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Sometimes it doesn't take much to create something special no matter what you're craving, chef Bevan Smith writes.
I have been making the most of the last of the local pumpkins from Vegie Joe's iconic stall at Alma just down the road from us. They are so ripe and sweet at the moment, it's well worth the drive to grab a couple before the season finally draws to a close.
Cooked down into a velvet smooth soup and laced with parmesan and peppery extra virgin olive oil, this is comfort food at its best.
Lately, I have also had a hunger for the gentle heat and fragrance of Thai green fish curry.
I have been making good use of the roots from last autumn's coriander to give it a good base and extra flavour, and ramping it up with the leaves and stalks from the spring flush.
A simple, fast and delicious curry that ticks all the boxes. Just use what is on hand and adapt to suit; it's a flavour bomb that leaves takeaways for dead!
Finally, everyone needs a brownie recipe, and here's ours. Adapted over the years, we have removed the nuts and raisins from the original recipe, and cut out the flour to make it friendly for everyone.
Make the caramel ice cream if you get the chance; it's killer as well. Together, it's game over really.
Happy cooking and roll on spring!
- 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.
Pumpkin and parmesan soup
⅓ cup olive oil
1 brown, peeled and roughly chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
¼ small grey pumpkin, seeds and skin removed, roughly chopped
750ml chicken or vegetable stock
salt and pepper
150g parmesan, grated
extra virgin olive oil
Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized pot over a medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook for 5 minutes until slightly softened.
Add pumpkin and continue to cook until the pumpkin has broken down and is soft for as long as possible before it catches on the bottom of the pot.
Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Cook until the pumpkin is very soft before blending in a food processor until smooth. Adjust seasoning to taste before stirring in half the parmesan.
Adjust the consistency of the soup to taste with a little more stock or water as you see fit and divide between four bowls.
Finish with the remaining parmesan, a good lash of peppery extra virgin olive oil and crusty bread or toast.
Thai green fish curry with Asian greens and crispy shallots
1 400ml can coconut cream
1 small brown onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 3cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled
4 coriander roots, or 1 tsp of ground coriander seed
1 large handful or bunch of coriander
1 tsp turmeric powder
¼ tsp chilli flakes, optional
zest of 1 small lemon
¼ cup water
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
500g sole fillet
2 small bok choy
2-3 cups picked Asian herbs such as coriander, mint, chives, and spring onions
½ cup crispy shallots
Pour ¼ of the coconut cream into a small pot and bring to the boil over a high heat until it starts to split and the coconut oil separates from the coconut cream.
Meanwhile, place the onion, ginger, garlic, coriander roots, coriander, turmeric, chilli, lemon zest and water into a food processor and process until as smooth as possible.
Add the paste to the split coconut cream and heat over a medium heat until the curry paste smells fragrant. Add the remaining coconut cream and bring to a simmer.
Add fish sauce to taste, lemon juice and adjust the seasoning with a little salt and pepper. Place curry to one side and keep warm until ready to serve.
Bring a medium pot of water to the boil. Lightly season fish and pan fry in a little canola oil or grill the fish, until just cooked.
Blanch the bok choy and drain before placing on to four plates. Place the cooked fish on top, spoon over curry sauce and top with Asian herbs and finish with crispy shallots.
Gluten-free chocolate brownies
2½ cups caster sugar
¾ cups Dutch cocoa powder
½ cup rice flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 free-range eggs, beaten
250g unsalted butter, melted
2 tsp vanilla extract
200g dark chocolate, chopped
Preheat the oven to 160degC.
Place all ingredients into a mixing machine bowl and mix on low speed for 30 seconds with a whisk attachment, before mixing for a further 1 minute on medium to high speed.
Spoon mixture into a baking paper lined 22cm square tin and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until just set but still a little gooey in the centre.
Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before slicing into squares and serving with burnt caramel ice cream.
Burnt caramel ice cream
Makes 1 litre
250g caster sugar
1 cup water
25g maize corn flour
Place the sugar and water into a pot and bring to the boil over a high heat and reduce until the sugar starts to turn to a dark caramel.
Whisk the milk and the corn flour together, and set aside. Continue to cook the caramel until it is very dark.
I like to wait until it is almost smoking because I like the flavour it brings. Add the cream to the caramel, being careful to avoid the resulting steam and then whisk in the milk and corn flour mix.
Turn down the heat to low and cook out for several minutes, stirring constantly until the ice-cream base thickens slightly.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely before churning in an ice-cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Store in the freezer until ready to serve and best eaten within a month of making.