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).