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Breakfast of kings: whitebait on toast with tartare & fried egg

4 October 2023

This is probably my favourite dish in the book. It just speaks volumes to me of New Zealand on many
levels. It’s a dish made with one of our most precious seasonal delicacies, but served in such a
humble, no-fuss sort of manner. A similar version of this dish would have been eaten hundreds of
thousands of times on the riverside or in baches and cribs up and down the country,
ever since we figured out how to catch these slippery, mysterious little fish.

Serves 6

1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup finely diced red onion
¼ cup roughly chopped capers
⅓ cup finely diced gherkins
⅓ cup finely chopped parsley
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 1 tablespoon juice
Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cooking oil, for frying
Butter, for frying
6 eggs
500g fresh whitebait
Plain flour, to dust
Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 pieces toast-slice bread
Lemon wedges, to serve

To make the tartare sauce, mix all the ingredients except the salt and pepper together in a bowl. Taste and season accordingly with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until required.

Turn on your warming drawer or preheat your oven to 90°C.

Place a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add a little oil and a knob of butter and fry your eggs. Remove and place on a tray lined with kitchen paper, and keep warm in the oven or warming drawer.

Wipe clean the pan, then place back over medium-high heat and add a liberal amount of oil. Pat your whitebait dry with kitchen paper. Place a large sieve over a large bowl. Add a handful of whitebait to the sieve, then cover with a liberal amount of flour.

Shake the sieve and, with clean hands, toss the whitebait until the excess flour falls through the sieve and there is just a micro covering of flour on the individual whitebait.

Sprinkle the flour-dusted whitebait over the bottom of the pan and season with salt and pepper. Let the whitebait cook for at least a minute, so it starts to caramelise, before turning. Add a knob of butter and continue cooking for a further minute or so. Place the cooked whitebait on a tray lined with kitchen paper, and place in the oven to keep warm while you repeat the process with the remaining whitebait.

Toast and butter your bread.

To plate, place a piece of toast in the centre of each plate. Schmear over a liberal amount of tartare sauce, divvy up the cooked whitebait, then top each with a fried egg. Lemon on the side and you’re good to go.

Eat now!

battered mussels c josh griggs

Battered mussels with malt vinegar mayo

A good friend of mine, Rob Pooley, introduced me to the glorious world of deep-fried mussels a number of years back when he and I cooked at a large event on the banks of Lake Wakatipu.
If you like fried oysters, well, this is the poor man’s version. But I swear if you close your eyes, you’ll be convinced that you are actually eating fried oysters. No joking, I swear!

Makes 24

4 egg yolks
½ tablespoon Dijon mustard
75ml malt vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1½ cups canola oil
Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 egg yolks
½ cup canola oil, plus 2 litres for deep-frying
1½ cups soda water
1 cup self-raising flour
24 freshly shucked mussels
Lemon halves, to serve

To make the malt vinegar mayo, place the egg yolks, mustard, vinegar and sugar in a jar or jug. Using a stick blender, blitz for 10 seconds, then slowly drizzle in the oil, blitzing all the time, to form an emulsion. Taste, season with flaky salt and pepper, and refrigerate until required.

For the batter, in a clean bowl lightly whisk the egg yolks and canola oil together. Stir through the soda water. Using a fork, gently stir in the flour until just incorporated – be careful not to over-mix. Refrigerate for 20–30 minutes.

Heat the remaining oil in your deep-fryer to 180°C. Alternatively, heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. You can gauge this by adding a piece of bread to the oil; if it’s at around 180°C, it will take about a minute for the bread to turn golden and crisp.

Working in batches, dip the mussels into the tempura batter then carefully place in the hot oil. Cook for a couple of minutes, until golden all over. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towels. Keep warm while you finish cooking the rest of the mussels.

To serve, season with salt and pepper. Place the deep-fried mussels on a platter with the malt vinegar mayo on the side and a bunch of lemon halves for squeezing. Eat now.

Passionfruit lamingtons

I do love a fresh cream-filled lamington. They are such a distinctive sweet baking treat.
Lamingtons take a bit of effort, but if made as part of a big afternoon tea spread they will inevitably
be the first empty plate to be removed. Personally, I’ve always been a pink lamington guy over the chocolate variety. You’ll love this slightly modern idea of using passionfruit, which creates a striking yellow and particularly delicious lamington. If you’re short on passionfruit juice, use half orange juice.

Makes 10–12

4 eggs, at room temperature, separated
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
¾ cup plain flour
1 cup cornflour
2 teaspoons baking powder

2 gelatine leaves
1 cup passionfruit juice
1 cup sugar

2 cups coarse desiccated coconut
1 cup cream
¼ cup icing sugar
6 passionfruit (optional), to serve

Preheat your oven to 170°C. Grease and line a 30 x 24 x 5cm rectangular cake tin with butter or oil.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or using a handheld electric whisk, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until stiff, then slowly incorporate the sugar, beating until the granules are dissolved. Now add the egg yolks, beating in one at a time.

Pour the batter into a large bowl, then, as lightly as possible, sift and fold in the flour, cornflour and baking powder.

Pour the sponge batter into the prepared cake tin. Place in the centre of the oven and bake for 20–25 minutes, until lightly golden and a skewer inserted into the centre of the sponge comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and let the sponge cool completely in the tin.

For the passionfruit syrup, bloom the gelatine leaves in a small bowl of cold water for 5 minutes, until soft and pliable.

In a small saucepan, combine the passionfruit juice and sugar. Place over medium-low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove and let cool slightly.

While the passionfruit syrup is still hot, drain and squeeze dry the gelatine leaves, and stir into the syrup. Set aside.

Take a serrated knife and carefully trim and slice a couple of millimetres from the outer layer of the sponge, then cut into lamington squares.

To finish, dip the edges of the sponge squares into the passionfruit syrup, then press into the coconut. Repeat until complete, then refrigerate.

Split the lamingtons in half and place on a clean tray.

Whip the cream and sugar together to form semi-soft peaks. Top one inner side of a lamington half with cream then top with the other half. Refrigerate until required.

Serve on a small plate with a fork, add extra cream if you like and, if you have fresh passionfruit, I like to serve a little fresh pulp on the side.

Extracted from Eat Up New Zealand: The Bach Edition by Al Brown, photography by Josh Griggs, published by Allen & Unwin NZ. RRP$49.99.

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