Al Brown takes us on a culinary road trip of New Zealand regions in his latest book, Get Fresh.
The Kiwi chef, restaurant owner, cookbook author and TV host discovers local produce and cooks up a storm visiting Northland, Coromandel, South Auckland, Hawke's Bay, Wairarapa, Marlborough, Canterbury, Central Otago, Dunedin and Southland.
He chooses the best local produce from each region and turns it into something magical, working out a menu he feels epitomises that area.
In addition to the delicious recipes and beautiful photos, his book includes a CD of Kiwi music. Each track was hand-picked to go alongside this portrait of New Zealand - the perfect song for each region.
Mike Chunn of Play it Strange - a trust encouraging young New Zealanders to develop interests and skills in songwriting and musical performance - teamed up with Al to produce the CD, which includes Fat Freddy's Drop's The Nod.
I put a few questions to Al:
YOU OBVIOUSLY HAVE A PASSION FOR ALL THINGS NEW ZEALAND ... IF YOU WERE WRITING A SCHOOL REPORT CARD, TELL US THREE THINGS NEW ZEALAND IS DOING WELL AND THREE THINGS WE COULD DO BETTER IN.
Our artisan food scene, our national rugby team and the proliferation of farmers' markets are going really well.
We could do better at picking up litter; connecting children to the land, for example growing vegetables and understanding where our food comes from and connecting them with the coast and in understanding the less popular fish of the sea and how they eat.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE SPOT IN NEW ZEALAND?
Ahipara in the Far North.
WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST SURPRISE FOR YOU ON YOUR JOURNEY TO MAKE THIS BOOK?The diversity of the provinces within the country.
YOU ARE A BIG MUSIC FAN ... WHAT TYPE OF MUSIC DO YOU LIKE SPECIFICALLY? DO YOU SING OR PLAY AN INSTRUMENT?
I sing continuously (very well, not). I learned the guitar as a kid but don't really play now, but I sing a lot and love music.
I like all Neil Young, from when he started right through to his modern stuff.
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL GROWERS' MARKET - AND HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO USE FRESH INGREDIENTS?
It is imperative. They are all about community - if the community doesn't support them, we won't have them, as they won't be able to earn the dollars.
There is nothing more important in cooking than using fresh, seasonal ingredients.
HOW DO YOU THINK NEW ZEALANDERS' TASTES AND APPROACH TO FOOD HAVE CHANGED OVER THE YEARS?
We are a lot more adventurous. We understand how to use herbs and olive oil. And we know how to get the best out of these products.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE DISH FROM THIS BOOK?
The roasted pork hock with caramelised apple and black pudding.
WHAT IS YOUR FIRST MEMORY OF FOOD?
Paua fritters. It was my first memory of gathering and helping with the meal. I gathered the paua that made them.
WHO IS YOUR BIGGEST FAN?
Ben Norris, one of my best mate's sons.
WHO WAS THE BIGGEST INFLUENCE ON YOUR LOVE OF COOKING?
DO YOU HAVE A GUILTY PLEASURE?
WHAT THREE NEW ZEALAND FOODS ARE TOP OF YOUR LIST?
Fresh live oysters, wild porcini mushrooms from Canterbury when they are in season, and lamb chops.
TELL US THREE THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF PEOPLE MAY NOT KNOW OR MAY BE SURPRISED TO LEARN.
I would like to learn te reo, I want to play the guitar again (properly) and I have a passion for down-and-dirty truck stops.
by Al Brown, Random House, $60