not recognising the insulin that is there. Type Two is quite often a lifestyle problem and has usually been an affliction of people who are overweight and over 30. However, unhealthy lifestyles are leading to more and more young people and children developing Type Two. A healthy diet and some exercise and eliminate the need for medication.

If you have diabetes or want to avoid it, then watching what you eat is extremely important. It does not mean depriving yourself of all things delicious; it means being mindful of what you are eating and watching your carbohydrate intake. Avoiding pre-packaged food, or at least learning to read the nutritional information on the packaging is a good start; 4 grams of sugar is around 1 teaspoon. Fresh food is always the best choice; eat lots of fresh vegetables. . If you like fruit juice, you are far better off to eat an orange than to drink a glass of orange juice; one glass of orange juice has the sugar of around four oranges.

The most common symptoms of Type Two diabetes are: excessive thirst, frequent or increased urination (especially at night), excessive hunger, fatigue, blurry vision and sores or cuts that won’t heal. If you any of these symptoms, please see your doctor; the test is as simple as an almost painless prick to the finger to test your blood sugar level.

The recipe this week is one of my favourites. It is a nice treat for those watching their sugar intake. It has the taste of something rich and decadent, but is not too bad for you, in moderation. If you don’t have access to smoked trout, please use salmon.

Kia makona, Mawera Karetai – The Wild Cook x

Smoked Trout and Ricotta Filo Parcels
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed (optional)
1 tablespoon stock or water
300g smoked trout or salmon. Removed from skin and break up, checking for bones.
3/4 cup ricotta or cottage cheese
1/4 cup low fat natural yoghurt
1 egg
1 teaspoon dried dill tips
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Pepper to taste
12 sheets filo pastry
Olive oil for brushing


Preheat oven to 190 C. Heat oil in a large pan, add onion and garlic, and cook for 2-3 minutes or until onion is soft.
Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Add the cheese, yoghurt, egg, dill, juice and pepper and stir well to combine. Add smoked trout and gently combine.
Lay 2 sheets of filo pastry on a clean board. (Cover the rest with a damp towel to prevent them from drying out.)
Brush lightly with olive oil. Place 1/6 of the mixture on one end of the pastry leaving a 2-3cm border on each side. Fold into desired shape. Brush with a little extra olive oil. Repeat with remaining pastry and filling.

Place parcels on a lightly oiled or paper lined baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Serve with a fresh salad and a light dressing.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Smoked Kahawai Fish Cakes

My husband Dave is a trout fisherman; a really good trout fisherman. We love eating trout, and we eat quite a bit of it over the summer months. I will share some of the best recipes this summer for you. Ocean fish is something we also enjoy but not something we get often; when we do it is a real treat. Last weekend some friends with a big boat invited Dave to fish with them and so this week has been a feast of fresh ocean fish. Last night I smoked the last of the kahawai and used them to make some delicious fish cakes; the recipe for them is below, but first we will have a look at kahawai.

Kahawai is hands-down my most favourite ocean fish. I like it raw, crumbed, steamed, smoked, or any other way I can get it. Fresh is best with kahawai, but if you can’t use it straight away, smoke it. Smoked kahawai freezes really well and it is by far the best way to keep it long-term.

Nutritionally speaking, Kahawai is one of the best. It is a good source of Vitamin D, B12, Selenium, Iodine, B3, Vitamin A and Phosphorus. It is a low in bad fat and is a very good source of Omega 3, with over 1000mg per 100gms of fish – it gets the biggest tick from the Heart Foundation.

Kahawai is not just found in New Zealand. Our Australian neighbours also have Kahawai, but they call it a salmon; it has many names in Australia, including Eastern Australian salmon, colonial salmon and black-backed salmon. It is not at all related to the salmon family as it is from the Arripis family, and not the family Salmonidae.

At the moment Kahawai are chasing whitebait. If you live near a river mouth you will catch kahawai really easily on bait, a lure and even on a fly. One of our favourite family adventures is to go down to the wharf before first light and cast a fly; the lights on the wharf bring insects, who bring in the small fish, who bring in the kahawai, who bring us. Perfect!  Fishing is family fun.

