While fish and chips wrapped in newspaper, eaten on the beach with a bit of sand for good measure, will forever be one of our national culinary treasures, chefs around the country are pushing boundaries in restaurant kitchens as they put their creative twists on seafood dishes.
To mark this 21st edition of Waterfront magazine, editor Jody Robb asked three leading New Zealand chefs to create a celebratory seafood-themed dish for readers to try at home.
So, next time you want to push the boat out in the kitchen, try your hand at these fabulous dishes and get ready for the accolades that will follow…
Soul Bar & Bistro is Auckland’s pre-eminent harbour-side restaurant. Slightly elevated above the inner Viaduct harbour, Soul is headed by its innovative and visionary owner, Judith Tabron – a stalwart of the Auckland dining scene.
Since 2000, Soul has paved the way for others to follow – serving aspirational food, including spanking fresh seafood, in sassy ways, matched with an on-target wine list and some of the city’s most engaging wait staff.
Head chef Chris Law hails from Ayrshire on Scotland’s southwest coast and spent the formative years of his career working in some of Glasgow’s finest hotels before moving to Leeds then later London.
Late-2001, Law headed to New Zealand for the ultimate working holiday where he secured a spot in the kitchen at the the newly-established Soul. After a successful stint with the Soul ‘family’, he returned to the UK, got married, started a family and cooked in a variety of establishments.
Wishing his children to have a Kiwi upbringing and lifestyle, Law returned to Auckland in 2009 and hot-footed it back to Soul where he has relished being a part of the continuing evolution of this popular and enduring restaurant.
Now leading the team as head chef, Law says he’s exactly where he wants to be.
“I’m excited to be helping make more great memories for Soul and striving to keep its legendary food on the map for all the right reasons.”
With summer fast approaching, Law has dreamed up a salad which is quick, easy – and a winner in the looks and taste stakes. Scampi has sweet, white flesh and is a small, crayfish-like creature that is a real delicacy.
“This salad is perfect for impressing your friends and family at home over the barbeque season,” says Law.
“If you can’t get hold of any whole scampi – and they are getting easier to source – this dish will work perfectly with whole prawns, or even crayfish.”
Grilled Scampi, shaved cauliflower salad with lemon butter sauce
- 12 whole scampi (allowing three scampi per person; for an entrée you could get away with two per person)
- ¼ head of cauliflower
- 2 stalks of celery
Lemon butter sauce
- 20ml cream
- 50ml white wine
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 sprig of thyme
- bay leaf
- 1 sliced shallot (milder and sweeter than onion)
- 120 grams butter
- 2 lemons
- 75ml extra virgin olive oil
- 30ml white wine vinegar
- 2 cloves finely chopped garlic
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 3-4 drops Worcestershire sauce
Add the white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, chopped garlic and Worcestershire sauce to a mixing bowl, and then slowly whisk in the olive oil. Season with a little salt and pepper and set aside.
Add the white wine to a small saucepan along with the sliced shallot, the garlic, bay leaf and thyme. Over a gentle heat, reduce the volume by about half before adding the cream. Reduce this by half again before removing from the heat.
While the mixture is still warm, slowly whisk in the butter, one cube at a time until it is all incorporated. Strain the sauce through a fine strainer before adding the juice of two lemons, some finely chopped chives and a little seasoning. Set aside somewhere warm.
Cut the cauliflower into small florets. Slice these as finely as possible using a mandolin or a sharp knife. Do the same with the celery, and add them to a mixing bowl along with the shaved cauliflower.
Dress the salad with a generous amount of the vinaigrette, some chopped parsley and gently toss together. Add a little seasoning and arrange this on each plate.
To cook the scampi
Carefully split the scampi lengthways and lay them out on a flat baking tray. Remove the vein that runs down the middle of each tail before sprinkling with a little salt and a generous drizzle of the butter sauce.
Place these under a hot grill or on the barbeque and cook for about two minutes. Once cooked, arrange them on top of the salad, drizzle the rest of the butter sauce over the top and serve.
Depot Eatery and Oyster Bar was opened in 2011 by celebrated chef, Al Brown in the Federal Street dining precinct adjacent to the Sky Tower in central Auckland.
