It's fresh and easy for Nadia

By Colleen Thorpe

As part of the prize for winning MasterChef NZ last year, Nadia Lim won the opportunity to fulfil a lifelong dream - putting together her very own cookbook.

The result is awesome. The book is an absolute delight to read with dynamic photos of the food Nadia cooks and of Nadia herself.

It is a must-have collection of delicious recipes that are bound to become family favourites.

Divided into seasons, the book allows you to make the most of the fresh produce that's readily available at any time of year.

Nadia is a trained dietitian and nutritionist, and this is evident throughout the book with the recipes well thought out and balanced - nutrition information is at the bottom of each.

One of my favourite recipes is marsala chicken with caramelised pumpkin, something easy to make yet impressive enough to cook for visitors. And do try the poached apricots and macadamia dumplings.

After watching Jamie Oliver on The Naked Chef at the age of 12, Nadia knew that cooking was what she wanted to do when she grew up.

I asked Nadia a few questions about her life and her job.

What is your best and worst memory during the filming of Masterchef NZ?

Best: About 10 minutes before our last [macaroon tower] challenge ended in the final, I had a little celebratory moment to myself as I kind of knew I'd won at that point (I was already six points ahead before going into the macaroon tower challenge). Worst: I didn't like being locked up in the house for so long.

What tips do you have for future masterchefs?

I'm stoked MasterChef has inspired lots of kids to cook more. Kids learning to cook from a young age will have huge positive health effects in the future (with less reliance on processed food), so to the future generation of MasterChefs I say, 'Good on you! Keep cooking, keep it fun, a bit of chaos in the kitchen is great, learn the basics first then start putting your own creative spin on things.'

What dish do you most love to cook?

People's eyes seem to light up and they make funny noises when I plonk a good pork roast on the table with a huge amount of crackling, so that's always pleasing. In general, I like very easy, quick dishes that are big on fresh ingredients and flavour (my style of food is probably closest to Jamie Oliver's, except I use a lot of Asian flavours). Although I love food and cooking, I don't like being in the kitchen too long (20 to 30 minutes is about the time I'll spend preparing dinner). The food in my cookbook, Nadia's Kitchen, is mostly very quick and simple, with balanced meals based around ingredients in season.

What dish would you make for Prince William and Kate?

They're probably used to all these fancy dinners and banquets so maybe just something simple and delicious ... spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce, basil and parmesan cheese with a big glass of New Zealand pinot noir.

What did you have on your sandwiches when you went to school?

My mum was awesome. She always made an effort to keep our lunches varied and interesting so our sandwiches were anything from chicken with apricot chutney to - my favourite - Marmite, lettuce and salt and vinegar chippies. Thanks, Mum!

What is your favourite food/most hated food?

You can't ask a food lover that. I love so many foods equally I couldn't pick one. There isn't any one food I can think of that I hate, but the last time I ate McDonald's (about three years ago, late night after a concert) I felt disgusting straight afterwards so I probably won't be doing that again. The bun tasted sickly sweet! Weird ... mind you, it probably was loaded with sugar.

What is your secret ingredient?

It's no secret - salt. The right amount of seasoning brings flavours in food to life. And yes, too much salt does increase your risk of high blood pressure (hypertension), but if you simply make the shift to cooking (and flavouring/seasoning food) yourself, instead of letting the factories and fast food chains, who use heaps of salt, do it for you, you automatically reduce the amount of salt in your diet anyway.

What is the best/worst thing about your job?

Best: Fulfilling a lifetime dream of creating recipes.

Worst: Loads and loads of dishes to do.

What kitchen utensil could you not do without?

My nice, sharp, shiny knives. One of my pet hates is blunt knives, very frustrating.

What is your favourite cookbook?

My cookbook, Nadia's Kitchen - full of fresh, tasty recipes that are so easy to recreate, and beautiful imagery to match.

Have you a guilty pleasure?

I love having cake for breakfast (last week it was a new recipe I created - a mocha and Baileys layer cake), but I'm not guilty of it; have everything in moderation, including moderation at times.

What's next for Nadia Lim?

A cookbook launch, cookbook tour around the country and the launch of a website (with 35-plus new recipes) over the next month.

- Hamilton News

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