Flavours finding high favour (+recipes)

By Jan Bilton

Vietnamese mint: also called hot mint or laksa leaf. Despite its name, Vietnamese mint (Persicaria odorata) is not actually a member of the mint family. It grows very easily and, if planted in a sunny, sheltered position will keep producing its fragrant, long, pointy, red-stained leaves during winter, in most regions. Add - in moderation - to fresh rice-paper spring rolls, soups (such as laksa), stir-fries, rice dishes and vegetable and fruit salads.

Chinese five-spice: sometimes sold as five-fragrance powder, this pungent combination is prepared from ground cinnamon, star anise, fennel seeds, cloves and Szechuan peppercorns. Generally, it enhances pork, beef, poultry and seafood and should be used in moderation. However, Chinese five-spice is also great in cookies and cakes as a cinnamon substitute.

To make Chinese five-spice, lightly toast two tablespoons of Szechuan peppercorns in a pan, until fragrant. Place in a small blender and grind together with eight whole star anise. Sieve, then add half a teaspoon of ground cloves and one tablespoon each of ground cinnamon and ground fennel seeds.

Vanilla: a member of the orchid family, vanilla is derived from dried, cured pods or beans. Most of New Zealand's vanilla comes from Tahiti and Tonga.

After a cyclone 10 years ago, a vanilla-growing partnership between the people of Vava'u, Tonga, and Kiwis John Ross and Garth and Jennifer Boggis was established to help build the economy.

Now, due to the success of the Heilala Vanilla venture, a charitable foundation has been established to assist in equipping the home economics department at the Vava'u High School with kitchen appliances.

Rosewater: steeping rose petals in water, oil or alcohol was practiced by the ancient Greeks and Romans and, by the ninth century, Persians were distilling rosewater commercially.

Today, rosewater is prepared by steam distillation. Rose petals have little taste but rosewater flavours a dish so quickly it should be used with discretion.

If you are looking for a food match for gewurztraminer, any dessert or baking containing rosewater would be very suitable.



120g rice stick noodles

1 tbsp canola oil

60g packet Singapore laksa spice paste

1 & 1/2 cups chicken stock

400g can light coconut milk

300g skinned and boned chicken breast, thinly sliced

1 kaffir lime leaf, julienned

1/2 cup each: loosely packed Vietnamese mint leaves, coriander leaves

Topping: 1 carrot, julienned and blanched

1 cup bean sprouts or snow pea sprouts

4 lime wedges

Vietnamese mint and coriander leaves to garnish

Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the pack.

Heat the oil in a saucepan and stir in the spice paste.

Add the chicken stock and coconut milk and bring to the boil.

Simmer for five minutes. Add the chicken and kaffir lime. Poach for three to four minutes. Add the Vietnamese mint and coriander.

Place the drained noodles in four deep serving bowls. Add the soup, chicken and topping ingredients. Serves 4


Pears: 1 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

1 Heilala vanilla pod

6 pears, halved, peeled and cores removed

1 tbsp lemon juice

Icecream: 300g mascarpone

1 cup plain yoghurt

3/4 cup caster sugar

1 tbsp Heilala vanilla paste

1/2 cup milk

Pears: Bring water and sugar to the boil. Split the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds. Place seeds and the pod in the syrup.

Simmer for five minutes. Add the pears and poach, turning once, until tender - about 10 minutes. Lift the pears into a serving bowl. Boil the syrup and lemon juice for five minutes then pour over the pears. Remove vanilla pod. Cool. Chill until ready to serve.

Icecream: Whisk the ingredients together, until well blended. Freeze in an icecream maker or place in a bowl, cover and freeze until almost solid. Beat well then return to the freezer. Serves 6


Profiteroles: 1 cup cream

2 tbsp icing sugar

1/2-1 tsp rosewater

1-2 drops pink food colouring

14 profiteroles or 8 cream puff cases

Icing: 2 tsp softened butter

2 tsp hot water

1 cup sifted icing sugar

3 drops each: pink food colouring, rosewater

Whip cream and icing sugar together, until stiff. Add rosewater and fold in food colouring.

Split the profiteroles in half and sandwich together with the cream mixture.

Blend together icing ingredients. Spread on top of the profiteroles. Dust with extra icing sugar, if preferred.

Great served as a dessert or with coffee. Serves 4-6


Venison: 400g farm-raised venison medallions

3/4 cup good red wine

2 tsp Chinese five-spice

1 tbsp rice bran oil

1 tsp each: prepared mustard, sugar

Vegetable Fritters: 2 each: medium potatoes, carrots, courgettes, peeled and grated

Salt and black pepper

1/2 tsp curry powder

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1 medium onion, diced

2 tbsp self-raising flour

2 eggs, lightly beaten,

Milk, optional

1 tbsp rice bran oil

Marinate venison in red wine for at least 30 minutes, turning occasionally.

Pat dry then sprinkle with five-spice - reserve the wine. Heat oil in a non-stick frying pan. Pan-fry medallions for about four to five minutes, turning often, until medium-rare. Cover and leave in a warm place for four to five minutes.

Meanwhile, combine all the fritter ingredients - except the oil - adding enough milk so the mixture just falls off a spoon.

Pan-fry heaped tablespoons of the vegetable mixture in the oil turning once one side is golden.

Heat the wine in the pan in which the venison was cooked. Stir in the mustard and sugar then simmer for one minute. Serve over the medallions.

Serve the vegetable fritters as a side dish. Serves 3-4


- Hamilton News

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