At the Table
Late lunch under a tree at a long trestle table, crisp pink wine, light fresh food and the company of good friends – what could be better?
I'm not sure that we do enough of this kind of dining, except maybe on summer days when we are on holiday and life slows down a bit. The people of hot countries, where the siesta is part of the culture, are very good at it. Lunch is often the main meal of the day.
It can be a lunch of many courses, punctuated with conversation, where the heat of the day makes people stop and settle and take time to consider the tastes and each other.
Traditions such as this can easily be translated into our temperate context and climate – maybe not so easily in a work week where sandwiches are chewed on the run, but there is no reason why one day of the week cannot be put aside for slow food.
For those of you who may not know about the slow-food concept, it has been around for generations, but became contextualised in a modern concept in 1989, when a slow-food manifesto was signed by delegates from 15 countries. The movement now has delegates in 153 countries.
Its principles are the antithesis of the fast-food concept. The slow food philosophy is that everyone has the fundamental right to the pleasure of slow food and at the same time the responsibility to protect the heritage of food, traditions and culture that makes this pleasure possible.
There is an inherent recognition of the connection between the plate, the planet, people and culture.
There are three interconnected principles of the movement. People should have a good, fresh, flavoursome, seasonal diet that satisfies the senses and is part of local culture. Food production is clean, and food consumption should not harm the environment, animal welfare and health. There should be fair, accessible prices for consumers, and fair conditions and pay for small-scale producers.
All of this is so simple for us in New Zealand, where we can easily take advantage of regional seasonal foods and where local cuisine has such rich variety.
So with all this in mind, it should be easy to start the new year with a pledge to eat slow food and to take time during the week to sit down at a long table in the shade of a tree and sample dishes that reflect the time of year, are easily accessible and make the best use of the ingredients at hand.
I have chosen a simple menu for a picnic lunch, with items able to be bought within easy distance of my home in Mapua.
I decided to make a vegetable quiche as a warm centrepiece for the meal. I use free-range eggs and have chosen Neudorf sheep's cheese, which gives the quiche a great taste. Zucchini, red onion and marjoram are excellent together to give texture and flavour.
The smoked salmon comes from Mapua Smokehouse and the vegetables are from gardens close by, including my own.
Finish the meal with fresh fruit. Mine came from orchards in Motueka.
This is a tasty meal that is light and healthy and full of goodness and flavour. It will feed four to six people.
ZUCCHINI AND CHEESE QUICHE
Short pastry flan case:
Pinch each of salt and baking powder
4 Tbsp butter
1 egg yolk
2 Tbsp cold water
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 small red onion, sliced
4 small zucchini, sliced into rounds
2 Tbsp chopped fresh marjoram
1 Tbsp flour
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
500ml cream and milk, mixed
100g cheese, grated
Pastry: Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Rub in the butter lightly and evenly until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Beat the egg yolk, water and lemon juice together, sprinkle over the flour mixture and form into a ball. Knead lightly and then refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Roll the pastry out on a floured board to fit a 25cm flan dish. Cut the pastry level with the top of the dish and refrigerate until you are ready to use it.
Filling: Saute the onion and zucchini in olive oil until golden. Add the marjoram.
Mix the eggs with the flour, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Whisk until smooth, Add the cream and milk.
Put the sauted vegetables in the flan dish. Add the egg mixture and the cheese.
Bake in a 200 degrees Celsius oven for 10 minutes, then at 150C for 20 minutes or until the quiche is cooked through.
COS LETTUCE WITH LEMON AND GARLIC
1 medium cos lettuce, washed and drained
1 fat new-season garlic clove
Juice of 1 lemon
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Squash the garlic clove into the bottom of a bowl. Add the salt, pepper, oil and lemon juice. Mix well.
Add the lettuce and toss.
TOMATOES WITH BASIL, OLIVE OIL AND AGED BALSAMIC VINEGAR
4 fat tomatoes
Torn basil leaves
Olive oil (I recommend Villa Grove)
Aged balsamic vinegar condimento
Salt and pepper
Slice the tomatoes into fat slices, add salt and pepper and drizzle over the olive oil and balsamic. Scatter the torn basil leaves over the top.
GREEN BEANS WITH FENNEL AND BLACK OLIVES
3 cups green beans
1/2 fennel bulb, finely sliced
3/4 cup kalamata black olives
Juice of 1 lemon
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Cook the beans until just tender. Combine with the fennel and olives.
Season and add the lemon and oil. Toss.
MAPUA SMOKED SALMON
400g piece of Mapua smoked salmon
Serve the salmon with lime wedges and dill, with lime juice squeezed over the fish and freshly ground black pepper.