Fresh flavours seasoned well

Chef Bevan Smith shares some delicious recipes to enjoy in spring.

The year continues to race away and the school holidays only serve to remind me that while life is busy, it's all too short and a reminder that family is everything.

Rampant spring growth means everything is going gangbusters in the garden and the lawnmower is starting to get a real workout.

This year I retired some of my verges for wild flower beds - less grass, more flowers and happy bees this summer with any luck.

Also ticking my box at the moment are field mushrooms with wet polenta and blue cheese. A classic combination of flavours and perfect for lunch or dinner, especially on a cool spring day.

A Thai salad of pork and fresh pineapple with chilli caramel and crispy shallots, is full of flavour and has freshness to burn. My happy place.

Finally our parmesan stick has been perfected these last couple of months by our baker boy Del Francis. The perfect blend of crunchy cheesy goodness that takes that much loved Kiwi favourite to the next level.

Nice one Del!

Field mushrooms with wet polenta and blue cheese. Photos by Fiona Andersen.
Photo: by Fiona Andersen

Field mushrooms with wet polenta and blue cheese

Serves 4

Ingredients
200g flat/Portobello mushrooms
50ml olive oil
salt and pepper
20g butter
1-2 handfuls purple sprouting broccoli or greens
100g vintage Windsor blue/gorgonzola or roquefort

Wet polenta - Makes 400g
350ml full cream milk
35g polenta
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp parmesan, ground
salt and pepper

Method
Pre-heat oven to 200degC.

Bring a medium-sized pot of water to the boil over a high heat.

Cut mushrooms into quarters.

Heat olive oil in a large heavy ovenproof frying pan. Colour mushrooms well in the oil, season to taste, add butter and finish in the oven for 3-4 minutes.

Warm polenta in a small pot over a medium heat, stirring often to prevent it catching.

Divide polenta between four plates.

Briefly blanch greens, drain well and place on top of the polenta followed by the mushrooms.

Crumble blue cheese over top and serve immediately.

Wet Polenta

Bring milk to the boil in a small saucepan over a medium to low heat.

Pour into a stainless steel bowl and place over a pot of boiling water.

Add polenta and whisk occasionally for 2 to 3 minutes until grains start to thicken.

Cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until grains are soft.

Whisk in butter and parmesan and season to taste with a little salt and pepper.

Wet polenta can be made ahead of time and kept for up to one week in the fridge.

Thai salad of pork, pineapple, chilli caramel and crispy shallots.
Photo: by Fiona Andersen

Thai salad of pork, pineapple, chilli caramel and crispy shallots

Serves 4

Ingredients
50ml canola oil
200g pork mince
salt and pepper
half a fresh pineapple, skin and core removed, cut into thin pieces
¼ red onion finely sliced
2 cups coriander
1½ cups mint leaves
1 cup spring onions finely chopped
1 cup finely sliced green cabbage
½ cup chives, roughly chopped
½ cup crispy shallots

Chilli Caramel
1 head garlic, peeled and finely chopped
½ cup boiling water
¼ cup canola oil
⅔ cup fish sauce
200g light palm sugar, crushed
2-3 tsp Sambal Olek
½ small red onion, finely chopped
3 coriander roots, lightly scraped
2 Tbsp tamarind pulp

Method
Heat the oil in a large heavy based frying pan over a high heat.

Season pork with a little salt and pepper and fry in the canola oil until well coloured, breaking up any lumps with a wooden spoon.

When pork is almost finished cooking, add a tablespoon or two of the chilli caramel and stir in to combine.

Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before placing in a large bowl with the salad ingredients.

Toss well to combine and divide between four plates.

Drizzle each salad with the remaining chilli caramel and finish with the crispy shallots. Serve immediately.

Chilli Caramel
Place two-thirds of the garlic into a bowl and pour the water over the garlic.

Leave to infuse for 1 minute, then drain through a sieve, reserving both garlic and water.

Fry the garlic in canola oil until light golden brown, drain well, and reserve both the fried garlic and the garlic oil.

Place the garlic water, the fish sauce and the sugar into a pot, whisk together to combine and bring to the boil over a high heat. Reduce until the liquid becomes a thick syrup.

Grind Sambal Olek, remaining garlic, red onion and coriander root in a food processor to a fine paste.

Heat garlic oil in a frying pan over a moderate heat.

Add paste to the garlic oil and fry for 2 to 3 minutes until fragrant.

Add to the syrup, stirring to combine and finish with the tamarind paste, the fried garlic and a little more fish sauce if your taste buds call for it.

Store in the fridge until ready to use. Will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

Del's amazing parmesan sticks.
Photo: by Fiona Andersen

Del's amazing parmesan sticks

Serves 6

Ingredients
460g standard flour (we use Champion Dover Blend)
320ml tepid water
8g dried yeast
10g iodised salt
3 Tbsp olive oil
canola spray
¾ cup grated cheddar cheese
¾ cup ground parmesan
3 good pinches cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp finely chopped rosemary

Method
Place the flour, water, yeast, salt and 2 Tbsp of the olive oil into a mixing machine bowl and with a dough hook mix on low speed for 25 minutes.

Remove dough from bowl. Grease bowl with canola spray, return dough to bowl and cover with plastic cling wrap. Allow to prove in a warm place for 1-2 hours or until nearly doubled in size.

Remove dough from bowl and divide into six equal pieces about 130g in weight. Roll each piece into a ball with a circular hand motion before rolling out into a 15cm long log of dough with sharply tapered ends.

Brush or spray each piece of dough with a little water. Preheat oven to 220degC.

Mix the cheeses and cayenne pepper together and tip on to a tray.

Roll each moistened piece of dough in the cheese mix and place on to a baking paper-lined baking tray.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a deep golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool before tucking in.

-Bevan and Monique Smith own Riverstone Kitchen, runner-up Best Regional Restaurant in the 2014 Cuisine Good Food Awards.

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