Fresh new flavours

Spring has arrived and so have fresh new flavours and ingredients resulting in exciting new dishes to celebrate our warming, lighter evenings.

You will find as the days warm up so will the gardens and you will soon be sinking your teeth into the first of the season's asparagus, beans and peas.

Fresh leafy salad ingredients will be a welcome addition as will be the array of fragrant herbs.  Don't forget to celebrate with New Zealand's finest spring lamb and fresh seafood as they partner with the onslaught of spring flavours.


Roast spring chicken with garlic, lemon and herbs

Brighter evenings will inspire you to make lighter, fresher dinners. Like this delicious chicken which is infused with juicy, tangy lemons, handfuls of garlic and fragrant sweet fennel. Resulting in a succulent roasted chicken, packed with flavour and juices. Spring is in the air.

Photos: Simon Lambert
Photos: Simon Lambert


1.5kg chicken, whole, free-range, (spackcocked)
3 garlic bulbs, separated and peeled (about 30 cloves)
2 bulbs fennel and leaves
1 tsp fennel seeds
6 lemons, 1 sliced, 5 halved
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 fennel bulbs, quartered, leaves reserved for serving
4 spring onions, cut into finger lengths
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

The day before cooking this chicken you need to marinate it so you get the maximum flavour.

You need to spatchcock the chicken, which simply means you remove the backbone to make it cook flatter, so it cooks faster.

To do this turn the chicken so that the breasts are facing down on your chopping board. Using a strong set of scissors, cut the back bone along each side and remove and discard. Turn the chicken over and flatten out, gently apply pressure down on the breasts so that the chicken is pressed down a little.

Put the chicken in a suitable sized non-reactive dish and add half the garlic, fennel seeds, lemon slices and a little olive oil. Season well with cracked pepper and a touch of salt. Massage into the chicken, cover and refrigerate until required.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 190degC and line a roasting tin with baking paper.

Transfer the contents of the bowl to the tray and add the fennel, making sure you coat it well in the marinade ingredients.

Place the chicken on top, breast-side down, and season well. Cover with enough baking paper to encase the chicken and secure the edges. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes.

After this time, remove the roasting tray from the oven and turn the chicken breast-side up, giving the vegetables a stir. Return to the oven for 35 minutes.

Remove the tray from the oven once more and turn the bird over carefully. Squash some lemon pieces and garlic into the flesh and return to the oven for 10 more minutes, until golden.

Cut the chicken into desired pieces, serve with all the juices and vegetables.

Watercress dressing

Spring leaves are blooming now and it will give our spring menus a refreshing lift. Not only are the flavours and aromas exhilarating, the nutrients are much needed.

MAKES 250g

80g of watercress
2 anchovy fillets
2 Tbsp of capers
1 handful of mint leaves
1 handful of parsley leaves
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, crushed
8 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, juice only
salt and cracked black pepper

Add the anchovies, capers, garlic and leaves, mash well until a thick green paste forms. Then add all the other ingredients, stir well to combine.

Taste and adjust the balance if needed. Serve at room temperature.

Stove-top carrots and parsnips

Little sweet spring carrots will be appearing at the markets and cooking them on the stove with tender little parsnips works so well as the flavours mingle and they naturally sweeten as they are cooked in so little water.


500g spring carrots, peeled and either keep whole if small or in half if bigger
500g little parsnips, peeled and prepare as for carrots
25g butter
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
100ml water

Melt the butter in a suitable-sized saucepan. Add the carrots and parsnips and coat them in the melted butter. Add the vinegar and water, season with salt and pepper.

Cover with a lid or paper round. Reduce the temperature to medium and cook for 10 minutes or until tender and all the liquid has been absorbed in the vegetables.


Spring leaf pie

This is not our traditional pie recipe. This pie has a thin, crispy olive oil pastry, filled with fresh spring leaves and baked until crisp. It would be perfect for a spring picnic or light evening dinner to celebrate our longer days!


350g of plain flour
1 pinch of sea salt
5 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1-2 Tbsp cold water

1kg silverbeet , spinach or a mix, washed and trimmed
3 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, sliced thinly
3 spring onions, finely chopped
25g of Parmesan, grated
sea salt
black pepper, freshly ground

Begin by preparing the dough. Stir together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the oil and 1 tablespoon of water at a time and knead it all together into a ball of dough (it should be soft and elastic but not sticky; add more water or flour to reach the right density).

Wrap the dough in cling film and place it in the fridge to rest for an hour.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Remove the silverbeet stalks and blanch for four minutes in salted, boiling water. Drain, squeeze out any liquid and set aside.

In a large frypan, heat the oil over a medium flame. Add the sliced onions and cook for 5 minutes or until they are soft and sweet. Add the cooked silverbeet stalks, and all the remaining leaves and cook until well wilted and all the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and cool in a colander to remove excess liquid.

Preheat the oven to 200degC and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Unwrap the dough and split it in half. Dust a working surface with flour and roll the first half, as thinly as possible and ideally as large as the baking sheet. Roll it on the rolling pin and unroll it on top of the lined baking sheet.

Fold the Parmesan cheese into the spinach mix, then spread the filling all over the bottom sheet of dough. Roll the other piece of dough and ease it on top of the filling. Fold the edges towards the centre to close the pie. Pierce the whole surface with a fork and brush it with oil.

Bake the pie for 30 minutes, or until golden and crisp.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

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