Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Coconut Cream Pie Filling

Did you guys get what you wanted for Christmas? 

I did. 

Well, I didn't get the peace on earth, love for all mankind or an end to world hunger, but I did get a Kindle Paperwhite e-reader with sleek black leather cover.

Unlike my previous Kindle, this one has a built-in light and it's just the perfect device for gazing at the latest Telesa cover-art. 

What I mean, is that it's the perfect device for reading the latest release from the talented Lani Wendt Young.

That's if you can tear your eyes away from the awfully distracting cover-art. I mean, really. Those biceps. That chest. The tattoo. Oh, right, the book.

Just before Christmas, Lani released a special edition of her Telesa novel. Along with Telesa: The Covenant Keeper, this special edition is packed with lots of reader extras such as: 'I am Daniel Tahi' - A novella that speaks from Daniel's perspective; Leila's Love Poem; Character Interviews; and articles about Samoa and Samoan culture.

AND also included in the special edition are five recipes from yours truly, including the one below.

Coconut Cream Pie Filling
(for a 9 inch (23 cm) round or 8 inch (20 cm) square pie)

½ cup flour
¾ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup + 2 cups milk
4 large egg yolks
1½ teaspoons vanilla essence
1¼ cup flaked coconut

Meringue Topping:
4 egg whites
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup flaked coconut

In a saucepan, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and 1 cup of milk until smooth. Stirring constantly, heat it until bubbles form around the edges, then gradually whisk in the remaining 2 cups of milk. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until it’s like a thick, white sauce. Turn the heat off.

In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks with a fork. Add a quarter cup of the sauce and mix well. Add another quarter cup and mix again. Pour the warmed egg yolks into the saucepan and heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture has thickened. Cook for two minutes more while stirring. Remove from the heat and keep warm, stirring occasionally so that a  film doesn’t form on the top.

Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F).

Meringue Topping: Beat the egg whites and sugar until stiff, but not dry.
Assemble the pie by pouring the warm filling into the baked pie crust. Top with the meringue (you may not need all of it), sealing to the edges of the crust. Sprinkle with flaked coconut. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the meringue is light golden brown. Cool on a wire rack for an hour and then chill for several hours or overnight before serving.

Enjoy the pie, and don't forget to purchase your special edition of Telesa for an entertaining holiday read. 

And enjoy the cover-art. Did someone say that Leila was on there? I didn't notice. she must be standing in the shadows of Daniel's awesomeness. I mean, just look at those arms, that chest, the tattoos...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cyclone Evan - Help!

I try not to post non-food related issues up on this blog because, well, the thing is called But I'm making an exception today because Samoa needs your help.

Imagine that the week before Christmas, everything you've ever owned is suddenly blown away. Literally.

And you're left with just the clothes on your back.

This is exactly what happened to people in Samoa when Cyclone Evan raged through. Five thousand have lost their homes and all their belongings and with Christmas just around the corner, there really isn't much to be merry about. 

Photo credit: Samoan Observer

Now I've never asked you guys for anything. Ever. But I'm asking now on behalf of the victims of Cyclone Evan to please help out in any way you can.

Red Cross, ADRA and Caritas are collecting donations and you can be sure that they will be put to good use because these people are on the ground providing relief right now.

If you belong to a church or sports organisation, please consider putting together either a monetary donation or even a container-load of goods to send over. The priorities for relief in the shelters are food, drinking water and water for the toilets. If you're not sure how you can help,call your folks in Samoa and ask what they need or simply donate to the charities up above.

Remember folks, it's Christmas time. A time for giving. So please give generously. 

Photo credit: Samoan Observer

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pinati's needs a baker

Pinati's is a Samoan food institution. Everyone in my parent's generation remembers his restaurant. It was one of the best places in its day for good-priced, generous servings of hot, filling, delicious food. My grandmother used to fofo (massage for healing) the original Pinati when he accidentally doused himself in hot oil. Twice. 

Anyway, the restaurant extended to New Zealand as a bakery and now, they need a baker to make all those yummy Samoan snacks. I think this would be a fantastic place to work. If you're an island baker in Auckland, why don't you apply?

Here's the ad from the New Zealand Herald:

Auckland City
Full Time
BAKER-POLYNESIAN Food Pinati's is a leading Polynesian Restaurant located in otahuhu....
BAKER-POLYNESIAN Food Pinati's is a leading Polynesian Restaurant located in otahuhu. The company serves authentic Polynesian dishes and baked goods to the broad polynesian community. We currently have a bakers position available for a suitable person experienced in hand making Polynesian foods. The successful apllicant must have at least three years experience in making polynesian food such as Keke Pua'a, Pani Siamani, Pani Keke, Fa'a ausi, Masi saiga, Masi popo. Must also have a food hygiene certificate and ability to manage staff. applications in writing to

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Miti - Coconut condiment

It doesn't take much to make this hot and sour sauce which goes well with taro, ulu (breadfruit) or any seafood dish. My father used to keep this seasoning sauce handy for every meal, and he thought that the sourer the sauce, the better. 

