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Kiwi Kitchen by Richard Till


Pros: Comfortable family food and traditional New Zealand recipes.

Cons: A little simplistic at times, more variety might help.


Reviewed by Wayne Crich

This is not a particularly new book, having been published in New Zealand in 2008 to go with the TV series of the same name. As an Australian I will confess, as many of my fellow Australians would agree, we tend to ignore our New Zealand neighbours and take little interest in what happens in their country unless it involves rugby league or union, cricket or netball. So when I first caught this show on pay TV I was very pleasantly surprised.
Richard Till seems an affable man with a casual and even-handed approach to cooking. He has run a couple of successful restaurants in Christchurch as well as making appearances on radio and in newspapers, discussing all manner of food related issues. This book follows his journeys around New Zealand cooking with locals and adding twists of his own. The food is based on fresh produce, traditional family recipes and eating well.
Till’s layed back attitude and easy manner come across well in this book. More than just a cookbook, it does give that insight into family food across New Zealand. It also captures the character of the every day people that Till spoke with during the filming of the series. The book is a must if you enjoyed the series but stands firmly in it’s own right as an interesting useable book for the home cook.
My favourite recipe from the book is Spencer’s Battered Oysters. Spencer is a local character who is known as Mr Oyster in the annual oyster festival and with his kilt and poetry recitation about the delights of the oyster he is obviously the local to ask about these bivalves. Now in Spencer’s defence he took great pains to point out that oysters are best eaten fresh and raw, with a dash of lemon if you must, I agree with him. However his  recipe brings back memories of my childhood in Southern Sydney where oysters were cheap, plentiful and delicious. So easily obtainable that battering and frying them was a viable option. Bottles of oysters were part of my growing up. 
Any way the recipe is simple, flour, eggs, seasoning. Deep fry until golden. Really nice and great with a chilli dipping sauce. I had forgotten how good this dish was.
One recipe stood out to me because I am always looking for new ways to serve snails. In this case the recipe dates back to “trendy” New Zealand restaurant food of the 80s, where this little dish was a big money spinner. The dish itself consists of sautéed snails served in a spicy vodka jelly, garnished with micro herbs and a subtle sauce. Does it taste good? I guess you would have to be the judge of that, but it certainly makes a great talking point at a dinner party.
The book contains a lot of recipes that add spice to traditional dishes like meat pies and things to do with mince. I had somehow forgotten the simple pleasure of savoury mince on toast. Used to have it many a cold Sunday night. As well as these old recipes getting a run, Richard also features a number of Maori family foods. Many of these recipes need specific ingredients but one that took my eye was burnt sugar pudding. It did come with a warning, so I cooked it outdoors on the BBQ. As it turned out, this was a wise move. Its basically a boiled pudding, but with a big difference. Apart from the usual sugar, flour, butter, egg, it includes burnt sugar water. To make this you melt some sugar in a saucepan, let it burn and at the right moment add boiling water. This mixture, when cooled, is used to moisten the dry ingredients. First two attempts I made resulted in a lot of cleaning up in the kitchen. Ever smelled badly burnt sugar? The third attempt it did not burn enough and with the fourth I fluked it. The flavour it gave the pudding was very unusual. I don’t really know what was different about that last attempt, but luck was on my side.
This is not a book full of complex recipes but it is good fun. It brought back many memories of the simple food I grew up on and had basically never thought of cooking myself. It served as a timely reminder that family recipes are passed down because people actually like eating them. The book is available online at fishpond.co.nz. If you have an interest in family or traditional recipes its well worth a look. If nothing else it will provide an insight into the cooking of New Zealand.

Recipe: Baba Ganoush

2 small eggplants cut in half drizzled with olive oil and roasted
6 peeled garlic cloves roasted by pushing into the eggplant
Juice of 2 lemons
¼ cup tahina
¼ cup plain unsweetened yogurt
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Add all ingredients to a food processor pulse until it reaches a course texture
Serve as a dip or stir into a casserole just before serving.
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Kiwi Kitchen by Richard Till

Presenter Richard Till explores the length and breadth of New Zealand, ferreting out local people who are handy in the kitchen persuading them to share their recipes for everyday 'Kiwi tucker' and, as often as not, the history behind their particular dish. Here, in the colourful and entertaining book based on the second series, are all the featured recipes including home-made pies, substantial salads, fritters, boil-ups, afternoon tea goodies, deliciously rib-sticking after-dinner treats such as trifle and jam pudding and much more divided into 10 chapters each based on a full episode. Richard Till's humorous observations run alongside the recipes, all of which are photographed in full colour.

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