Tag Archives: salmon

A new January

We can’t control the sea but we can learn to ride the waves.
~ Said a few wise people

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Happy new year, everyone (or no one?) :-) I have no idea who still reads or subscribes to this blog, but I was told recently that treehousekitchen showed up as a hit in a Google search for Tessa Kiros’s ceviche (first page!). Somehow, that piece of news winked at me ;-) Thanks, Kath, what a fun email to receive.

I spent a bit of time clicking around on the internet yesterday. Peeking at blogs I used to enjoy reading. Some still brought a sense of delight; others were dull with marketing; many seemed to have hit Pause or Stop sometime around 2013.

The internet, along with the rest of the world, is going through such revolutionary times. I mean, life has never ever stood still, but is it just me, or is change just happening faster and faster, more and more (in real life, and 1000x more ridiculously on the internet)? Looking through some older blogs and noticing the amount of change we have been through in a short length of time – just with the average style and quality of photographs on websites over the last seven years for instance – is amazing. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when you might have been the only one in a circle of friends who kept a ‘blog’ and ‘blogged’ on Saturday nights while everyone else was out getting pizza … now heaps of people have operated some kind of blog before and have, in fact, moved on to more significant endeavours.

Sitting down intentionally now to write (or even blog) feels slow and unnecessary; like attempting to knit myself a scarf when I could just buy one from a store. Or like doing something ‘unimportant’ when I could be reading emails or 200 social media updates instead.

I keep glancing up at the time, seeing the minutes tick by as I pause between thoughts and words. I hear a whisper of panic in my heart as I wonder if I always took so long to compose posts in the past, or whether this is taking longer because I am out of practice? And as the fear grows, other questions sprout. Can I do this? Should I do this? Is it going to at least change the world or something, for it to be worthwhile?

And as I write this, I smile with the sincere silliness of these questions.

Can’t we just cook*, blog, publish just for the simple desire of doing so? I ask myself.

And I shall leave it here today.

* Or, in this case, assemble – bagel halves, a full spread of cream cheese, slices of avocado and a fine vine-ripened tomato, smoked salmon, freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt and pepper – served alongside a generous pinch of micro-greens. 

David Schofield at Grey Lynn Farmers’ Market

“As with all good spinach, it’s still got dirt on it”
~ David Schofield

[How time flies! I penned this post a whole MONTH ago. Anyway, better late than never, right?]

You get people who cook, people who teach others how to cook, and people who are champions of food. David Schofield is all three.

For some, David needs no introduction, having won several awards including NZ Culinary Fare’s New Zealand Chef of the Year 2011. I had not previously heard of David – but following Sunday’s demonstration, will be keen to read/see more of him again.

On Sunday [23 Oct], I yanked myself out of bed a little later than I meant to, arriving at the bustling Grey Lynn Farmers’ Market just minutes before David’s demo was due to begin. When I got there and saw all the great looking stalls, I immediately regretted my laziness, for there was now no time to shop before the demo…

Out in the courtyard, grey clouds gathered and a few tears spilled from the sky, but a small crowd appeared nonetheless. A kind lady wiped the chairs with a tea towel and we all sat down in front of David’s stand/kitchen/screen, eager to see what David would present.

In just two hours (with an intermission in between), David produced five dishes – with yummy samples for lucky us – and I don’t know about everyone else, but I came away with way more than just recipes and good food in my tummy – I also gained tips, knowledge and laughter.

I think the skies liked David’s demo too. It held in the rain. :-)

First dish on the tasty menu: cheese dreams (see above). The name itself was enough to make me swoon; but add in Over the Moon cheese curd, some quality bread, free range NZ bacon and a nicely poached egg – and there you have it; a breakfast to keep you dreaming happily all day. David also got Roland from Over the Moon to chat briefly about their cheese and share ideas on what to do with the cheese curd (pair it with salmon, spinach, roasted veges – mmm!)

Dish #2 involved ginger syrup, honey, some luscious wet and natural jam, strawberries… a sweet dance on the tongue and very pretty to look at.

Next, David whipped up what he calls “a play on French Toast”. He blithely cooked while telling us the truth about bright orange salmon (source of colour: carrot pellets). A not-so-pretty tale behind a lovely colour; a good lesson in deciphering “real and fresh” from “lies consumers believe”, I think! David’s emphasis on fresh and local food came through from start to finish of his demo by way of little facts like the colour we may expect fresh salmon to be – salmon feeding on kura may be reddish in colour, while salmon feeding on seaweed may tend towards white tones, etc.