(makes 3/4 cup of sauce)

1/2-1 lemon
1 spring onion, thinly sliced (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-2 green or red chilli peppers, finely chopped
1/4 onion, finely diced
1/2 cup thick coconut milk*

* You want to use the thickest possible coconut milk for this, ie. the stuff that's collected at the top of the can. Of course, freshest is bestest. 

Juice the lemon - If you like a really sour sauce, use the whole lemon. I prefer it milder so 1/2 a lemon is good enough for me.

Put the juice and everything else in a small bowl and mix. Adjust salt as necessary. Refrigerate until ready to use. 

The spring onion is entirely optional but I find it adds a pretty colour. You can also add finely diced sweet red peppers or tomato. If you find yourself adding raw fish, then you're making oka, so back up cowboy and leave the sauce alone. 

Serve over, under or alongside any starchy root (cooked, of course) or as a dipping sauce for fresh or grilled seafood.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Chef Monica Galetti - MasterChef Elite

Chef Monica Galetti is the most famous Samoan chef I know of. For those of you who don't know who she is, I'm not going to ask what rock you've been hiding under (because I'm polite like that), but I am going to introduce her. 

She was born in Samoa, Monica Fa'afiti, and moved to Wellington, New Zealand at a young age. There she trained as a chef and entered international culinary competitions. Bitten by the travel bug, she applied for jobs with leading restaurateurs and Michel Roux, a renowned chef in the UK, took her on.

Since 1999, she has worked at Roux's high-end restaurant Le Gavroche which is all kinds of famous in itself (was first UK restaurant to receive three Michelin stars, trained Gordon Ramsey, has a Guiness Record for most expensive meal in the world). Chef Galetti started there as a lowly Commis Chef and rose through the ranks to become the restaurant's first female Sous Chef and then Head Chef for a Le Gavroche restaurant in Mauritius. 

She returned to the UK Le Gavroche and on top of working there, she is currently a presenter and judge on MasterChef: The Professionals where she judges a fierce cooking competition between qualified chefs. She has also just published her first solo cookbook Monica's Kitchen, and she is Samoa's very own UK Tourism Ambassador. And she's a mother. This is one busy woman so I was really fortunate to get an interview with her for our humble blog. 

Read on to learn more about this magnificent Samoan who has reached the pinnacle of culinary success.

© Charlotte Knee
Can you tell us a bit about what inspired you to write your book?
I’ve been asked a few times to do a book but being an actual chef I felt there was no point in writing up another sauce or meat book or a book about slow cooking. And then my friends came up with the idea, ‘Well, why don’t you just teach people how to cook what you do and make it a bit easier?’ and that’s how the idea came about and it kind of grew from there.

What kind of recipes and flavours can readers expect to find in your book?
It’s a whole mix. My background in cooking has been based in French cooking for the last twelve years while I’ve been here [Europe]. But I’m also a Mum with a young child and I rush home from work and have to knock out quick meals, as nutritional as possible and as quick as possible. It’s all about seasonal availability of what I have at the time, straight from the source and as fresh as possible. And then there’s the Something Different chapter which is different on this side of the world, not so much if you’re living in New Zealand. I’ve got a recipe for the oka and I’ve taken sapasui and deconstructed it – I’ve used veal and made the noodles separate to make it more appealing to this side of the world compared to how we know it.

Umu Galetti-style, seriously,
that's pork, taro and luau
How was it, writing your book?
I think most of it has just been learning to get a balance of working life and family life. There’s so much going on at the same time: filming, the restaurant, writing this, and I think my daughter suffered quite a lot from the timing of it. I’d finish work and pick her up then be at home with her and then sort of rushing to get her bed so I could get on the computer to type stuff out. So if anything, it made me appreciate the time that I have with her and also how fun it is to be cooking with a child. When I was doing the book it actually made me realise how much cooking I do actually do with my daughter, and it's quite a bit.    

With the Samoan dishes that you mentioned from your Something Different chapter of the book, I love the way you’ve taken Samoan food and refined it. Do you have an opinion on Samoan food and how would you like to see it develop?
I’d hate to have it change. You know, it’s just what we grow up on. Luau is luau and I’d hate to have it any other way. For our palates, we know what to expect. Teaching the European palate and adjusting the food to suit, making it more pleasant to the eye is the thing. And also to teach about the ingredients we have - you can eat the taro leaf, the sea grapes or limulimu that we have in Samoa - and showing them that there are other types of things can Samoans can cook other than the coconut bun.

I’m really fascinated by your journey from Samoa to New Zealand and now there to Europe and by how you’ve developed in your career. I was wondering how your French mentors have influenced your cooking style.
I think it’s down to the person. I’ve had to prove myself over the years to be worthy of the positions and the promotions that I’ve earned. Through that, my mentors have seen that I’m very keen and passionate about what I do so they’ve invested in me, sent me off to France to work there for a while in pastry, and I think it’s that. They see I have a passion for it and they’re willing to put back into you what you put into your work.