If you have some free time on Thursday afternoon the 5th November, have a listen to the Jesse Mulligan show on the National Program, after 2pm. I am going to be a guest on the show talking about what we do with wild food and why we do it.

Kia makona,
Mawera Karetai – The Wild Cook

Smoked Kahawai Fish Cakes

450g skinned, boned smoked fish
350g potatoes (plus butter and milk to mash)
2 tsp Italian herbs
1 tbsp fresh white flatleaf parsley, chopped
2 whole spring onions
Pepper and salt to taste
2 eggs
1c milk
flour, for shaping
Bread crumbs to coat
3-4 tbsp good oil, for shallow frying

Clean and chop the potatoes into even-sized chunks (no need to peel if the outside is clean. Put them in a pot and just cover with boiling water. Add a pinch of salt, bring back to the boil and simmer for 10 mins or until tender, but not broken up.

While the potato is cooking, peel skin from smoked fish and break up into chunks. Finely slice spring onion and add to fish with pepper, salt and herbs.

Once potatoes are cooked, mash with a little butter and milk. Add into fish mixture and gently bring the mix together. Add in one beaten egg to bind.

Mix remaining egg and milk in a shallow bowl. Half fill a second shallow bowl with standard flour. Half fill a third shallow bowl with breadcrumbs.

Taking a handful of the fish mixture, gently form into a cake and dip in the flour, to coat. Remove from flour and dip in the egg/milk mixture. Remove and coat in breadcrumbs. Set aside and continue making cakes until the fish mixture is all used up.

On a medium heat add oil and then three of four fish cakes at a time; do not overcrowd your pan. Turn when golden and cook other side.

Serve with a green salad and a generous dollop of good mayonnaise (homemade is the best).

Friday, 30 October 2015

Wallaby Casserole

Here in the Eastern Bay of Plenty we have had wallaby in the news over the last couple of weeks – and not because of the rugby. There is a healthy population of Dama wallaby in the Kawerau area and there a concerns that the population is spreading to other areas. The Regional Council has asked for sightings of them to be reported. My worst fear is that they are planning to poison them. Why does that worry me? Because they taste so good and it would be a shameful waste of good food!

According to a published paper by Wodzicki and Flux, there were 12 species of marsupial introduced to New Zealand between 1858 and 1870. These included the possum and a few wallaby species. Here in the Eastern BOP Dama wallabies have flourished. Around Canterbury, in the South Island, there is a population of the larger Red Neck wallaby which has also done well. I have memories of eating Red Neck wallaby as a child and thinking it was the best thing I had ever eaten. I have a similar memory from my first culinary encounter with the smaller Dama wallaby here.

Wallabies were listed on the Noxious Animals list in the mid-1950s. That means they can not be kept as pets or farmed. They eat our native forests, and like all the other introduced pest species, there is no natural predator for them, so we need to manage the population. My favourite way to manage an animal pest is to cook them. Make a pest into food; eliminate the need for poisons – a net gain to the environment.

The age of the wallaby meat determines the way I cook it. A young animal has a sweet and delicate flavour, while the older animal can be a little tough and gamey. The tail meat can make delicious steak or casserole. The legs lend themselves to a slow cook, as you would for shanks. I often mince the meat for burger patties, rissoles or lasagne etc…

Wallaby meat is not only tasty, it is also good for you. It is very lean but is a good source of omego-3. It is very rich in iron, zinc and a 150gm fillet will provide between 30 and 100 of your daily requirement of the vitamin B family. It is good for your mood and your general health. Unfortunately you can’t easily obtain it from a store – you need to know a hunter who can get some for you. But if you do know a hunter, please encourage them to shoot wallaby. It would be a tragedy to see the wallaby poisoned, or to see cullers sent in to leave them to rot in the forest. What a waste!

