There's no taste like home

ELIZABETH LATHAM
Last updated 14:30 13/06/2014
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Photos: MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ

HOME CRAVINGS: Agria mash with lamb shoulder with anchovies, persimmons with olive oil and balsamic and spinach.

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TO FINISH: Comice pears for dessert.

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At the Table

'Tis the season to be hungry Echoes of the Med Hot from the pot There's no taste like home Land of hops and honey Eating on the street A taste of the tropics Myths and mellow fruitfulness Crustacean craving Oh for onions

I am happiest in my life when I have multiple boarding passes in the offing. The anticipation of going somewhere is intoxicating. I often make plans for dining experiences (like a booking at the end of April at the Blue Plate Oysterette in LA).

I dream about what the food will be like at the places I am going to and I will research it if it is a new place I haven't been before. Even going to Wellington I think about shopping at Moore Wilsons, my favourite food store. A trip to Wellington is not complete without a visit there.

I was recently away for six weeks, in hot places with tropical flavours. I ate a lot of fish and salads, papaya, avocado and mango, rice, chillies and tomatoes.

I have had very little wheat or cheese or cool climate vegetables.

I thought about what tastes I would want when I got home, what I would buy when I went shopping and what I would write about for this story, particularly as I only cooked one meal in six weeks.

I decided to make a spontaneous list of flavours I would like to savour and this is what I came up with: broccoli, NZ lamb, persimmons, fennel seed, anchovies, agria mash, local extra virgin olive oil, spinach and garlic from my garden and comice pears.

Broccoli was at the top of my list of things to eat. I bought a crisp head of perfectly fresh broccoli and combined it with shallots from the garden and baby leeks to make a smooth soup to start the meal. I drizzled over it local extra virgin olive oil, green and grassy and slightly peppery.

I knew persimmons would be in the shop and sure enough they were. Such a great fruit and a salad made with them is a treat. They need to be just a little bit firm, peeled and sliced thickly and with a dressing of the best extra virgin olive oil and plenty of balsamic vinegar, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

A world without anchovies would make me sad indeed and they need to be good ones. Prego stock Ortiz and they also have salted whole anchovies. You need to fillet them and wash them well to get rid of the excess salt, but they are excellent.

NZ lamb, although available in many parts of the world, is usually expensive in other countries. I wanted to eat slow cooked lamb with the anchovies and seasoned with fennel seeds and garlic and some home grown chilli for a little heat. Lamb and anchovies are a great combination and the fish taste of the anchovies disappears while it cooks but enriches the overall flavours. Fennel lifts and the chilli spices it up and the Agria potato mash is the counterpoint.

Wilted spinach is soft and bright green and the persimmons in the balsamic dressing works brilliantly with the lamb. Balsamic is a must, don't substitute!

Last but not least Nelson comice pears. I poached them in local pinot gris with a vanilla pod and caster sugar. I am yet again reminded of how fortunate we are to have so much fresh bounty so close by. Not to be taken for granted no matter how many boarding passes there are at hand.

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BROCCOLI SOUP

Serves 4

1 head of broccoli
2 baby leeks
3 shallots
2 Tbsp butter or oil
1 litre of chicken stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-3 Tbsp of best quality extra virgin olive oil

Cut the stalk off the broccoli and chop it roughly. Reserve the head.

Slice the leeks and shallots and melt the butter and sauté the leek, shallot and broccoli stalk until they soften.

Add the stock and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Separate the head of the broccoli and add to the pot.

Cook for a short time until the broccoli head is just tender.

Remove from the heat and whizz in the food processor until smooth.

Season to taste and drizzle over the evoo before serving.

LAMB SHOULDER WITH ANCHOVIES AND FENNEL, AGRIA MASH AND WILTED SPINACH

Serves 4

1kg of boned lamb shoulder cut into thick chunks (remove as much fat as possible from the meat)
750ml of tomato passata
250ml red wine
4 anchovy fillets
3 cloves of garlic sliced
4 shallots cut into chunks
1 Tbsp of fennel seeds
3 Tbsp of olive oil
3 Tbsp of fresh marjoram and 3 Tbsp of Italian parsley
1 small red chilli with the seeds
Flour for dusting the meat and salt and pepper to season

Heat the oil in a large pan.

Dust the meat in the seasoned flour and brown in the oil.

Remove from the pan and add the garlic and shallots and sauté until they soften.

Add the fennel seeds and the tomato passata and red wine, chilli and anchovies.

Let it simmer for about 10 minutes then add back the meat and herbs. Cover and cook for about an hour until the meat is very tender.

Season to taste.

Boil 4 agria potatoes until tender and then mash with milk and butter.

Season to taste.

Wilt in a dry pot 3-4 cups of washed spinach leaves.

Season with salt and pepper.

PERSIMMON SALAD

2 persimmons peeled, cored and thickly sliced
3 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the sliced persimmons in a bowl and add the other ingredients.

Toss.

POACHED COMICE PEARS

Serves 4

4 comice pears
1 cup of pinot gris wine
1 cup of water
cup of caster sugar
1 vanilla pod

Peel the pears, slice in half and carefully remove the core.

In a pot large enough to hold the pear halves, make a poaching liquid with the water, wine, vanilla and sugar.

Bring to the simmer and add the pear halves.

Cook gently until tender.

Remove the pears to a bowl and reduce the liquid to about cup.

Serve with cream or custard and drizzle over the poaching liquid.

- The Nelson Mail

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