Sapasui with flair
Didn't recognise it, didja?
You have a bit of a fearsome reputation so if someone wanted to work for you, what would be the top things you’d be looking for?
Always from the beginning, presentation and how you dress yourself is important. I believe that if you can’t respect yourself how are you going to respect the ingredients or the people you work with. So the first thing is self-presentation and hygiene from the beginning. Having common sense is more important than anything. No matter what you are doing, have some common sense and it helps you out with a lot of issues.

I saw you mention elsewhere how you had a trainee who didn’t wash a vegetable before using it.
Yes, it’s just little things like that which people will forget and think is not important, but it does matter, especially at this level of cooking.

With your own kitchen at home, what are some ingredients that you always have on hand?
I always have puff pastry in my fridge. I always have smoked salmon. Lemons. What else do I have? Champagne. My husband is a sommelier so I have a very well-stacked cellar for myself to choose from but champagne isn’t really counted with that. I always have bacon lardons in the freezer. They help with quick easy meals like pasta. And in the store cupboard I’ve always got couscous pasta, tinned tomatoes, tomato paste and fresh herbs, very important.

Do you grow your own?
Yes I do.

I know that people would be intimidated cooking for you. Do you feel intimidated picking a wine for your husband? [He is Head Sommelier at Le Gavroche]
No, because I come from New Zealand and we have some pretty damned decent wines! But I love to leave it up to him and he always tries to teach me something new about wine or grapes so that, I enjoy.

Okra - don't ever cook this for her
(Photo from Columbia Culinary Society)
Is there any ingredient that you won’t cook?
Okra. I hate okra. It’s horrible. People say ‘Oh, you haven’t had it right. You have to put it in a curry.’ But when I’ve had it, it’s slimy and eew and horrible. And I would never use horse meat.

You know they sell that in the supermarket in Holland.
Yeah, I know. It’s not something I like. I lived in Holland for about six months. I wouldn’t cook monkeys, cat, things I don’t think are necessary to eat, I wouldn’t cook with.

Incidentally, do you eat sea (sea slug guts)?
Oh, actually no, it’s been a while, and I think I would eat more of it now.

What are your favourite Pacific dishes?
A proper umu is what I’m dying to have. Roast with the pig, with the luau in there and kalo. So I’m looking forward to Samoa. I’m going to Samoa this Christmas. It’s the first time I’m taking my daughter and my husband and it’s the first time back for me in over twenty years. Part of it is to go back home and rediscover my roots and it’s going to be a really really good trip. 

You mentioned that your daughter enjoys cooking with you. Does she help you around the kitchen and does she have a sophisticated palate?
I think more so now that she’s six years old. She loves cooking with us and she enjoys it. And she always eats her meat medium rare. She won't eat it if it's not medium rare. She loves sea bass and sole. And if we’re having meat at home, if we’re having a steak, she’ll say, “Are we having red wine?” It’s cute.

I’ve read that in Europe when people take their children out for dinner they allow them to taste a bit of alcohol. Is that what you do?
That’s what we do, we encourage her. When it becomes a part of normal eating and dining, it’s in a sense something that’s not abused. So it’s all about teaching her and nurturing her palate as well.

You’re around food all the time and you have such a great figure. How do you keep in shape?
I work out about five times a week. I tend to hit the gym at half six in the morning and I go straight to work afterwards. On the weekends I do boxing training.

And finally, can you tell us a bit about your future projects? What have you got on the horizons?
I just agreed to another three years with the BBC for MasterChef. I’ve got another series coming out for MasterChef in November. We did another series called the Great British Food Revival and that will be out in the next few weeks. We’re also filming a few episodes for another programme with Michel which is called Food and Wine and that will be out in January.  

Fa'afetai tele lava (Many thanks) to Chef Galetti for taking the time to talk to me. It was really a great pleasure to communicate with someone so talented. Thanks also to Ed from Quadrille Publishing who organised the interview.

Monica's Kitchen is a beautifully photographed hardcover book full of sophisticated but simple recipes for the everyday cook. I just received my book today and was salivating over the photos, and I've already marked lots of recipes I want to try out. Make sure you get your copy soon, and if I were in the UK, I'd be doing my darnedest to get it signed by the inimitable Chef Galetti.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Coconut Cream Pie

Before making this recipe I'd never eaten a coconut cream pie in my life. I'd had all manner of fruit pies - pineapple, blueberry, apple, peach, strawberry, apricot - but never a coconut cream pie, or any cream pie for that matter. Oh I'd had pumpkin pie, banoffee pie, sweet potato pie, lots of chocolate pies, even a mango pie ...OK, I'm starting to sound like Bubba from Forrest Gump, aren't I? 

