Seasonal produce the best

Ian Shields. Photo by James Beech.
Ian Shields. Photo by James Beech.
Ian Shields
Bella Cucina, Queenstown

Why and how did you become a chef?
I have always loved cooking. I left home at an early age to travel around the world and kitchens always had vacancies for work, so that was how I first got into it. I started out on tuna-fishing boats in California, cooked in Mexico, Spain, Australia, Ireland and now New Zealand. I've worked my way through the kitchen ranks, learning different styles and cuisines.

Biggest professional challenge?
At Bella Cucina, we always have a changing menu, so constantly trying to source local ingredients, think of new menu ideas and create dishes that suit everyone's tastes can be tough.

Favourite ingredient?
Butter ... everything tastes amazing with butter.

Best cooking tip: Always cook with seasonal, fresh produce. It is delicious and can really save you a dollar.

What type of food do you like to eat?
Asian, Spanish, Mexican - you name it, I like it.

Thermomix. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.
Thermomix. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.
Who cooks at home?
Me. I love cooking and, when I'm at home, I get to try new things and cook different styles than I do at work. I let my girlfriend do desserts, though. I'm not a huge fan of baking.

Favourite meal?
Dinner at Kappa, an amazing Japanese restaurant in Queenstown.

Favourite kitchen gadget?
Thermodynamic mix. It is just amazing; you can do anything with it - sauces, blending.

How have people's tastes changed?
I think people are trying lots more these days, stepping outside their comfort zone. They are also focusing on local fresh ingredients, which is really awesome.

Gordon Ramsay or Jamie Oliver?
JAMIE! We cook the same style of food. He is all about sharing and homestyle cooking, which I also enjoy.

Seafood Risotto
(serves 4-6)

1 litre fish stock
1 pinch saffron
500ml white wine
1 onion diced
1 stick celery diced
2 gloves garlic diced
½ bulb fennel diced
1 cup arborio rice
12 x scampi
2 x squid tubes sliced into rings
12 x mussels
12 x clams
100g butter (more if you like!)
Pea shoots to garnish
Canola oil
Olive oil

In a saucepan heat fish stock with pinch of saffron.

In a deep frying pan fry diced onion, fennel, celery and garlic in canola oil. Add arborio rice and sautee. Add 100ml white wine and cook off.

Slowly ladle fish stock into fry pan while stirring. Wait till it is absorbed and add more. Keep adding stock until rice is cooked but still has a slight ''bite'' to it.

Steam mussels, clams and scampi in white wine. When cooked add some of the liquid to rice but avoid making it too wet.

In a separate frying pan, sautee squid rings. Cook until tender.

Finish rice by stirring in peas and butter.

Spoon on to a flat plate and place the seafood on top. Add pea shoots for garnish and a drizzle of olive oil.

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