It’s a quintessentially New Zealand establishment with hard case memorabilia scattered throughout and recreates the casual, informal environment of the Kiwi bach – with no pretensions, fuss or white tablecloths. Eating with your fingers is acceptable and good-hearted banter with the wait staff is par for the course.
Al is joined in the kitchen by executive chef Kyle Street, and head chef Andrew Mackle – who has whipped up a recipe for Waterfront readers which stays true to the Depot philosophy
Food served at Depot is in season, empathetically cooked – often over charcoal or native hardwood – and designed to be eaten communally with friends. Freshly-shucked shellfish – including a variety of New Zealand oysters and clams – opened in front of diners is a highlight.
Mackle says it was during his final years at high school that he discovered an interest in cheffing as career.
“I was lucky enough to have Judith Tabron of Soul Bar & Bistro offer me a role as its first apprentice,” says Mackle.
After completing his apprenticeship, Mackle worked at a number of restaurants around New Zealand and Canada before joining Depot close on four years ago as a sous chef rising to the head chef position in 2013.
“Al Brown is always telling me that Depot is all about fun and informality – elbows on the table are encouraged,” laughs Mackle.
“For Waterfront magazine, I chose to create a dish based around kahawai as it’s an underrated species and most people think it’s a fish which is only good for smoking – or bait.
“However, I wanted to show that it’s a very versatile fish that I think tastes just as nice grilled or roasted.”
Mackle has introduced Middle Eastern flavours to the dish.
“I’ve always had a love for Middle Eastern flavours and the combination of the smoky yet subtle eggplant dip and the fresh tarator which is almost like a salsa, goes great with the grilled kahawai.”
Photo: New Zealand Herald/newspix.co.nz
Whole barbecue kahawai with baba ganoush and tarator salsa
Serves 4-6 as part of shared spread
- 2 large eggplants
- ½ white onion
- 1 clove garlic
- 50mls olive oil
- 1 lemon (juiced)
- Salt and pepper
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 tablespoons thick Greek yoghurt
- 30 grams macadamia nuts (toasted and chopped)
- 1 small red chilli, seeds removed
- 1 shallot
- 1 small bunch coriander
- 1 small bunch mint
- 30 grams golden raisins
- 60mls olive oil
- Lemon to taste
- Salt and pepper
Preheat the barbecue.
Use a fork to spike the eggplant skin all over as this will prevent the eggplants from exploding. Place the spiked eggplants on the grill section of the barbecue and keep turning them until soft – don’t be afraid to get some char on them as it will add to the flavour.
Once soft, place the eggplants in a sieve over a bowl and enclose tightly with cling film. The unwanted excess moisture from the eggplants will drip out into the bowl. Leave the eggplants to cool to room temperature.
Slice the onion and garlic finely, place in a small pot on low heat with olive oil and cumin seeds and cook until soft and sweet.
Once the eggplants are cooled, peel the black skin off and place the flesh in a blender with onion, garlic and cumin mixture. Blend with lemon and yoghurt until smooth.
Taste, and add salt and pepper if required.
Place golden raisins in a bowl of hot tap water for about five minutes; this will plump them up.
Toast macadamias in a dry pan with no oil on the grill or in the oven if available. Watch them carefully as they will brown quickly. Once cool, chop very roughly and be careful not to chop them too finely as you want them to add texture to the tarator.
Finely chop the shallots and red chilli, and roughly chop the coriander and mint.
Strain the golden raisins that have been plumping and chop them in half.
Mix macadamias, shallots, red chilli, herbs and raisins in a bowl just before you’re about to serve. Then add olive oil to the mixture and lemon juice to taste. Don’t add the olive oil and lemon juice until the last minute as the lemon juice will discolour the herbs if added too early.
For the fish
In the restaurant, we butterfly our whole fish which involves taking the centre bone out but keeping the fish intact. If you’re game enough then you can try this yourself otherwise any good fishmonger should be able to do this for you.
If you don’t butterfly the fish, then it still tastes great cooked on the bone – but just make sure to de-scale the fish before cooking it.
Rub olive oil and salt and pepper on the skin and flesh and place the Kahawai skin-side down on a hot grill. Don’t be afraid of some flames as char equals colour which equals flavour.