Anyway, a reader once mentioned banana cream pie and that probably planted the seed in my head to make this pie. Now, I read the recipe through a couple of times, not wanting a repeat of the brown sugar chicken situation. I even measured out all my ingredients beforehand, which is something I do only on the most auspicious occasions.

But no matter how good of a cook you are, there are always moments in the kitchen that just knock you back to your childhood self when you tried to peel fa'i maka (green bananas) the traditional Samoan way and you ended up mutilating the banana so badly that the leftover stub was thrown at your head and then you were thrown out of the kitchen. 

This pie had a few of those moments, and I'm not ashamed to share them with you here. 

Recipe comes from Me'a Kai and can be found here. But don't blame the recipe for what you see below. Blame the cook who to this day, cannot really peel perfect fa'i maka.

Started by mixing the butter and sugar for the crust. So far so good, but hey, it's only two ingredients.

Pressed the very soft sticky dough into my baking dish. Smoothed it out as best I could. Not very smooth though, is it?

Prettied it up around the edges with a fork, then baked it.

Crust came out of the oven looking kind of sad and depressed. It had shrunk down to half its height and had just slithered to the bottom of the baking dish, looking like it had lost the will to go on. 

Coconut cream layer thickened up nicely,

as did the lemon cream layer.

Here's the finished pie.

When I was putting the lemon layer on the pie the coconut cream layer spread out to the sides. Not sure if my coconut layer wasn't thick enough or if I was supposed to let it set. In any case, the layers of the pie were not very even as you can see here. Also, my crust was slightly under-cooked in the corners where the pastry had collapsed. 

Of course, none of these points were enough to keep me from devouring the pie. It was truly delicious.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Dr Tracy Berno - Making Pacific Futures Brighter

I'm so proud to present an interview with Dr Tracy Berno, co-author of Me'a Kai. Dr Berno is a tourism academic and consultant who has worked in the Pacific for over two decades. In her research she highlights the use of fresh, local produce in tourism and hospitality, and this helps promote rural development and sustainable farming. 

I really admire the work Dr Berno does because it creates a potential for the average Samoan farmer, like my cousin Popo, to enjoy steady local demand for his produce from say, hotels and restaurants, instead of trying to scrape by with what tala and sene he can earn at the market. 

Dr Berno is an academic with vision, and her research benefits so many in our local communities. Read on to discover more about her work, her favourite foods and some great tips she's got for finding the best Pacific flavours.

Dr Tracy Berno
Tourism academic and Consultant
(Photo supplied)
1. Congratulations on your cookbook Me'a Kai winning the Gourmand Best Cookbook in the World 2010! Your co-author, Chef Robert Oliver, said that you cried when you heard the news. Can you explain your reaction and what the award meant to you? 
Thank you for your kind words. Winning Best Cookbook in the World was certainly a real honour. I did indeed cry when Robert and Shiri rang to tell me the news. I had been scheduled to fly to Paris to meet them for the awards, but unfortunately, Christchurch, where I live, was struck by a devastating earthquake only a few days before I was meant to leave. We live in the central city, which was badly damaged. I had to cancel the trip. Things were very grim in Christchurch, so when Robert told me that we had won it was just so uplifting - I was quite overwhelmed and burst into tears. My poor family didn’t know if I was crying because we had won or because we had lost!

We had worked on the book for several years and really poured our hearts and souls into it. We are all very passionate about the Pacific and the book was deeply meaningful to us. We were welcomed into the homes and lives of so many wonderful and interesting people through our journeys in the region. It was such a privilege to be able share their stories and recipes. I was excited just to see the book published, let alone win an award for it. The award was very special because it was about everyone who contributed to the book; through their stories that they so generously allowed us to share, the Pacific had captured the attention of the world.

2. Can you share with us one of your memorable highlights in the creation of your cookbook?
Gosh, that’s a hard one. There were so many memorable aspects to our work on the book. One moment that really stands out in my mind though was early on in our work on the book. Robert, Shiri and I met up at the Old Mill Cottage Restaurant in Suva. It was a typical rainy Suva day, and we sat under the veranda having lunch while the rain absolutely pounded on the tin roof. The Old Mill Cottage serves a range of really great Fijian food. We ate, we talked, we laughed and we planned the book – all while sharing a terrific Pacific meal. It struck me that we were doing exactly what we wanted to capture in the book. It was at that moment that I knew we were on to something really special.

3. One of the unique things about your cookbook is that it is not just a collection of recipes or a travelogue of the Pacific or a coffee-table book/souvenir. You and Chef Oliver intended for it to be a tool, highlighting potential links between agriculture and tourism. Can you tell us a bit more about this, and what the 'farm-to-fork' concept means for the average island farmer or for the average tourist? 
My involvement in the book came about through my academic research interests. As an academic, my interest is in working with communities to create benefits for them from tourism. I was fortunate to spend many years as a tourism academic in the Pacific and was able to travel extensively in the region. In my travels, two things often struck me – (1) where was all the great Pacific food that I ate in friends’ homes and in local restaurants and why couldn’t I get it in the resorts and tourist hotels, and (2) why were there so many imported foods when there was a range of Pacific products available locally.

