Easy preparation, great taste and "essentially Marlborough" were the factors Kerry Tilly used when entering a radio recipe competition organised for the MasterChef presentation in Blenheim last Saturday.
The show was raising money for the Life Education Trust and special guests were 2010 Masterchef judge and chef Ray McVinnie and the man who won this year's inaugural New Zealand title, MasterChef Brett McGregor.
The guest cooks gave food preparation demonstrations and culinary tips, then assessed how well two Blenheim radio presenters prepared two of the competition recipes.
"I don't normally do these things but the Life Education Trust is a good project and it seemed a fun thing to do," says Kerry, whose mussel dish was declared the winner.
The office manager at boutique winery White Haven says she wanted to enter something "very Marlborough" and easy to prepare in front of an audience.
She and her husband Keven Tilly moved to Marlborough from Auckland seven years ago.
"We've [always]done a lot of sailing and part of that lifestyle – and part of Marlborough's – is having lovely fresh mussels available.
Her winning recipe includes Asian flavours of fresh ginger, lemongrass and Marlborough garlic. The finished dish contains lots of protein and meets most budgets.
Kerry initially couldn't attend Saturday's show because 12 friends from out of town were visiting that night and she had invited them to dinner. Then a message came that her recipe was one of the finalists to be cooked in front of the audience.
Her dinner party plans became squeezed.
"I literally served dinner and then disappeared for half an hour to watch [radio hosts] Nige and Jamie cook their dishes."
Kerry and the other finalist, who had submitted a chicken roulade recipe, were even called on to the stage to supervise the novice cooks' efforts.
Kerry says her recipe is ideal for lunch when served with crusty bread and a glass of Marlborough sauvignon blanc.
"White Haven wine is just perfect!"
MARLBOROUGH GREEN-LIPPED MUSSELS WITH AN ASIAN TWIST
2kg live mussels
juice of 3 limes (or substitute lemon juice)
400ml coconut milk
1 cup water
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 slicks of lemon grass, outer leaves removed, finely sliced
2 fresh red chillies, finely sliced
1 Tbsp of sesame oil
3 Tbsp of freshly grated ginger
1 bunch of fresh coriander with roots still attached
2 Tbsp fish sauce
3 spring onions, finely sliced
1 bunch Italian parsley
salt and pepper to taste
lime wedges for garnish
Thoroughly clean the mussels, discarding any shells that have started to open.
In a mortar and pestle, pound to a rough paste half the sliced lemongrass, coriander root, grated ginger, crushed garlic and sesame oil.
In a large-based saucepan or frying, heat water and add pounded paste and mussels. Cook, covered, for 3-5 minutes until mussels start to open.
Add the chillies, fish sauce, lime juice and cook a further minute moving the mussels around to evenly coat with the liquid. Add coconut milk, chopped parsley, coriander and spring onions.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and ensure all mussels are cooked.
Arrange mussels in a bowl with wedges of lime and serve with crusty bread and sauvignon blanc.
The Marlborough Express