Cook for two to three minutes on either side.
Spread baba ganoush on to a serving platter then place the hot kahawai on top. Spoon the tarator salsa over the top of the fish, and then a good squeeze of lemon juice.
Place in the middle of the table and enjoy…
Hopgood's in Nelson – at the cathedral end of town – was opened in 2005 by Kevin and Jane Hopgood with the aim of presenting modern, seasonally-based bistro-style dishes in a casual and relaxing environment.
The heritage-listed premises, formerly the Dalgety and Company Limited Building, are a stylish backdrop to the food – which is certainly the star of the show at Hopgoods.
Recently judged runner-up in the Best Regional Restaurant category in the coveted Cuisine New Zealand Good Food Awards, Hopgood’s proves that life away from the metropolitan centres is no barrier to creating award-winning food.
Head chef Aaron Ballantyne has been part of the Hopgood’s team for seven years, after initially intending to stay for a short spell. The Nelson vibe has spun its web and Ballantyne is firmly entrenched in the eclectic city where local produce and a holiday feeling prevail.
“Hopgood’s is all about basic food done well,” Ballantyne says.
“We source organic vegetables from local farmers and showcase the best wines the Nelson region has to offer.
“The menu is deliberately kept short and changes regularly – although, we dare not take some of the enduring favourites such as duck and beef carpaccio off the menu. There would be a backlash from regular patrons.”
Hopgood’s menu is written by Ballantyne (above, right) and owner, Kevin Hopgood (above, left) who is a well-seasoned chef having worked with the legendary Roux brothers at Le Gavroche, in Mayfair, London.
Photo: Daniel Allen Photography
The recipe Hopgood’s has provided for readers of Waterfront is, in Ballantyne’s words, “a slightly unusual combination of ingredients that works well together to produce a light, healthy and refreshing summer salad”.
Ballantyne says if you can’t get your hands on some decent prawns, it will work equally well with fresh scallops, scampi or even lightly grilled white fish.
“Try it with a glass of crisp local Nelson sauvignon blanc – hard to beat.”
Crispy prawns, melon, goat’s cheese and green gazpacho
- 24 large prawn tails, deveined
- ½ cup rice flour
- Sea salt & fresh ground black pepper
- Canola oil for shallot frying
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ lemon
- 250 grams melon – your choice of watermelon, rockmelon or honey dew
- Soft goat’s cheese, rolled into small balls
- ½ cucumber, diced
- 12 large green olives, stoned and halved
- 2 tablespoons lemon infused olive oil
- Mixed salad greens
For the green gazpacho dressing
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon white balsamic
- 2 tablespoon natural yoghurt
- ½ cucumber
- 1 spring onion
- 1 green capsicum
- ½ avocado
- ¼ cup basil
- ¼ cup Italian parsley
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 tablespoon caster sugar
- 4 or 5 ice cubes
Place olive oil, vinegar and yoghurt into a blender. Add the remaining ingredients, along with the ice cubes. Blend until smooth, check the seasoning, adding more salt and pepper to taste, then pass the mixture through a fine sieve.
Transfer into a jug and chill until ready to serve.
Prawns and salad
Place rice flour into a large bowl. Add the prawns and toss to evenly coat in the flour. Shake off the excess, then place prawns on a clean tray. Set aside.
Cut the skin from the melon and discard, then cut the melon into 2cm thick slices; lightly sprinkle with salt on both sides. Place melon between two sheets of cling film on a plate,
then cover with another plate and place a heavy can or 2kg weight on top. Leave for 20 minutes, then cut melon into 2cm dice.
Place the melon dice into a large bowl with the cucumber and green olives. Drizzle with half the lemon oil, then toss to combine. Set aside.
Meanwhile, heat canola oil in a large heavy-based frying pan, then in batches shallow fry the prawns on each side until golden, crispy and just cooked through. Set aside in a warm place until all the prawns are cooked.
Once all the prawns are cooked, add them all back to the pan, add the butter and toss to combine, squeeze over the lemon juice and season generously with salt and pepper. Drain on a paper towel.
Divide the salad between four plates. Place six prawns on each plate, spoon around some of the green gazpacho dressing, top with salad greens and then drizzle with remaining lemon infused olive oil.
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