These questions got me thinking about how better linkages between local agricultural producers and the tourism industry could be a means of creating benefits for communities who were not directly involved in tourism. This led to many years of research looking at barriers and facilitators for agriculture-tourism linkages along the supply-chain (from “farm-to-fork”). One of the many findings of the research was that it’s not just a matter of increasing agricultural production, or getting hotels and restaurants to buy more (i.e., it’s not all supply driven) – there needed to be a means of enhancing the food on the tourists’ tables to create a demand for the locally grown products. That’s where the idea of a book came in, a book that would highlight the foods of the Pacific in a way that would be appealing to the tourist palate and create demand for local cuisine, using the local products. In that way, the book would become a tool for helping to facilitate agriculture-tourism linkages, which would in turn, create benefits along the supply-chain from the farmers all the way to the tourists who get to experience a fresh, quality local cuisine.

Virgin Coconut Oil from
Women in Business Development Samoa
4. As a self-confessed 'gastro-nerd', what are your favourite Pacific ingredients?
I am glad you said ingredients, rather than ingredient! My kitchen is never without limes, chillies and coconut products. In fact, at the moment I have two drinking coconuts, one brown cooking coconut, five litres of organic virgin coconut oil and three types of dried coconut in my kitchen. Not to mention a few tins of coconut cream in the pantry for emergencies! If I have those three ingredients, I can create a meal out of anything.
When I can get a hold of them fresh, my other favourite products are ota (Fijian fern), breadfruit, jackfruit, pele, mangosteen and soursop. But they are all pretty hard to come by in New Zealand. These are the things that I crave and seek out first when I am back up in the region.

5. What Pacific ingredient do you think deserves more attention abroad? 
Coconut. I don’t think people appreciate either the nutritional properties or the versatility of coconuts.

6. Is there anything you refuse to cook or eat? Sea-slug innards? Palolo worms? Fruit bats?
I can honestly say that I will try anything once, and I have tried some very odd things over the years. However, I will confess to a preference for what is on the outside of God’s creatures, rather than what is on the inside. 

7. Do you have a favourite Samoan food or drink?
I have only just returned from Samoa just over a week ago, so Samoan food is still on my mind. I love a good palusami. I also really like breadfruit that has been cooked over a fire. I was down at the market on most days buying palusami and beadfruit for my lunch. I also really like oka and poke. I think I ate one or the other most days, and one night I had poke as a starter and oka as my main! This trip I tried some lolepopo (Samoan ‘lollypop’) for the first time, which was just delicious – a new way for me to use coconut!

Oka (Fijian kokoda) featured on the cover of Me'a Kai

8. Most of my readers are living outside the islands and want to recreate the flavours of their childhoods in their own kitchen. Do you have any tips or advice for making island food taste authentic outside the islands?
Explore your local ethnic markets and grocery stores to get the freshest products as you can. Talk to staff and other shoppers and ask where else they shop – I have found many hidden gems that way. The best food comes straight off the plantation, so get into your garden and start growing some of your own. In my backyard I have cumquat, lemon and lime trees, lemongrass, chillies and coriander, snake beans and Chinese greens. We’re just cleaning out and refurbishing our glasshouse and once we have done that, I will be growing passionfruit, mountain pawpaw and other warmer climate products as well. If you can’t find it in the shops – grow it yourself!
Also, get together with your friends to cook. A meal prepared and shared with friends always tastes more like home.

9. Can you tell us about your next projects? Or what directions you would like to explore?
Robert, Shiri and I have recently started on a book on the food of Samoa. We were all just up in Samoa collecting recipes, photographing food and gathering information about local products, particularly organics. We had a great time working together again (the first time we have all been together since the launch of Me’a Kai), eating, sharing a few jokes and catching up with friends. It’s still fairly early days (Robert and I still have a lot of writing yet to do), but I am very excited about how the book is starting to shape up. The interest and support we received up in Samoa was just amazing. And I came home with a suitcase full of organic virgin coconut oil, koko Samoa, breadfruit and taro chips and Samoa’s own chili sauce!

I have also just started a new position as Associate Professor (Tourism and Development), so I am looking forward to extending my research to look for more ways of assisting communities to benefit from tourism and continuing my research in the area of agriculture-tourism linkages.

Taro chips from
10. Is there anything else you would like to share with my readers?
I’d like to encourage all your readers to travel well and really immerse themselves in the local culture. Try the food, buy local products, respect and enjoy the local culture. That way both you and your generous hosts will get the most benefits out of your shared experience.
If readers are interested in what Robert, Shiri and I are doing, please follow Me’a Kai on facebook. You can also follow us on
And of course – make sure you keep an eye out for our new book on Samoa when it is released. We’ll keep you posted!

