A copy of The Divers' Cookbook was thrust under my nose last week.
It wasn't so much the book but the note at the foot of the cover - compiled by Bernie Bliss - that rang bells. The name was familiar, but the memory was struggling.
Still, I knew a Stu Bliss at Bell Block and after a quick call had determined Bernie was Stu's brother and Bernie was living in Gisborne, not far from where the Bliss family first hailed from.
"Jeez, what are you ringing me for?" was the immediate response from Bernie.
"I've just been handed this recipe book with your name on it and I reckon I know you," I said.
"My oath you do. It's been a while since we last talked. I was station officer at the New Plymouth Fire Station in the 70s and 80s and you used to be a reporter."
"Still am Bernie, that's why I'm ringing."
After a lengthy exchange of "old times nonsense" we talked about his new vocation as a writer of short stories (he's on to his third book) and then got back to the recipe book.
When he quit the fire service in 1986 and opened a dive shop in Tairua in the Coromandel he quickly found an outlet for his culinary skills.
"People often used to come in to fill up their dive bottles after a day's diving and ask if I had any special recipes they could use to cook their catch," the 67-year-old said.
An avid diver himself, he'd concocted a few recipes over the years so handing on tips wasn't a problem. Then he decided to put them all together, publish them in a book and voila, The Divers' Cookbook was born.
"There was nothing around to cater for divers and their catch; there still isn't other than this. About 75 of the 99 recipes were my own and the rest I was given by people or found in books. But that was 30 years ago. Where did you say you got it from?"
I explained the boys at Egmont Seafoods had been handed a copy and were pretty impressed by the range of cooking options.
"It's magic mate," was manager Peter Bennett's, opinion. "I can't wait to try some of these. It's all pretty basic; there's none of the fancy stuff you find in some of today's recipes."
The arrival of the book coincided with the arrival at ESL of the first of the season's scallops from Whangamata Seafoods. The Coromandel company will have seven boats trying to fill its 22-tonne quota, which could increase depending on the result of a "catching survey" commissioned by fishing regulators.
The Divers' Cookbook has seven scallop recipes ranging from Cognac and scallops to Scallops and mushrooms. For whatever reason Bennett skipped them and went for Nutty scallops.
"Never tried this before so thought it was worth a try," he said.
"I increased the scallops to 24, used more butter [as per necessary] and less flour. The ingredients were interesting in that nothing dominated the flavour. In saying that, you could taste everything that was in the dish - scallops, onion, green pepper, mushroom et cetera. On my second plate I added some seasoning [salt and pepper] which was a great improvement but still something was missing.
"That's not a bad thing because you could spice this up with whatever you wish such as light chilli, curry or coriander."
Bennett exchanged the water for white wine, Gisborne Chardy to be precise.
"As I prepared the ingredients I drank the wine all the way down until there was the necessary amount left in the bottle for the dish. It's a lot easier to judge from the bottom rather than from the top because that narrowing of the neck can be deceiving."
Good one Peter.
I stuck with 12 succulent scallops that a week earlier were a few metres below the surface off the East Coast.
Working through Bernie's recipe demanded concentration but it was worth it. The dish received a huge rap from her at the end of the table who had returned from a "girls weekend" in Auckland.
Can't quite work out how those "girls weekends" last five days, but who's counting?
Not me, but it might be worth doing the figures over these new-season scallops. You can get a dozen for $8.95.
"Compared to oysters at $24.50 a dozen, even a rugby TMO could see the difference," Bennett quipped.
cup cashew nuts (uncooked and salted)
1 green pepper (seeded and diced)
1 cup tinned button mushrooms (drained)
1 chopped onion
cup seasoned flour
4 spring onions
cup of water (or liquid from tinned mushrooms)
Melt half the butter in a pan and quickly fry the onion, mushrooms and green pepper.
When mushrooms are brown remove from heat and drain. Put the scallops in a bowl and add the chopped green parts of the spring onions. Fork mixture so spring onion pieces stick to scallops.
Dust each scallop carefully with the flour then melt remaining butter in a pan and add the scallops and cashew nuts. Stir continuously for five minutes as the scallops cook.
Remove and drain. Return pan containing mushrooms, onions and pepper to the heat and add half cup of water/mushroom juice. When boiling thicken with flour and simmer for a minute.
Remove from heat and fold in scallops and cashews. Cover and leave standing. Serves 4.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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