Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Concert in the Park Piss-Up, a New Zealand Food & Wine Extravaganza!

Inspired by my Daring Bakers' Challenge of the month, Pavlova, I suggested New Zealand cuisine for our Sunday Concert in the Park Culinary Challenge of the week. Kai nominated John to prepare the traditional Maori hangi, but we attract enough attention as it is.  Can you envision John, getting to the park extra early, and digging a deep hole to be lined with red-hot stones and covered with vegetation, in preparation of cooking our Kiwi picnic fare? Our wagon is chocka, and now Big Ugly is chocka - that's just sammy short of a picnic!

So, what exactly is New Zealand cuisine? According to my web sources, New Zealanders enjoy quality local produce from land and sea. Similar to the cuisine of Australia, the cuisine of New Zealand is a diverse British-based cuisine with Mediterranean and Pacific Rim influences as the country becomes more cosmopolitan. For dishes that have a distinctly New Zealand style, there's lamb, pork and cervena (venison), salmon, crayfish (lobster), Bluff oysters, paua (abalone), mussels, scallops, pipis and tuatua (both are types of New Zealand shellfish), kumara (sweet potato), kiwifruit, tamarillo and pavlova, the national dessert. It's also good to know a little New Zealand slang before embarking on such an adventure, and you'll notice I've had a little fun with it throughout this post....

Ladies a Plate means please bring a dish of food to share; Entree is an appetizer or hors d'oeurve; Main is the primary dish of a meal; Take-away means food to be taken away and eaten; Tea is the evening meal, dinner; and my favorite, Piss Up - a party, social gathering, and excuse for drinking alcohol...BINGO! As if we need an excuse to drink wine!

Before I get into our entrees and main, please realize these Concert in the Park Culinary Challenge blog posts are primarily photo recaps, featuring one or two recipes and/or links to recipes that inspired us. I do not request recipes from everyone who participated each week. If you decide to host your own theme party, along the lines of one of our challenges, I hope these posts will simply provide you with ideas. Ok then, let's get started!

I'll begin with Kai's Rewena paraoa (potato bread), since kai is the Maori word for food. Nigel Olsen, author of Curious Kai, The Curious New Zealand Food Blog, dedicates three posts to the preparation of this bread, with the complete recipe and step by step photos. The first post starts here. Our Kai served two loaves, still warm from the oven, with garlic butter...we were very impressed that he went through the 3-day process to make this flavorful bread! Kai also served Grilled New Zealand Lamb Chops, but discouraged my photo shoot because they were served on one of Max's monkey plates ;-)

John pissed around for days before finally choosing a recipe I suggested from Hors d'Oeuvre at Home with The Culinary Institute of America, Lamb Brochettes with Mint Pesto (recipe provided at the end of the post).  John, and Minute Chef, Brad, made a mad rush to the store just hours before the concert. However, these brochettes turned out incredible, even with the shortened marinating time. Good on ya, mate!

When Alec and Nina started preparing Seared Scallops with Kiwi Salsa, I had to pinch myself repeatedly. Were we really dining at picnic tables in the middle of a park, or at one of the top restaurants in town! As Alec quickly seared the scallops in a pan on the grill, Nina plated the salsa on little white plates and had the fried parsnips ready for the final garnishing. A perfectly seared scallop that melted in my mouth...crash-hot!

Jim and Carmen arrived with a hot basket of Green Lip Mussel Fritters and Kiwi & Tomato Salad.

We were all fascinated how the lovely grape tomatoes and kiwi complemented each other in this simple, summery salad. Carmen said she used about ten kiwis, peeled and sliced; about thirty cherry tomatoes, halved; about two tablespoons of finely chopped parsley; and a splash of Temecula Olive Oil Company Citrus Reserve Olive Oil.

For her Mussel Fritters, Carmen started with the Chowhound forum, here, and adapted her own recipe. Chowhound links to a recipe by Pat Churchill, Cooking Down Under in that forum, and I am so tempted to try Emeril's Smoked Mussel Fritters with Roasted Red Pepper Aioli!

Pam and Brad tossed together two outstanding summer salads. Pammy's Kiwi and Kumara Chippie Salad...

And Bradley's Pear and Gorgonzola Salad, inspired by Andrea's recipe at So D'lish, New Zealand's food blog website. 

Sparks, still trying to figure how to convert her unused kitchen into a day spa for Riley, elicited some crikey dick with authentic New Zealand Meat Pies, homemade by Aunty Devi's Meat Pies! Aunty Devi personally made the drive to the island to deliver a few dozen Steak & Cheese and Chicken pies from her Escondido kitchen. They were quite nice.

Nina's freshly baked Bran Date Muffins, a recipe shared by Linette at Plum Tree Cottage in New Zealand, and Spinach and Feta Muffins, adapted from this recipe, were both awesome.  Several Bran Date Muffins disappeared as take-aways for breakfast the next morning.

For pudding, I presented my various Pavlovas from the Daring Bakers' Challenge...Chocolate Pavlova with Whipped Cream and Brandied Cherries

And a more traditional Pavlova with Passionfruit-Orange Cream and fresh kiwi, mango and blueberries... Recipes and additional photos are in my previous blog post, Dancing in New Zealand with a Slice of Pavlova.

Finally, as promised, here is the recipe for John's Lamb Brochettes...

Lamb Brochettes with Mint Pesto
Makes 30 brochettes

2 1/2 pounds boneless leg of lamb
2 Tbsp lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
3 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp chopped mint
8 ounces pancetta, thinly sliced, or bacon* (about 15 slices)
2 cups mint pesto (jarred or homemade)


Cut the lamb into 3/4-inch cubes. Combine the lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and whisk until blended. Add the oil and mint.

Toss the lamb in the mixture to coat well, cover, and marinate in the refrigerator, tossing occasionally, at least 4 hours.

Soak thirty 6-inch bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes to prevent burning. Thread 2 pieces of lamb and 1/2 slice of pancetta onto each skewer; arrange on a sheet pan.

Roast the brochettes in a preheated 450 degree F oven until the lamb is nicely browned outside, yet still pink and juicy inside, 8 to 12 minutes.

Serve the brochettes with mint pesto sauce for dipping.

Note: If using bacon rather than pancetta, blanch it in a large saucepan of slowly simmering water for 5 minutes. The bacon will become opaque and firm. Drain and pat dry before using.

***John used bacon and grilled the brochettes at the park.

G'day mates, I'm buggered!



bunkycooks said...

You all are killing me with your amazing food!!! I love the scallop dish and agree that it could rival a great restaurant (but so could all of your food!). Your pavlovas are lovely. Just send me leftovers of all of this and I will pop a cork on a great bottle of wine!

Pat Churchill said...

Kia ora, Denise. You're a bloody beaut sheila giving it a go - no doubt about it. Sweet as kumera, in fact ;-)

Denise said...

Thank you, Gwen! Sorry...no leftovers ;-)

Pat - Thank you so much for visiting and I hope I didn't butcher the slang too much, but I love it!

Magic of Spice said...

What a fantastic line up! Love your site:)

Andrea Wong said...

Hi Denise, what a great spread you guys had! A pretty decent feed by anyone's standards :)

I'm glad that you used one of my recipes, or were at least inspired by it, I hope you liked it!

I like 'bring a plate' parties, it's always nice to try other people's cooking. Ah summer parties, I can't wait for the warmer weather to return.