Wallaby Casserole
75 g plain flour
500gms of diced wallaby tail and legs wallaby
100 ml good oil
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled, chopped
1 onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tsp celery seeds
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp peppercorns
2 sprigs each oregano and rosemary (1tsp dried)
400 g can chopped tomatoes
850 ml can tomato juice
500 ml (2 cups) red wine
250 ml (1 cup) good beef stock
2 tbsp tomato paste

Preheat oven to 180°C. Place flour in a clear plastic bag – season with a little salt and pepper. Put some diced meat in with seasoned flour, shake to coat meat in flour. Remove meat from flour, shaking off excess.

Heat oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan over high heat and brown meat, turning, for 3 minutes. Remove meat from pan and place in a casserole dish.

Clean frying pan and return to high heat with some oil. Add vegetables, onion, garlic, spices and herbs, and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes .

Stir in tomatoes, juice, wine, stock and tomato paste. Bring to the boil, then carefully pour over meat.

Cover and transfer pan to oven. Bake for 2½ hours. Stir after each hour and add water if necessary.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

The Magic of Mushrooms

Because we are such a food-oriented family, we entertain a lot. I have always put a lot of effort into the food I cook and guarded my recipes. In the past people used to ask me to teach them how to make food the way I do and I would refuse – I don’t know why. As you can tell, this is no longer the case. I love to share what I know and I enjoy the feedback I get from people trying my recipes. It makes me happy when I get emails with all sorts of variations on the original; some I adopt and some I park. All of life should be a learning lesson!

Last week we had visitors for dinner and I made a mushroom sauce to compliment the meat. One of our visitors asked for the recipe, and it reminded me that I have promised the recipe lots of other times, too. So today I am going to share it. It is not overly complicated, but it is really good to eat and very versatile; you can have it over meat, vegetables, mixed through pasta, as a pizza base,  on toast with an egg, or have it like my big fella does, with a spoon straight out of the sauce jug.

Before we get into the recipe, I want to talk a bit about mushrooms. Here in Whakātane we are really limited in the kinds of mushrooms we can get from the store. We get button mushrooms and portobello or field mushrooms. There are lots of growing kits for oyster, shiitake, poplar and burgundy mushrooms, but I am yet to hear of anyone having great success and I am keen to hear from anyone who has. I would like to learn.

Mushrooms are packed with nutrition. They are low fat, low, cholesterol, low sugar, but high in vitamins and minerals.  A 100gm serving of Portobello mushrooms will give you more than 20-40% of the B vitamins you need for the day, 50% of vitamin D and 22% of the selenium you need. New Zealand soil is very low in selenium so we need to take it where we can get it. I can’t think of a more delicious way than mushrooms.

Kia makona
Mawera Karetai – The Wild Cook

Mushroom Sauce
400gms of mushrooms (diced or sliced)
4 spring onions, finely sliced
3 med/large cloves of garlic (pressed or grated)
250gms of sour cream and around ¼ c water
1 heaped tblspn wholegrain mustard
1 heaped tsp Italian herbs of your choice
Pepper and salt to taste
Butter and oil for frying
*Optional: finely sliced celery or capsicum

· Melt butter in a frying pan. Add mushrooms and cook on a medium to high heat until caramelised. Reduce heat.
· Add spring onions, garlic and optional celery and capsicum if you are using them. Cook until softened.
· Add mustard, sour cream, water and herbs. Cook on a low simmer until you are happy with the consistency.
· Taste and then add pepper and salt to season. Salt is something you should always add at the end of cooking. As the liquid evaporates, the salt concentration increases in your dish. You will not need much with this sauce.

· This recipe reheats well and tastes even better on the 2nd day if you can keep it that long.

The sweet things in life don't always need sugar

A year or so ago I had a miraculous recovery from an illness that had us all very worried. A few months before this recovery, I accidently breathed in some moth ball dust and shortly after developed a cough that would not go away. It got worse and worse, to the point that I could not cross the room without having a coughing fit so bad that it would make me pass out. Not good. No one could figure out what was wrong until one day (one dark and miserable day) it dawned on me that it was sugar, or
at least the fructose part of regular sugar that was making me sick.  I refrained from sugar for a day and noticed an immediate change. After the mothball incident there was a change in my throat that caused my throat to swell when I had a lot of fructose. Since having this realisation I have had to be almost completely sucrose and fructose free, but I am cough-free, too.

