New Zealand and the Maldives. They're near each other, right? Australia and half of Southern Asia is between them? Oh, ok, well they're both islands and that makes them similar enough for me to stuff them in the same post.
So what did I know about New Zealand before starting this little project? It's kind of like Scotland, got a lot of sheep and gap year students. It's also where Peter Jackson filmed most of the Lord of the Rings. And they make good wine. Pretty impressive knowledge, no? What do I know now? It does definitely have a lot of sheep, the population is smaller than Scotland's, I do love the wine and the food really is rather varied.
When I first started searching for recipes it seemed everyone was trying to make me do a pavlova. I'm afraid it's just not for me, I'm not into desserts at the best of times and something about a pavlova just seems a bit...boring. I thought, given the very varied influences serving New Zealand food, I would use this one to my own ends. I have been told the country selections were all random, but somehow we ended up without any Asian or European countries!! New Zealand benefits from both immigration and proximity to South and East Asia, so a number of the recipes have that kind of influence. After a bit of searching, I landed on pork stuffed cabbage rolls with tangy tomato sauce which was damn tasty.
Pork Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Tangy Tomato Sauce
Ingredients (makes 4-5 rolls)
4-5 white cabbage leaves
200g mince pork
1.5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1/4 cup cooked rice
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 spring onion, finely chopped
half a carrot, grated
1 ts fresh ginger, finely hopped
pinch chinese five spice
1 tbsp tomato puree
1/2 a lemon, juiced
large splash cider
salt and sugar to taste
1. blanch the cabbage leaves in boiling water for 30 seconds so they are slightly malleable.
2. stir fry half the garlic, the ginger, and after 1 minute add the pork mince and carrot. Stir fry until the pork is cooked and then mix in the soy and oyster sauce. Continue cooking until the liquid is reduced, and then stir in the spring onion and cooked rice.
3. Place 2 tbsp of the pork mixture into each cabbage leaf and then roll up into a parcel. Steam for 10 minutes.
4. While steaming, put the tomato puree, lemon juice, cider, sugar and salt into a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer until the cabbage rolls are steamed.
I'm not sure I have actually heard the Maldives being mentioned throughout the Olympic coverage, so I was actually a little sceptical they were competing! Apologies to the Maldives, but it turns out they only have five athletes participating, in athletics, swimming and badminton, and they are currently sans medals. No worries though, it's the taking part that counts (from us, sitting third in the medal table...).
But they can rest in the knowledge that they are a beautiful archipelago with sun and sea that draw in honeymooners the world over. That doesn't seem too shabby to me. It is also the country that introduced me to Aluvi Hiki Riha, aka potato fry, which is going to become a staple hangover cure from now on!
Aluvi Hiki Riha
250 g potatoes, diced and boiled until al dente
1 onion, sliced
4-5 curry leaves
1 tsp ginger, grated
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
half tsp mustard seeds
1 hot chilli, finely chopped (I used a bird's eye)
2 cardamon seeds
pinch chilli powder
teaspoon curry powder
1. Roast the potatoes until golden
2. Saute the onions, ginger, garlic, chilli, mustard seeds and curry leaves. When soft, add the roasted potatoes, cardamon, chilli and curry powders, seasoning and toss.
3. Cook down for a few minutes, adding a splash of water if looking too dry.
I served ours with a poached egg and watercress, which was great for a fiery brunch. Be warned, if you use a whole bird's eye chilli this is quite eye-watering!