Apricot tastings and potato curry

While visiting Auckland to spend time with my grandson Beau, I took the opportunity to promote my son’s preserved apricots by carrying out tastings at the Farro Fresh stores around the city.  Farros is to a foodie what a sweet shop is to a child.

Each time the Farros staff gave me a hot coffee to enjoy and it’s so true they do support New Zealand’s food artisans.

With so many tempting products to choose from it is essential that Gus has regular tastings to get customers to remember Augustines of Central preserved apricots.

I was usually lucky being placed by the cheese and deli section of the stores so I could entertain myself thinking of what piece of cheese I would buy once my tasting was over.

I got lots of positive feedback about the fresh and delicious flavour of the apricots.

A tasting lasts for 3 hours so when a spicy aroma drifted over from another area of the store I had to see what was being offered. I discovered a warming curry paste simply cooked up with potatoes and a little tomato.

There are hotter pastes available but I went for the medium spiced curry paste.

Naaz authentic Indian curry paste came about when one partner was out of work.  This product was born by creating the paste in a friend’s commercial kitchen and selling at a local market as many New Zealand food producers have done. Naaz now offers other pastes and are stocked in a number of North Island stores.  I like that this product has no preservatives and because of once opened it has to be used within 3 weeks. No problem – it’s so delicious and tastes real and I found it easy to use up in  that timeframe.

The potato harvest I think would be about 25 kg. Plenty of potato curry nights ahead thanks to Gemma who planted them for us.

It takes a lot of time and spices to make such curry pastes and this instant option I decided would be excellent to take home south to create quick and warming meals from the masses of potatoes I had harvested from my garden. It’s always good to have something easy when you first arrive home from a trip away. Going to a supermarket after getting off a plane is no fun when you just want to get home and most of us have one or two potatoes, kumera or a pumpkin in the pantry that could be used as the vegetable base for this curry.

Naaz Potato Curry

(serves 2)

Cut up 3 or 4 potatoes diced into 2cm cubes

1 finely chopped onion (optional)

2-3 Tbsp of Naaz curry paste (to taste)

1-2 chopped tomatoes (use canned when out of season)

1 small can coconut cream or yoghurt

Chopped coriander, mint or parsley

Gently fry onion in a little oil.  I used coconut oil but would have used ghee if I had it. Once transparent, add 2-3 Tbsp of Naaz authentic Indian paste and fry a little to release the oils from the spices before adding the potatoes.


Stir to cover the potatoes with the paste and then add enough water to just cover potatoes and simmer.  Chop up one or two tomatoes and add to the mix.  The tomatoes thicken up and add flavour to the sauce.


Just before serving add one of those small tins of coconut cream.  Alternatively add a couple of dollops of yoghurt.

The coconut cream I let cook for a while, but yoghurt you add at the end of cooking. At this stage with the addition of a creamy taste double check that there is enough curry paste in your dish.

At this stage check to see if you need to add a little more curry paste. If it’s at the right level of spiciness, and the vegetables are cooked then its ready to go.  Serve with Indian flatbread, dosas, or poppadoms. I had none of these options in the pantry but I did have some Lebanese flatbreads that I fried in a cast iron pan with a little oil, both sides and that worked perfectly well.

Ideally Indian breads would be served with this, but I found flatbreads worked fine.

As a side dish I sauted coloured silver beet or chard from the garden to add colour and another texture to the meal.  I sliced the stems and sauted them first with garlic in a little oil as they take longer to soften, then added wet sliced green tops and cooked until wilted down and soft. The stalks add colour although it is said the plain silver beet white stems are tastier than the coloured ones.

An easy and delicious curry that tastes authentic.

Peter told me he could eat vegetarian every night if it was like this curry which is very encouraging so I will need to order another jar or two of Naaz curry paste. But it needn’t just be used in a vegetarian curry, it works well with chicken, lamb or fish.

At the Epsom store I met the sister of Wild Wheat baker Andrew and heard how their sourdough loaves take over 48 hours to create from start to finish and do not have additives or preservatives.Their bread was really good and quickly disappeared at our house.

The charming Massimiliano from Il Casaro cheese (Italian for cheese maker) I knew from the Sunday Grey Lynn market. He was tasting a new product line next to my table – truffle cream made from butter cream. I tried his recipe handout for a mushroom pasta made with the truffle cream. It was a delightfully delicious way to taste the exotic flavour of truffle.

The other tasters I met were sampling fermented black garlic, cocoa pops and muesli, and cold pressed organic juices. Look into their stories and like Gus these producers have taken years of trial and error to produce the products that now sit on the Farro Fresh shelves. Often those people serving up the tastings, like me, are family or the producer themselves.



Aubergine/Eggplant – the king of vegetables

My friend Gill just can’t pass an aubergine in the supermarket .  Who could blame her?

That alluring smooth roundness with a rich chocolate-purple skin would tempt most of us to reach out and add one or two to our shopping trolley.   Gill’s first inclination is to make ratatouille but wants some new inspiration for aubergine or eggplant dishes.

Gus bakes fresh bread each day for the Whitehouse Restaurant

I knew just who to ask about aubergines.  My son Gus works as a chef at the Whitehouse Cafe in Wanaka and he uses aubergines a lot.   I am proud to introduce Gus as my first guest blogger.