He reminded us that when we reject fresh and local produce in favour of perfectly shaped, unblemished, brightly coloured produce, growers have little choice but to (1) import from overseas, (2) discard perfectly good produce that doesn’t meet these “ideals”, (3) add additives/modify our vegetables to meet our demands. Sure makes me think twice about how I pick my veges!

He also mentioned another point which I like very much: “Every time you buy an NZ product, it tastes just as good as its overseas equivalent, and it keeps someone here employed”.

The salmon “French Toast” (see above), complete with a lovely tomato paste, was put in the oven just long enough to warm (but not cook) the salmon… it emerged beautifully flavoured, and David paired it with a fennel and mesclun salad. I’m pretty sure this dish could steal a smile from the grumpiest human you know.

During the intermission, I hastened in to look at the stalls… and my eye fell on some Good Things indeed (green apple olive oil, creamy cheese, spicy and sweet ginger syrup – just to name a few!)

When we reconvened, David showed us two lavish and simple (the combination sounds contradictory, but it’s true!) dishes: oyster and spinach with lemon pappardelle, and fresh flounder with broad beans and fresh greens. I didn’t get to try the flounder, but the oyster pasta was precious to sample – just imagine soft, quivering, oyster mingled with gently wilted spinach and fresh, generous wide pappardelle ribbons… it was honest, calming and delicious.

It was a pleasure to watch David cook, and inhale the good smells. Vanilla-toned pappardelle bearing the hallmark of freshness: uneven edges. Broad beans tinkering from David’s fingers into a bowl. The warming, nutty aroma of beurre noisette. The sound of fish sizzling in the skillet. So much colour and freshness.

David’s demo was a display of abundance, a reflection of the truth David mentioned at one point: we live in a country where you can visit your Neighbour with the Lemon Trees or go out with a line and catch an honest-to-goodness fish (so why don’t we realise how lucky we are more often?).

Along with the laughs (on David’s generous “pinches” of salt and “pats” of butter, etc), we also gleaned a gallon of great kitchen/food tips from David. I’ll share a few here:

  • On de-veining spinach: fold the spinach leaf like you’d fold a heart (vertically), then gently tear away the stalk.
  • On shucking oysters: grip the oyster with a dish towel, and hold a shucking knife in your other hand. Run the knife along the opening, and pry the shell apart. Open the oyster over a bowl so you don’t lose the juices. (Use the juices in the dish too).
  • On fresh vegetables: better with dirt and insects than bleach (another “lie consumers believe” = clean, sparkling leaves with a sanitised smell are fresh and good… not true).
  • On pepper: it is not a season, but a spice – it alters flavour.
  • On fish fins: snip off with scissors prior to cooking, as they burn quickly in the pan.
  • On removing fish skin: make a cut under the fish skin, dab on some salt to give some grip, then use your thumb and pull the fish skin off.

Here is a picture of David showing us how to take the bone off… admittedly I didn’t see how he did it: one blink, one lift and the bone was out!

David was as generous with food samples as he was with taking questions, and people gathered to ask more questions at the end:

I regrettably had to dash off while David was still taking questions. Late in the afternoon, I came home to my market/NZ produce-lunch – not quite David’s fare (yet), but delicious in my hungriness nevertheless: fresh sourdough topped with Over the Moon black truffle brie (triple cream brie with truffle in the middle… it is every bit as good as it sounds), J. Friend and Co Northern Rata honey (sweet, gently earthy and delicate), and a spicy hot toddy made with Hakanoa Ginger Syrup (the BEST). I look forward to cooking a few things based on David’s recipes soon!

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving!

I felt like Winnie the Pooh

“Sometimes,” said Pooh, “the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”
~ A.A. Milne

Tasting this, I was Winnie the Pooh in Wonderland.

I am sure I am not the only J. Friend and Co. honey consumer who has thought about sticking a human paw into one of their jars…

Before we moved to New Zealand, I was a stranger to the wide honey world. If anyone said “honey”, I’d think of couples or of a sticky bright yellow substance glooping down Pooh Bear’s rotund tummy. Over the last few years, I have really loved getting acquainted with the beautiful honey made right here in this country – especially the unique manuka honey which NZ is so rightfully well known for.

While I like honey, though, I have seldom enjoyed it neat. I can be persuaded to try raw cookie dough, or lick my butter knife after using it to spread PB on toast, and once or twice I have even been seen to lick a plate (ungraceful, I know)… but I am mostly NOT a honey-spoon-licker. I’ll drizzle honey on my crumpets or stir honey into warm water, then toss the honey-coated spoon straight into the sink.