Thank you Dr Berno for your generous time and for your continued support of our local agriculture and tourism industries. I hope that your home in Christchurch is restored as soon as possible. Thanks again for taking the time to answer all my questions. 

Dr Berno and her team are doing wonderful things for Samoa with their newest project. So readers, please show them some support by liking the Me'a Kai Facebook page. And stay tuned for the release date of their new Samoan cookbook.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Fresh Mango Mousse

Here's a luscious dessert that needs no cooking apart from a scant 30 seconds in the microwave. Enjoy!

Fresh Mango Mousse
(Serves 2)
2 teaspoons (5 g) powdered gelatin
1/4 cup (60 ml) water
1/3 (80 g) cup cream 
2 tablespoons (30 g) sugar
1 (200 g) fresh mango, pureed

1/2 (100 g) fresh mango
1 tablespoon (15 g) sugar
2 teaspoons (10 ml) lemon juice
2 teaspoons (10 ml) white wine

Mix the gelatin and water in a small microwave-safe container. Set aside.
Beat the cream and sugar until soft peaks form.
Place the gelatin/water mix in the microwave and zap for 30 seconds.
Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Gradually add the pureed mango and mix well. Finally fold in the whipped cream. Divide the mousse evenly into 2 dessert cups.

For the topping, simply puree the mango together with the sugar, lemon juice and wine. Puree it well to break up the stringy strands of mango. Spoon over the mousse. Chill until set.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Moa Samoa - Polynesian Brown Sugar Chicken

Here's another recipe from Me'a Kai's Samoan section. I've been wanting to do more with this book than just reading it and slobbering over the pictures so I've been marking (with the three pretty coloured ribbons attached to the book) recipes that I want to make.

I was easily seduced by the photo in the book of a succulent, glazed chicken leg, and thought, 'Yum! That's dinner.'

My plan of action was simple. See, my chicken was already defrosted and I had two hours before dinner time. I figured it would take me mere minutes to throw together the marinade, the chicken would soak in it while I got the coals going, then, like the domestic goddess I am, I'd throw the marinated pieces on the grill - baste and turn them with one hand while making a garden and potato salad with the other hand - and Voila! Bon appetit!

In an ideal world, that would have happened. 

In my world, I realised halfway through mixing the marinade that I needed limes and star anise, so I had to run down to the store. Returned with said ingredients, finished mixing, threw the chicken in, then decided, belatedly, to refer to the book for the minimum marinading time. 

3 hours.


And up to 2 days.


And forget about the coals. There's too much sugar in the marinade, so the chicken would burn before it cooked.

I sighed heavily, stomach rumbling. Guess it's the old alaisa (rice) and elegi (tinned fish) tonight. Again.

So I learned my lesson, a lesson that I learn every couple of weeks actually: Read the recipe.

Put all the marinade ingredients together in a bowl and mix. Divide the marinade in half.

Put half the marinade in a pot and reduce to a third. In other words, simmer until two thirds of it is gone. The remainder should be thicker and darker than the original.

Strain the reduced marinade and set aside until needed. This may be three hours later, or two days later, depending on how long you leave the chicken. The other half of the marinade is what you leave the chicken in.

Bake the chicken until done, basting frequently. Brush with the reserved glaze.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Joe Lam wins NZ Food and Beverage Challenge 2012

"The dish of deer meat served with taufolo cakes and a twist of koko Samoa was among the country’s finest dishes."

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Fancy Sapasui

This recipe comes from the Samoan section of Me'a Kai. I think the ingredients are flexible so I made substitutes here and there, but try to use lobster meat or prawns as the recipe suggests because it really makes for a light but flavourful sapasui.

Prepare your vegetables using whatever is local and in season. Ginger and garlic are essential.
Quickly saute the ginger and garlic. Add the lobster or prawns and fry until the seafood is cooked.
Add your presoaked lialia and seasonings.
Finally add the vegetables and mix well to combine.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Moa Feleiva i le Mago - Mango Chicken

Sometimes simple is best. 

This recipe by Tepora Porter and Quini Luau was a finalist in a Healthy and Tasty Samoan Recipe Competition and even though it didn't win, I love its simplicity. You can access the original recipe here (page 22), or you can just follow along with me... Samoan.


Moa Feleiva i le Mago
(serves 4-6)

500 kalama alaga moa sae le pa'u, tipitipi
Falaoa mata e nini ai fasimoa
Tama'i 'ini o le masima ma le pepa
2 mago
Tama'i 'ini o le pauta polo feu
1 sipuni 'ai suau'u
Sua o se tipolo meamata (po'o se tipolo)

Palu faatasi le falaoa mata, pepa ma le masima. Faatofu moa i le paluga.

Salu sina suau'u la'ititi i se apa falai. Tu'u iai fasimoa ma kuka. (The original recipe has some business about putting baking paper on oil in the frypan, but that's too finicky for me.)

