Paua to the people

Okay, so last week was my birthday. Yes, happy birthday to me etc. It was a fairly modest affair - when you have had as many as I have, frankly, the concept of blowing out so many candles really loses its shine. What did Bob Hope say? "When the candles cost more than the cake, it's time to stop blowin' em out..." Something like that, anyhow.

I did arrange to hook up with some of my bestest pals for a birthday burger from the magnificent Ekim Burgers - I thought it appropriate to celebrate my burger-consuming heroics in 2012 by having... another burger. Go, me. Inspirational/aspirational eating, no less.

Plus One got me some dumplings from The Dumpling House at the Left Bank Friday night market, and made me some Anzac biscuits (that were, naturally, better than mine) and some melting moments. Bill Moss bought me a donut. My buddy J Des shouted me a Scopa margarita pizza on Tuesday. My Mum (hi, Mum!) chipped in towards our lovely new Bosch oven (which I have started composing a love letter to, which I am still pondering whether or not I will share with you...)

Hang on - did anything that was anything to do with my birthday not revolve around food?!

Umm, no. Not really.

Neither did my birthday bounty from my good buddy Ziggy, who runs the San Francisco Bathhouse. Ziggy gifted me a big old bottle of Moa beer - and a plastic container of minced, frozen paua.

I haven't eaten much paua. We never really ate seafood or shellfish much when I was a kid. I loved the paua ravioli when I had it at Logan Brown a while back, and I really loved a paua/bacon/quinoa dish I once ate at a friend's birthday party. But I've never really cooked it. I know it can be a bit tricky - there are all sorts of schools of thought as to how you need to treat it so as to not render it tough.

I did what you do in these situations - I consulted Al Brown's fish and seafood bible, Go Fish. It really is my go-to when it comes to cooking different types of NZ fish and seafood; it explains the subtle differences between types of fish and how you cook them, and takes the guesswork out of cooking our precious kaimoana. (It is so good and useful, I even forgive Al for upping sticks and moving to Auckland - just so long as he doesn't start supporting the bloody Blues.)

I decided I wanted fritters - "rustic" and, hopefully, easy. The Go Fish recipe hits the delicately flavoured shellfish with a riot of Asian flavours - coriander, sweet chili, lemon, garlic, red onions - and combines it with a standard fritter mix.

I spoon the mixture into a hot pan and fry them in a mixture of oil and a little butter. The new gas stovetop (sigh!) throws out a lot more heat than the old oven, so I have to turn it down a bit when the pan starts smoking a little.

It makes around a dozen fritters, and we eat them hot from the pan atop a slice of buttered Molenberg bread with iceberg lettuce, spring onions and tomatoes, with a dash of lemon and ground black pepper. They are delicious. They are tasty. And, they are, undeniably, "rustic" (which I think, these days, is basically a euphemism for "looks awful, tastes good").

And so, there are definitely advantages to be had in being food obsessed, in this very public way. People want you to eat nice things. I want to eat nice things. I want other people to eat nice things. I want to cook nice things. I want to hear about nice things others have cooked or eaten - I don't even mind if it makes me jealous. I want to be jealous!!

So thanks, Ziggy, for the paua, thanks Al for the recipe, and thanks Burger Mike for the burgers. And thanks to my dear friends for indulging me and my obsession(s)...

Paua - are you a fan? How do you cook and eat it? Any tips for next time? And - do you love the gift of food?!

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