So yesterday, while trying to choose a honey (of my three jars*, of which I had only tried one) for R’s salmon, I took a TINY sample of each one… before Winnie the Pooh unexpectedly whooshed into my brain. He nearly took over. Instead, I took out teaspoons and insisted that everyone try some honey. I think I may have looked frighteningly excited, because they all looked a little shocked and just obeyed silently.

;-)

I am happy to say that after everyone had a taste of some honey, no one questioned my sanity. It spoke for itself…

We used a few spoonfuls of the Beechwood Honeydew honey to make a honey-balsamic glaze which greatly enhanced our main course of seared salmon fillet; baby spinach and blanched asparagus tossed with lemon zest; portobello mushrooms baked with halloumi; and couscous with parsley.

This honey tasted of forests and fairies… it was a total surprise, and it was wonderful to place a full teaspoon of this into my mouth and shut my eyes for a minute… I thought of Enid Blyton’s “The Wishing Chair” (still so fun to think about, years later). What can I say? If you were to use a liquid to describe imagination and abundance, this honey would come pretty close.

We ate very well last night. R and K thoroughly spoiled us with this dinner, and their company! (Thank you R and K!)

In addition to that crazily delicious salmon dish above (which the photo does not do justice to), we also had prosciutto draped over cantaloupe… a combination I have often heard great things about but never ventured to try. I was certainly not disappointed!

For dessert, I just assembled two platters:

Havarti with grapes and crackers, and fresh strawberries with crème fraîche and brown sugar. Not that we really fit much dessert in after the preceding courses!

* Thank you so much, kind Sharyn, for sending me two jars of your precious honey to try! I can’t wait to try the Viper’s Bugloss honey in a dish. :-)

L’Assiette – post #2

Food for thought is no substitute for the real thing.
~ Walt Kelly

L’Assiette is not a place you are likely to just visit once. Oh, no. I don’t know what it is – there must have been a secret spell tucked into the heart of the croque madame I had when I first visited this place – I’ve now been there for breakfast, lunch, dinner and in-between. Not all the time, but still. That’s a lot of meals to eat in one place in just two months.

I had dinner there for the first time last night. My friends Matt and John came to visit from Wellington, and I thought they might enjoy it…

We got a bottle of 2009 Domaine Lafond Côtes du Rhône Roc-Epine for the table (lovely red, like a silk dress). John ordered their scotch fillet served with a bourguignon garnish and roasted potatoes; Matt opted for the fish; I was very close to ordering the duck but decided to pick the fish in the end because, well, if I am to ever like cooked salmon or polenta, I felt L’Assiette would be the place to change my heart.

They did.

The fish made me want to kiss someone.

I’m not sure why I am describing it that way, but it was honestly the first thought that entered my brain (I hasten to add that I did not give the boys seated across from me this honour). Last night’s poisson du jour was a sublime piece of salmon cooked so beautifully I even ate the skin (usually a no-go zone for me). The sauce did what every sauce should do – it made the star (the salmon) shine. Also, the texture was amazing – so light that each time I placed a bit of it in my mouth I felt like I was eating a savoury cloud.

The skins on the oven-roasted cherry tomatoes on the side were just getting ready to burst; the tomatoes collapsed readily in my mouth.

I looked at the polenta on my plate, hesitating slightly.

I’ve tried polenta fries, polenta cakes – and, mostly, it’s been sort of disappointing. Reminiscent of rice or cous cous in a jelly mold.

Last night, I was so sad when I got to the last bite of the polenta! If you want to make someone love polenta, send them to L’Assiette. And have them eat it with their salmon.

We weren’t given a long time to mourn the completion of dinner – the dessert menu made its way to our table, and the well-lit cabinet in the background perked up as we looked towards its offerings. The boys ordered a mille-feuille and a creme brulee respectively; I opted for a coffee éclair. I was given a fork and knife to eat this – it felt like an occasion. This is one of the many little things that cause me to love this place; no matter what you order – a macaron or a main – they are designed to please, and served with thought and care.

L’Assiette – 9 Britomart Place, Auckland – Phone: 09 309 0961

Breakfast, as of late

I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you till China and Africa meet and the river jumps over the mountain and the salmon sing in the street.
~ W. H. Auden

I have been eating this every day for breakfast this week. Kids, try this at home: lay a piece of your favourite bread on a plate. Cover it with fresh spinach leaves. Decorate with oily oh-so-good-that-you-want-to-swoon-over-it smoked salmon and healthy flecks of parmesan cheese. Squeeeeze a wedge of lemon over the whole lot. Poach an egg in salted water, and place on top of the lot. Sprinkle with black pepper if desired. Eat immediately with knife and fork.