Taisi se mago mai luga i lalo. Tipi leisi mago, palu faamalu, faaopoopo iai le sua o le tipolo meamata ma se 'ini o le polo feu. 

Tu'u fasimoa ua vela i le faapaluga mago mo nai minute. 

Laulau ae tu'u ai le mago taisi i luga. 

The sweet mango really complements the chicken. However, I squeezed in a lot more lemon juice than the recipe called for and also increased the chilli powder. Sweet, sour and spicy. What more could you want?

Again, check out the original recipe for instructions in English and more Samoan-inspired healthy dishes.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Chef Robert Oliver - The Pacific People's Chef

Chef Robert Oliver is one of the Pacific's culinary heroes. Together with Dr Tracy Berno (co-author) and Shiri Ram (photographer), he took Pacific food to the world in their pioneering book Me'a Kai. And the world responded by naming Me'a Kai Best Cookbook in the World 2010 at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Paris, beating out such hefty competition as Noma (from a two Michelin starred restaurant), Natura Kuchni Polskiej (from a Michelin 'Rising Star' restaurant chef) and The Essential New York Times Cookbook. 

I caught up with Chef Oliver while he was in China, and he graciously told me about his next project which is poised to do wonderful things with and for Samoan food. Throughout our interview, Chef Oliver's passion and enthusiasm for what he does is unmistakable. He's a man with a clear mission who, despite his culinary fame, remains humble ("I don't consider myself to be a celebrity chef") and hard-working. In fact, he has worked tirelessly for years to bring good food to the table, whether it be for his own restaurants in Miami or Las Vegas, or for resorts in the Caribbean, or even for the homeless or underprivileged folk in inner city New York. Let's find out more about what he's doing for our tiny little country of Samoa.

Congratulations on your cookbook Me'a Kai winning the Gourmand Best Cookbook in the World Award. How did you and your team celebrate?
I was at work in Shanghai one day and I got a call from a number I didn't recognise and this booming French man comes on and says, "Is this Robert Oliver?". I said, "Yeah". He said, "This is Edouard Cointreau [President of Gourmand International]. Your book is just incredible. There's been nothing like it. You've taken a risk. You've broken the mould. And you're shortlisted for the Best Cookbook in the World Award." I actually had to sit down, I couldn't believe it! I called Shiri and Tracy right away. Tracy actually burst into tears. It was all such a project of the heart and it was a very brilliant but hard project. 

Did you know that Samoans came to Paris to support us? I still get very moved when I think of it. And the thing that has been best about the win is that it hasn't been just 'our' win. It's been a win for the whole Pacific. It's an affirmation that the right stuff is coming out of the Pacific. When I was in Fiji this year [for the South Pacific Food and Wine Festival 2012] people were just so honoured by the win. They feel recognised in a very nice way. A lot of the profiles of the food producers have gone up, so they're suddenly on the radar. These are things that we didn't anticipate. The community and their support has been really amazing for us and that's our energy moving forward actually.

Your next literary project is Organic Samoa, in which you'll be creating a tourism cuisine supplied by local organic farmers. Can you tell us a bit about it?
We always meant Me'a Kai to be the beginning of something. And I'm so grateful to the guys in Samoa - actually, there's only one guy, the Prime Minister, and the rest are all women - that are making things happen for me. Sonja Hunter, who is head of Samoa Tourism, has been an absolute soldier on this whole thing. And the women from Women in Business Development, who were already heading in the direction of Me'a Kai, have been wonderful. The Samoan project has been really creative as a result of the Gourmand award. It's the result of two years of intense lobbying during which the Prime Minister of Samoa has been absolutely amazing. He's really gone out of his way to make this project happen.

Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi
Prime Minister of Samoa
Random House (New Zealand) is publishing again. They took a massive risk publishing Me'a Kai because publishers usually look for what's commercially viable and don't put money into books where the market is too small. But because Me'a Kai had such runaway success that no-one anticipated, and we've built a really amazing community around Me'a Kai, Random House liked the idea of this next book.

Now that we've got this profile from Me'a Kai and the award, one of the things we can do with it is make it effective in the communities that we were originally based in. In Samoa, it just seemed obvious that here we have over 500 organic farms and yet there's no organic content, or very little, on the hotel menus and so its not on the tourism brand. And also, Samoa's got diet-related health problems. None of those things together make sense.

So Samoa has just stepped up. Samoa so often does step up, by the way, in the Pacific. There's a real entrepreneurial sense in Samoa that I've just been overwhelmed and so happy about with this project because it's going to make it into a great book, and thus a great movement and a great activity. 