While I have been ok without sugar, it is times like my birthday where I really want cake. This weekend I decided to experiment with some of the fructose-free alternatives out there and had such a great result I want to share it with you – we will get to that.

Fructose is a monosaccharide found in plants. It is usually bonded to glucose to form a disaccharide called sucrose. Sucrose is what you have in your cupboard in the form of white sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, maple syrup, golden syrup etc… There are then other sources of fructose in your cupboard from honey, agave and hidden in lots of products like pasta sauce, mayonnaise and curry pastes – it is everywhere! Refined table sugar (sucrose) starts life as sugarcane and sugar beets. Those plants are processed in hot water to form concentrated syrup which is then crystallised to what you buy from the store. You don’t need sucrose to survive; you do however, need glucose as a ready source of energy to keep our bodies working and you get enough of that from eating plant-based foods. There has been a lot in the media of late about fructose and the bad stuff it does to our bodies. I am yet to meet someone who has the same problem I do, but our fructose consumption is something we all need to think about.

So, if you cut out the fructose, where do you get the sweetness in life from? Stevia is the obvious choice. This weekend I made profiteroles and iced them in chocolate icing made from powdered Natvia (available from the store) and sweetened the some coconut cream with a little Norbu (a monkfruit product). Because the Natvia is so sweet, I used a lot more cocoa than I would normally. The profiteroles were delicious and everyone liked them a lot. Other than the lovely taste, one of the best things was to eat something so decadent and sweet without the sugar rush. If you are cutting out sugar but concerned about missing out on treats like this, it can be done. Over the next couple of months I am going to try new ways to use these fructose-free alternatives to sucrose.
Kia makona,

Mawera Karetai – The Wild Cook x

•             50g butter cut into cubes
•             75g white flour, sifted with a pinch of fine sea salt
•             2 eggs, lightly beaten
•             few drops vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 220C/200C fan. To make the profiteroles, put the butter and in a small pot with 150ml water. Place the pan over a medium heat until the butter has melted, then bring to the boil. Take off the heat, add the flour all at once and beat energetically with a wooden spoon until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan.
Leave to cool for 5 mins, then beat in the eggs bit by bit until you have a stiff, glossy mixture.

Rinse two baking trays with cold water, shaking off any excess so they are slightly damp (this helps the pastry to rise, then line with good quality baking paper. Using 2 teaspoons, spoon balls of the mixture onto the baking trays, or pipe them with a round piping nozzle, in one ball. Then place in the oven and cook for about 18-20 mins until well risen and brown. Remove the profiteroles from the oven and cut a small slit in the base of each one so they don’t collapse. Turn oven off and return to the oven for 5 minutes to dry out the insides. Remove and cool on a wire rack.

To make fructose-free icing:
125gms soft butter
125gms cocoa powder
100gms powdered Natvia
3 Tblsp boiling water
Add butter, cocoa and Natvia to a small bowl. Add two Tblsp boiling water and mix to combine. If the mixture is too thick, slowly add more water, stirring well before each addition.

I piped my profiteroles with whipped coconut cream flavoured with some vanilla and a little Norbu. Using a piping bag, fill your profiteroles through the small hole you made at the bottom and top with chocolate icing.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Red Cargo Rice Stuffed Aubergine

I was in the Fresh Market the other day to get some rice and thought I would try something new – Red Cargo rice. I have seen the product a few times lately, but when you have kids who love brown rice as much as ours do, change is not always welcome. Curiosity got the better of me and I bought some. I am so glad I did!

The red rice we have available in New Zealand is a non-glutinous long grain rice from Thailand and is similar to the Camargue Red rice from France. It is unpolished and only the husk is removed during milling, so it retains the red colour of the rice bran. It also retains all the goodness of the bran, so it is high in fibre, vitamin B and is a source of iron, too. It is nutty, sweet and a little chewier than we are generally used to, but so good to eat!

