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Chef Bevan Smith shares some recipes for those cooler days.
It's always lovely to see snow on the hills in the autumn sun and certainly quite a different feel to the deserts of Morocco that I was lucky enough to encounter a couple of weeks ago.
So much so, warmth is the order of the day with the first fires of the year lit, mouse traps set and extra blankets brought down from the cupboard.
As for the dinner table, here are three dishes that appeal no matter what the weather holds in store.
For the time poor, sweetcorn, chicken and ginger soup is as delicious as it is fast to make. From start to finish you should be eating in 15 minutes. Bulk it up with extra noodles and leafy Asian greens if you like; this is one of my year-round favourites.
Everyone does pasta with tomato, I am sure for the reason it's a classic.
Italians often love to give many a dish a lift sometimes with a little chilli, ginger or mint. Far from being odd, they actually add a lovely wee kick, so I tried out all three the other night on the kids.
The result: they loved it. It had a lovely warmth from the chilli and ginger and the mint cut through the richness of the tomato beautifully. Less Parmesan got used, I noted, so there you go. The kids have spoken!
Beef cheeks are more than worth the effort to seek out. Ask your friendly butcher to order them in for you and there should not be a problem.
Once cooked, they are unctuous and simply melt in your mouth.
If you like pork belly, then you seriously need to give these a try.
Like all good things, they do take a little time but nothing a slow cooker can't handle while you are at work, or overnight if need be.
Make them ahead of time and reheating them could not be simpler.
If sourcing celeriac is an issue, make a puree with parsnips or Jerusalem artichoke instead. The result is the same: heaven.
Enough talking, enjoy the sunshine!
- Chef, restaurateur, author and father of two, Bevan Smith is the owner of the award-winning Riverstone Kitchen, north of Oamaru. His life revolves around food. Sharing that passion is central to his philosophy that all people should and can eat well.
Sweetcorn, chicken and ginger soup
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
500g fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 4cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into fine matchsticks
4 spring onions, finely chopped
2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, finely sliced
1 litre water or chicken stock
salt and pepper
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
Heat the oil in a medium sized pot and over a medium to high heat, sweat the corn, ginger and half the spring onions for 3-4 minutes without colouring, stirring often.
Add the chicken, the water or stock and the rice wine vinegar and bring to a simmer.
Season to taste, stir in the remaining spring onions and divide between four bowls. Serve immediately.
Penne with fresh tomato sauce, mint and chilli
3 cups penne pasta
¼ cup olive oil
1 3cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
good pinch chilli flakes
1 cup mint leaves, picked
2 440g tins Italian chopped tomatoes or 1kg very ripe tomatoes, chopped
salt and pepper
¼ cup ground or shaved Parmesan, optional
Extra virgin olive oil
Place a large pot of water on to the boil over a high heat. Cook the pasta for 15-18 minutes or until just cooked.
Meanwhile, in a separate pot, warm the olive oil over a medium heat and sweat the ginger, onion, garlic and chilli flakes for 3-4 minutes before adding tomatoes, a good dash of salt and pepper, the sugar and half the mint leaves roughly torn.
Bring the tomato sauce to a simmer and cook for 6-8 minutes. Puree the sauce in a food processor or with a stick blender and return the sauce to the pot. Adjust seasoning if needed and keep warm.
Drain pasta when the penne is cooked and divide between four large bowls. Top pasta with tomato sauce.
Finely chop remaining mint and scatter over top of the sauce and finish with Parmesan if using and extra virgin olive oil.
Slow-cooked beef cheek with celeriac puree and herb oil
4 beef cheeks
1 bottle sturdy red wine
1 stick celery
1 brown onion, peeled
1 large carrot, peeled
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme
1 cup plain flour
salt and pepper
⅓ cup vegetable oil
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 head celeriac
1 cup Italian parsley, picked
1 Tbsp fresh thyme or rosemary, finely chopped
½ tsp sea salt
1 clove garlic, peeled
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Remove excess silver skin from the cheeks with a sharp knife. Place beef into a bowl and cover with red wine. Roughly chop carrot, celery and onion and add to the beef and red wine along with the garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns and thyme.
Mix all ingredients together, cover and leave to marinate for preferably up to two days. Once marinated, drain and reserve wine from the beef and vegetables.
Coat the beef in flour, season lightly and colour well on all sides in a heavy based pan, over a medium to high heat in half the vegetable oil. Reserve the beef to one side in an ovenproof roasting dish or casserole pan.
Colour the vegetables in the remaining oil. Then add the tomato paste and cook out for one minute before adding the reserved red wine.
Reduce wine slightly before adding to the beef along with the remaining flour and enough water to just cover the beef. Place a piece of baking paper on top of the beef and then seal well with a piece of tinfoil.
Place casserole dish into a 200degC oven for 30 minutes before reducing the temperature to 160C and cooking for a further 3-4 hours or until the cheeks are very tender and able to have a spoon pushed through them easily.
Remove beef from oven and allow to cool completely in its juices or preferably overnight as this kind of dish is even better the following day. Cheeks can be made up to a week before using.
Meanwhile, peel and chop the celeriac into large pieces. Place the celeriac into a medium sized pot with the milk. Cover with a small piece of baking paper and simmer over a gentle heat for 60-80 minutes topping up with extra milk or water as required until celeriac is very tender.
Strain off and discard milk. Warm cream and add it and the celeriac to a food processor and pulse until very smooth. Adjust seasoning to taste and reserve celeriac puree until ready to use. Can be made up to five days in advance.
To serve, place the beef cheeks into a large frying pan along with the cooking liquor and place into a 200C oven until hot, basting occasionally with the cooking liquor.
Meanwhile, warm the puree in a small pan over a medium heat, stirring constantly as it tends to spit a bit. Divide the puree and beef cheeks between four plates and spoon over the cooking juices and herb oil. Serve and enjoy.
Place parsley, thyme and salt into a mortar and grind to a smooth paste.
Add garlic and crush until smooth. Add oil and muddle to combine.