It sounds like a lot of work on top of all your other projects, as you're also the Le Cordon Bleu New Zealand Ambassador there in China. How do you balance it all?
I realised early on that I was a horrific manager of people. I mean, I have trouble managing myself! I was told I needed a personal assistant, someone to deal with this and someone to deal with that. But that didn't feel right to me. So I do have trouble, but I've got fantastic partners. After the Gourmand award, we had big publishing deals come our way, but we thought 'What are we about?'. We wrote Me'a Kai as a celebration for the Pacific of their own cuisine so that it would be linking to tourism and it would be connected to day-to-day life. With the Samoan project, we're saying, 'This is how you do it [sustainable cuisine]. This is an activity.' We're pretty excited about this next project. 

Do you have a favourite Samoan food?
Oh, I've got lots. I love the curried octopus. And I love Ofupua'a - Pork Heart and Liver in Soy and Ginger. That's incredible.

These aren't things you would expect to eat at a fine dining establishment. Are you determined to take locally cooked Samoan food to those heights?
Yep, and actually, we're doing that in Auckland. You know, I was never going to do restaurants again, because I've had restaurants in the past, including a high profile restaurant in Miami. But there's a reason to do it now, for Me'a Kai and for Pacific cuisine.

Our 'Kai Pasifika' restaurant is due to open in 2013 on the Auckland waterfront. It will be headed by restauranteur Richard Hall, who has an extensive international background in the business, and it will be the quintessential Auckland dining experience, offering the beautiful cuisines of the South Pacific.  

The restaurant concept is based on Me'a Kai, so it will be the face of Pacific food trade in New Zealand. But more than anything, it's about celebrating Pacific Island food culture and having somewhere fantastically Pacific to go to in Auckland. 

I've seen you say in another interview that Samoan coconut cream is the best. Could you please tell us why?
It's now out of business actually. It was called Fiafia Pacific Coconut Cream and it was made in Samoa. It was the only coconut milk that first of all, didn't have any additives in it, and you could taste that. Also, it had a real roundness of flavour. It's something that you find in Pacific Island coconuts that's different from Asian coconuts. 

Is there anything you won't cook?
Not really. We can't avoid pisupo [canned corned beef]. We have to have a recipe with pisupo in the book because the pisupo story is important to Samoa. But there's a whole lot of Samoan recipes that have been pulled out of use and I want to bring them back and put the spotlight back on them because I think they're a lot healthier than the pisupo, lamb flaps and chicken backs that have become so central to Samoan and also Tongan food culture. But I'm not writing a health book or here to judge anyone or tell them what to eat. We just want to put the focus on the amazing organic produce that is being locally grown.

A lot of original Pacific foods were natural and what people are now calling 'organic' farming is actually the way islanders had farmed for many centuries. 
And that's the reason behind the organic movement in the Pacific. It's not to create 'organic'. It's to preserve the integrity of the original land and ocean and water. Organics is the mechanism which maintains Pacific cultural integrity in relation to farming. I think people think of 'organics' as being this hippy thing, but in the Pacific, the goal is to create a legal framework that stops things going wrong. Samoans understand this because the Samoan Prime Minister is the Head of the Pacific Island Organic Taskforce. 

Most of my readers at are home cooks. Do you have any advice that can help make our food more like yours (ie. better tasting, better looking, just...better)?
The whole of Me'a Kai is home food. It's not restaurant food. I think that's one of the reasons it's so successful. If anything, we're learning off the home cooks and not the other way around. 

That leads me to my next question. You've had a lot of success getting recipes from home cooks in the Pacific, but one of the most common complaints here at is that no-one shares their recipes (and we're talking about our own mothers, aunts, cousins etc!). So, how do you get your recipes from people?
I don't know what the problem is because I have no trouble whatsoever. I was arriving at people's homes in Samoa with a photographer and getting their story and I really felt like these were stories that were waiting to be told. There's a whole lot more than a recipe that you get - the story of the person, the culture, the farming and all the loving anecdotes around food. That's what we got with Me'a Kai and that's what we're hoping to get again in Samoa, because Samoa has great personalities. 

I totally agree with you. In closing, is there anything else you'd like to share with my readers?
I just want to say that I'm thrilled at what you're doing because I think the more recipe sharing, the better. 

Thank you Chef Oliver for your generosity of time and spirit. You're doing such great things for Pacific and Samoan food. We wish you all the best with Organic Samoa and all your other endeavours.

Chef Oliver with his good friend Beatrice Faumuina
Chef Robert Oliver is heading off to Samoa this Saturday and will be based in the Pacific for much of the remainder of the year. He'll be bringing a food festival element to the Teuila Festival later this year, and be assisted by a celebrity guest who I'm not at liberty to disclose

And don't think that this is the last you've seen of Me'a Kai. Chef Oliver has been working closely with Gourmand and Le Cordon Bleu to bring this fabulous cooking text to life. And in fact, Me'a Kai is even being made into a TV series by Zoomslide Productions. The effects of Chef Oliver's work seems to know no bounds.

If you see Chef Oliver out and about, please show him your support for his work on Organic Samoa. He's at the helm of a movement that is going to transform the way that we, and especially the world, see Samoan food.