Instructions on the pack say that rice should be cooked in a rice cooker – fine if you have one and I don’t. I own a microwave and its only purpose is for cooking rice; it cooks rice perfectly. I had a couple of attempts at getting the red rice cooked properly in the microwave and here is how I did it: I first soaked 2 cups of Red Cargo rice in fresh water for 30 minutes to begin the softening process I drained the cold water and added 4 cups of boiling hot water. I cooked in a microwave bowl on high for 12 minutes, and then stirred and cooked for another 12 minutes. I allowed it to stand for 10 minutes before serving. To my surprise and delight, the kids liked it a lot. That night I served the red rice with peacock in a makhani sauce. The sweetness and texture of the rice added to what is already a delicious dish. Since then I have made Red Cargo rice stuffed aubergine and that is the dish I am sharing with you today.

To have a look at my other recipes, including my makhani sauce recipe, please go to

Kia makona,
Mawera Karetai – The Wild Cook

2 large aubergines
1 large onion
4 cloves garlic – grated or pressed
A good handful of pitted green olives, halved
1 capsicum – your choice of colour
A handful of fresh basil, half of it finely sliced
2 cups of cooked Red Cargo rice
Pepper and salt to taste

Cut the aubergines in half along the length. Using a paring knife, score a border around the inside of the aubergine where the flesh feels soft and scoop out the soft flesh, leaving a hollow for the filling. Place hollowed-out aubergine halves on a baking tray, cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes on 180 C.

While the aubergines are baking, heat some oil in a pan and onions and capsicum, cooking until soft. Add in garlic, olives, sliced basil and some pepper and salt to taste. Cook for two minutes, then add the cooked Red Cargo rice.

Remove aubergine from the oven and stuff with rice mixture. Return to the oven for 5 minutes.

Serve with some fresh basil and a light Italian-style vinaigrette made with 3/4c oil, 3 cloves of pressed or grated garlic, 1 tsp mustard, 1 tsp dried or 2 tsp fresh oregano and 1/4c red wine vinegar. Shake in a jar to combine.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Asparagus Soup

Sweet dreams are made from asparagus!

Some time in the middle of August I woke up with a big smile on my face after having a dream about asparagus. I kid you not! It is an excruciating wait for me, from those last little end-of-season spindly, wrinkled sticks, to the big, fat juicy new-season spears. Oh, the months of desperate waiting since I refuse to buy imported produce. On dropping the kids of at school, that morning of my dream, I was straight to the shop to buy some. “No asparagus, yet”, they said. I return home, a disconsolate cook.  Then today it finally happened; I got a text from Jeremy, the owner of our local Fresh Market, to let me know he had asparagus – I literally jumped for joy!

It is wonderful to have asparagus back on the menu, more than just for the flavour. Nutritionally speaking, asparagus is a super food. It is high in vitamin K,B1B2, C and E, as well as folate and copper. It is anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and good for heart heath and blood sugar regulation. What could be better for you?

Asparagus is very easy to grow, if you have space for it; we don’t, especially for the amount of it we eat. If you have the space, now is the time to plant. If you decide to plant seeds, it will take up to three years before a crown (a mass of roots)  is formed. You can buy crowns, ready to go and if you plant them now, next year you will be harvesting your on asparagus. If you allow your less-than-perfect spears to grow, they will turn into asparagus ferns and be a good source of food for the plant over the winter season. The ferns grow poisonous red berries that are not safe for consumption in any form. In autumn next year cut the ferns back and leave them on top of the bed with some manure and compost, to give some good nutrition over winter, ready for a good spring crop. For more information on planting your garden this season, please check out the planting guide on our site:

Since the evenings a still a little cool, the recipe this week is a hearty asparagus soup. Enjoy with some crusty bread and a generous grating of parmesan cheese.

Kia makona,
Mawera Karetai x
2 c chopped, fresh asparagus
½ c sliced spring onions
1c diced celery
2 cloves of garlic (pressed or grated)
3 c of good chicken or vege stock
1tsp fresh thyme (off the stalk)
½ tsp cumin
A generous grind of black pepper
2 Tblsp butter or oil
Parmesan cheese to serve

1.         Melt butter over a medium heat  in a pot large enough to hold all ingredients. Add in the asparagus, spring onions, celery and garlic. Cook until starting to soften – around five minutes.
2.         Add stock and bring to a slow boil. Reduce heat and simmer for around 15 minutes.
3.         Once the vegetables are very soft, use a hand wand, a blender or a good processor to blend until smooth.
4.         Add in thyme, cumin and pepper and cook on a slow heat for a further five minutes.
5.         Serve in warmed bowls with a generous grating of parmesan cheese and some crusty bread.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Rabbit and Olives

It has been a few months since I last wrote for my column. Life has been pretty mad with trying to finish off my Masters, and running a very busy business. Our business has recently been made a finalist in the Sustainable Business Awards and we are really excited about that!