 Gus’s Aubergine

Cut down the middle, score in a criss-cross pattern and salt – a good pinch per half.

Tap flesh side down on a bench to get out moisture, then pat dry with paper towel.

Brush halves with herb oil (Rosemary or thyme) that has had garlic blended with the oil.   Rub with sweet patrika and bake flesh down.   Make sure there is plenty of oil or they will stick and burn. Cook at 180-200 for 20-30 minutes until they don’t bounce back when poked with your finger (same test as for cooking a fish fillet).

Now top with whatever you like.   At the Whitehouse we use braised lamb and soft Peccareno cheese Return to the oven to heat through and melt cheese.

Thank you Gus.

Gus Hayden can be found cooking at the Whitehouse Cafe and Bar in Wanaka most evenings.  He was first introduced to cooking to finance his other passion, snowboarding.  Gus says he is lucky to be able to live and work in Wanaka.  He loves preserving like his grandmother did using the old Agee jars (and is becoming known in the Otago second hand shops as ‘the jar man’).  He produces beautiful bottled Central Otago apricots, cordials, curds, quince paste, chilli sauces and various pickles.  We are the lucky ones who get supplies each time he comes home to Dunedin.

Whitehouse Cafe & Bar, 33 Dunmore Street, opp
the Domain, Wanaka, Ph 03 4439595

So if you are travelling to Wanaka this summer call in and say hi to our Gus.

Aubergine has a taste and texture that is unique.   I have discovered that it not only looks good, but it is good for you.   It assists in getting rid of harmful cholesterol and provides antioxidants that help prevent cancer cells forming.    Some research has even pointed to Aubergine assisting you in losing weight (until you add that olive oil I guess!).  You can find out more nutritional information on this site:
Whole Foods – aubergine health properties

Aubergine is a sponge for flavours, so works very well in a curry with all those spices.  It’s also appropriate as the plant originated in the Indian sub-continent and is known in Asia as Bagan Brinjal.

I discovered a curry recipe from  My Darling Sweet Lemon Thyme.   This blog is written by Emma Galloway, formerly of Raglan now living in Perth.   Emma is a young mum who cooks gluten and dairy free food for her family with food allergies.  She has worked professionally in a kitchen and I must say her site is inspiring.

Eggplant Curry – a simple quick dish that even improves for the next day

Eggplant Curry from My Darling Lemon Thyme Blog  (Click here to get the Curry recipe)

The only alteration I made to this recipe was to finely cut up the garlic rather than crushing, doubled the tumeric because it’s a spice that’s so good for you, and used a can of tomatoes and half a can of water.   Emma was right it did taste even better the next day.
Eggplant curry served on rice, topped with onion and chopped coriander

How to Choose Your Aubergine

When picking your aubergine make sure it has a glossy skin with no spots or marks, the green top looks  fresh and if possible still has a stem.   To test if it is ripe push the flesh and if it bounces back it is ripe.  If the indent stays – its not yet ready for eating.   If it comes wrapped in plastic take that off as soon as possible.  They are so decorative that I usually don’t put them away in the fridge but that does keep them for longer.

To Salt or Not to Salt…..

Botanically Aubergine is actually a berry and the brown spots
are its seeds

The new varieties of aubergine doesnt tend to be as bitter as those in the past and won’t need “degorging” (salting, rinsing and patting dry).  If your aubergine has a lot of the dark seeds it will have a bitterness that comes from the nicotinoid alkaloids found in the brown seeds.   Yes there is nictotine in eggplant but you would have to eat 9 kg of eggplant to equal the nictotine of one cigarette. 

Salting will however soften the fruit and will lessen the amount of oil you will need to use to cook it.  

River Cottage veg everyday!

 Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall‘s latest book Veg Everyday matches his recent series tv series when he gave up eating meat to explore the possibilities of vegetables.      We too have recently decided to make more meals vegetarian and this book has enticing vegetarian recipes.   It’s not that I am  against meat it’s just that the more I learn about the benefits of vegetables the more I want to use them.  I love the way Hugh lays out and describes the methods of cooking and gives suggested variations to a recipe.  I looked up aubergine and there were three recipes that I would like to try.  So one more ‘Hugh’ book has found a place on my recipe bookshelves.

A page out of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s – River Cottage veg everyday!

This is one of the recipes I would like to try from Veg Everyday.   It’s simple – just roast 2 cubed aubergines with potatoes in hot oil, adding chopped garlic in the final 10 minutes and just before serving add lemon juice, sweet paprika (like Gus did) and chopped herbs.   Hugh also suggests adding another eggplant and replacing the potatoes with chickpeas in the final ten minutes of cooking.
Looks delicious and I will definitely try this the next time I get an eggplant or aubergine.

Aubergine is also called Eggplant as the cultivars introduced to Britain were yellow or white and the size of a goose egg.  “Jew’s Apple” was another name in the 18th century, because of its great popularity amongst Jews who may have introduced it to Britain.   
Thank you Gill for encouraging me to look for fresh ideas for Aubergines/Eggplants.   The regal purple aubergine certainly deserves the title King of the Vegetables

I have had some feedback from friends who want to add a comment but cannot unless they are on gmail.   If you would like to add a comment just send me an email  jeanniehayden5@gmail.com (until I get this problem sorted).