What's growing in your garden or flooding the markets? In Season follows Witt's many chefs and journalist Virginia Winder in their quest to source the freshest fruit and vegetables, and serve them up with simple sense and inspiration.
F or a dinner party with friends, Witt chef tutor John Hudson adds a lemon twist into the mix.
Based on what's in season right now, John chose guacamole and corn chips for pre-dinner nibbles, served a colourful dish of salmon, fresh spring vegetables and hollandaise sauce for the main, and finished it all off with a lemon white chocolate cheesecake.
The guacamole is a simple affair - just mash an avocado with finely diced tomato, red onion, garlic, chilli and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with corn chips.
For the main course, it's all about timing.
Slow-roast the tomatoes first, then cook the potato, salmon, hollandaise and spring greens - in that order.
John says that when you have guests for dinner, do the preparation before they come. "When you are doing a dinner party, you don't want to be stuck in the kitchen - you want a nice meal and you want to talk sitting around the table."
For the salmon dish, his chosen green vegetables are fresh asparagus, beans, broccoli and baby spinach, but he says the choice is up to you and whatever you have growing in your garden.
When blanching the vegetables, timing becomes all important. The beans and asparagus take about 1 minute 20 seconds, the broccoli about 2 minutes and the spinach just 30 seconds to wilt.
Once cooked they need to go into a colander and under cold water straight away to stop them cooking. You can then pop them in the fridge for later and reheat in the microwave seconds before serving.
The hollandaise sauce is John's short-cut recipe. "Often people put too much heat under hollandaise and it scrambles the eggs. This is a fail-safe one. You bang all the ingredients into a double boiler and whisk it."
But don't have the water boiling away beneath your pot or bowl - have it gently simmering, so the hollandaise can cook in the same way and not curdle.
To present this dish, the server becomes an assemblage artist, placing the roast tomato, potatoes, spring vegetables and salmon creatively on a plate, drizzling with hollandaise and garnishing with red capsicum and carrot.
The dessert is a lemon white chocolate ganache cheesecake, based on a recipe by "Global Baker" Dean Brettschneider.
However, John has some tried- and-true tips for making this dish - he uses the classic Philadelphia cream cheese, Nestle white chocolate buttons and digestive biscuits.
"Put your biscuits in a plastic bag and roll with a rolling pin," he says.
Make sure the base isn't too thick, because that makes the dessert too sickly.
Serve with a swirl of raspberry coulis and sugared lemon rind. The latter can be made by lightly peeling a lemon, making sure not to get any white pith. Boil up 100g sugar and 100ml of water, drop in the rind for 4 to 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and let it soak.
Best of all, John serves the cheesecake with a shot of Bailey's Irish Cream. Sip while eating or, even better, pour the lot over the dessert and dig in.
Lemon & White Chocolate Ganache Baked Cheesecake
1 x 250g packet of digestive biscuits
100g melted butter
750g cream cheese (I prefer Philadelphia)
220g caster sugar
150ml fresh cream
150g white chocolate
2 lemons, zest and juice
250g raspberries (fresh or frozen)
100g caster sugar
Squeeze of lemon juice
Line a 23cm round springform baking tin with a circle of greaseproof paper, allowing at least 3cm up the sides. Lightly grease.
Put biscuits in a clean plastic bag and roll over with a rolling pin until crushed.
Mix the biscuit crumbs with the butter and press into the tin, refrigerate.
Using an electric beater beat the sugar and cream cheese until light and fluffy (scrape sides of bowl a couple of times).
Place cream and white chocolate in microwave, cook on high for 4 minutes, checking a couple of times. Stir until the mixture becomes smooth.
Add lemon zest and juice to the cream cheese and sugar mix.
Add eggs slowly until beaten in.
Add cream and chocolate, mix in till smooth.
Scrape the filling out onto the cheesecake base.
Bake in a pre-heated oven (130 degrees Celsius) for 1 hour or until set.
To make the coulis, put water, sugar, and raspberries in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, blend, sieve, add lemon juice and chill.
Serve slice with swirl of coulis on the plate.
2 ripe avocados, halved, stones removed, peeled
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 ripe tomato, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 small fresh red chilli, deseeded, finely chopped
60ml (1/4 cup) fresh lemon juice
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Place the avocado flesh in a medium bowl and use a fork to mash until almost smooth.
Add the onion, tomato, garlic, chilli and lemon juice and use a spoon to mix well.
Taste and season with salt and pepper
Serve with a large pile of your favourite corn chips or with a Mexican dinner.
Oven-seared Salmon with Slow-roast Tomatoes, Spring Greens & Lemon Coriander Hollandaise
1 serving (increase for each person)
300g salmon fillet
1/4 bunch asparagus
1/4 broccoli (cut into florets)
1/4 cup green beans
1/2 cup baby spinach leaves
1/2 carrot and red capsicum (for garnish)
1 slow-roasted tomato (halved, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, flaked sea salt and New York pepper)
1 agria potato, diced
25ml rice bran oil
Before starting this meal, slow- roast vine tomatoes by cutting them in half, drizzling them with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, flaked sea salt and New York pepper. Place in oven for 30 minutes at 150 degrees Celsius.
Once soft, take out tomato and set aside for serving.
Turn up oven to 200C. Put the peeled and diced potato on an oven tray, toss with olive oil and salt and pop in oven.
Wash, trim and lightly peel (optional) asparagus, trim tops and tails off beans, cut broccoli into florets and wash baby spinach.
Peel and thinly slice carrot and red capsicum ready for garnish. Set aside ready to steam.
Season fillet of salmon with salt and pepper. Oil a hot frying pan and throw in salmon, skin side up for 2-3 minutes - before it starts spitting and smoking. Turn with flat fish slice and sear for another 2 minutes. Place in oven for about 12 minutes (with the potatoes).
Just before salmon is cooked, place the asparagus, beans and broccoli into a hot steamer until tender, but slightly crunchy. Add the spinach for a minute, just to wilt.
Serve salmon on bed of potato and greens and drizzle with hollandaise. Place tomato on the side and garnish the dish with carrot and capsicum. LEMON CORIANDER HOLLANDAISE
Dash of spiced vinegar
1 Tbsp lemon juice and zest of the lemon.
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup cream
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
Good pinch of salt
Handful of fresh coriander
Melt butter in a double boiler (don't allow water to boil or sauce will curdle), add vinegar, lemon juice and zest, egg yolks and cream. Cook, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat. Add mustard and salt and beat until smooth.
Add fresh roughly chopped coriander.
Taranaki Daily News