For those of you new to my column, my name is Mawera Karetai and I am a wild food cook. I love food, I love cooking and I love eating – all the essential loves for a food writer! Wild food is more than just a passion for our family; it is a lifestyle choice. All the meat we eat comes from the bush, and we grow or forage as much as we can, to compliment the meat. In my column I have written about rabbit, hare, goat, peacock, pheasant, duck, venison and wild pork. I try and include the odd dessert recipe, too, making use of locally-grown seasonal fruits. 

So welcome, reader, it is my pleasure to write for you.

Tonight for dinner at our place, rabbit is on the menu. Rabbit is so delicious , delicate and beautifully tender when treated with respect. If your rabbit is a little older, it is good to brine it. Brine is a mixture of water, salt and seasoning that tenderises, moisturises and infuses flavours into the meat. For a whole rabbit you need to brine for a day – put it in the brine solution in the morning and then by evening it will be ready to cook. I generally work on at least an hour of brining time per 500gms, but longer is better. My usual method is one tablespoon of salt for each cup of water, and which ever herbs and spices I am planning on cooking with. Mix together, then submerge rabbit into the solution and leave for the prescribed time. Make sure you dry the meat really well before frying, otherwise hot oil will spit everywhere.

Kia makona, Mawera Karetai x

Baked Rabbit with Green Olives
·           8 rabbit pieces
·           6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
·           1 large red onion, very finely sliced
·           1 1/4 cups sliced pitted brine-cured green olives
·           3 large garlic cloves, chopped
·           3 fresh thyme sprigs
·           1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
·           1/4 cup (or more) water
·           Fresh rosemary sprigs

Brine rabbit pieces, then pat dry; season with salt and pepper. Heat good oil in heavy large pan over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the rabbit to the pan and brown, turning often, around 5 minutes per batch. Transfer the rabbit to a bowl. Reduce heat to medium. Add onion with a little more oil; sauté for 5 minutes. Mix in garlic, and thyme; cook 5 minutes. Mix in vinegar and 1/4 cup water. Add the seared rabbit. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 10 minutes. Spoon some of liquid over the rabbit. Cover and simmer until rabbit is tender, stirring occasionally and adding more water by 1/4 cupfuls if mixture is dry, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with rosemary and serve warm with seasonal veges.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Chocolate Cake (never fail)

“Cake is happiness! If you know the way of the cake, you know the way of happiness! If you have a cake in front of you, you should not look any further for joy!” - C. Joybell C. 

As I write my column this week it is a very dreary day in the Bay. It is grey, wet and miserable outside which means only one thing – we need cake, and lots of it!

I love cake and everything about it. Making them is one of the pleasures of my life and making them for others is one of my most favourite gifts to give. There are a few simple rules for making a good cake and I will share them with you today.

One: Use the right flour for the job. If your recipe calls for Standard (or All Purpose) flour, don’t use High Grade (or Strong flour) and vice versa; each flour delivers for a different texture.  High Grade flour is high in a protein called Gluten and is meant for breads and dough that are elastic and strong.
Two: Use a light hand; heavy hands make heavy cake. 

One of the main ingredients for most cakes is flour and it is the gluten in flour that holds the cake together. The more you work your batter, the stronger the strands of gluten become and the tougher your end result will be.

Three: Measure you ingredients and follow the recipe. Someone else has done all the trial and error to make sure you get great cake, so follow their instructions.

Four: Eggs are essential. The protein in your eggs wraps around the bubbles made by the baking powder, and or baking soda and that keeps your cake light and airy. Bad eggs make bad cake. Use fresh eggs at room temperature for baking.

Five: Your cake will taste only as good as the ingredients you use; if you use cheap coffee, that is what you will taste. This is especially true with vanilla.

Kia makona, Mawera xx

·         Chocolate Cake
·         2 cups all-purpose flour
·         2 cups sugar
·         ¾ cup good cocoa powder
·         2 teaspoons baking powder
·         1½ teaspoons baking soda
·         1 teaspoon salt
·         1 teaspoon instant coffee
·         1 cup milk
·         ½ cup vegetable oil
·         2 eggs
·         2 teaspoons vanilla extract
·         1 cup boiling water

1.      Preheat oven to 180º . Prepare two 9-inch cake pans by spraying with baking spray or buttering and lightly flouring.
2.      Add flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and coffee to a large bowl or the bowl. Whisk through until well combined.
3.      Add milk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla to flour mixture and mix together – do not over mix. Carefully  add boiling water to the cake batter.
4.      Pour cake batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean.
5.      Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, remove from the pan and cool completely.
6.      To finish, make a large cake by sandwiching together with jam and or cream, and frost cake with buttercream, or simply dust with icing sugar. Or have two smaller cakes, finished the same way but with cream on the side.

Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkins here; pumpkins there; pumpkins every blimmin’ where! Last year I created a wonderful Thai style pumpkin soup and my husband loved it. He loved it so much that last spring he planted 5 varieties of pumpkin in every spare space he had in the vegetable garden; now we are harvesting them all. I swear there is an orange glow when I close my eyes!

I had planned over the coming weeks to do a series of side dishes to accompany your main meals, but this week we will deviate off the plan slightly to talk pumpkins.

Pumpkins are really easy to grow. When you find one you like, save some of the seed and plant next year. The best way to do that is to clean all the membrane off the seed, put them on a piece of paper towel on the windowsill to dry. Once dry, put the seeds in an envelope marked “pumpkin” and put that in the fridge until August; in August you can plant your seeds and grow them inside, ready to plant out in October (they are frost sensitive so cover up in a frost). You can use that same process with almost any vegetable or herb. 

For more information check out our planting guide:

I digress! Now, back to eating pumpkin. Pumpkins are absolutely jam packed with Vitamin A; so much so that one serving (around 245gms) gives you 245% of your recommended daily intake from only 49 calories.  You need Vitamin A for growth, for supporting your immune system, for good eye health and cellular health. 

Food like pumpkin is especially important for vegetarians to prevent night blindness. Pumpkin is also a source of calcium, magnesium, potassium and fibre. It is a nutritious, delicious and versatile vegetable which is super easy to grow and freezes well, too.

Kia makona, Mawera Karetai x

Thai Flavoured Roasted Pumpkin Soup

1 tablespoon
1 onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, grated
1.5 kg butternut pumpkin, cut in half and roasted
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbs ginger, chopped or grated
1 bunch coriander leaves, chopped roughly
1 litre chicken stock (vegetable stock is fine for vegetarians
400ml coconut milk

1.       Cut your pumpkin length ways and scoop out seeds (do not discard)
2.       Place on a baking tray and roast skin side down at 180C for around 40 minutes, until soft. Remove from oven and allow to cool before removing skin.

3.       Clean your pumpkin seeds and place on your baking tray with a little oil. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes until crunchy. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

4.       In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, heat a little oil before adding the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion becomes translucent.

5.       Add the ground coriander, cumin, fresh ginger and cook, stirring until aromatic.

6.       Add the pumpkin and coat in the spices before adding the stock. Bring to the boil.

7.       Reduce heat to low and simmer and stir occasionally. Cook for 30 minutes or until the pumpkin is falling apart. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

8.       Add most of the chopped coriander leaves to the slightly cooled soup, but reserve some to garnish the soup. Pour the soup into a blender and blend until smooth, or use a hand wand to blend. 
9.       Return to a clean saucepan (if using a blender) and add the coconut milk (coconut cream is even yummier) according to your tastes and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve garnished with fresh coriander and even a sprinkle of freshly roasted pumpkin seeds.