The taste of New Zealand (+recipe)

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Kiwi chef Charles Royal incorporates indigenous New Zealand ingredients in his contemporary recipes.

Pikopiko Takakau (Damper Bread with Fiddleheads). Photo / Supplied
Pikopiko Takakau (Damper Bread with Fiddleheads). Photo / Supplied

Chef Charles Royal uses indigenous New Zealand ingredients such as kawakawa, pikopiko, wild bush mushrooms and ferns to give classic dishes a contemporary twist. Covering recipes from starters through vegetables and mains to sweet treats, Cooking with Charles Royal shows how to prepare stunning dishes with minimum effort that have a uniquely New Zealand look and taste.

Pikopiko Takakau (Damper Bread with Fiddleheads)

10 pikopiko tips and stalks
2 cups plain flour
2 tsp pikopiko powder
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups cold soda water

1 Preheat the oven to 200C. Roughly chop two pikopiko. Reserve the other eight fronds for garnishing.

2 Sift the pikopiko powder, flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and mix together.

3 Add chopped pikopiko to the dry ingredients and make a well in the centre.

4 Add soda water and gently mix the ingredients together. The key to this bread is keeping the dough soft and wet. Overworking can make the dough tough and the bread hard.

5 Lightly spray a sponge tin or baking tray with oil. With wet hands, place the dough into the tin and press down slightly to make the dough flat and smooth.

6 Arrange the reserved pikopiko fronds on top of the dough by lightly pressing them into it in a design of your choice.

7 Place the dough in the middle of the hot oven and cook for 20 minutes.

8 Remove the bread from the oven and lightly brush the top with your favourite oil or an egg wash. Place the bread back in the oven for another 15 minutes.

9 Remove the bread from the oven and test it by inserting a knife in the centre. If the knife comes out clean, the bread is cooked.

10 Take the bread out of the tin and wrap it in a clean, damp tea towel. Leave it to cool on a rack.

Pikopiko tips

I have added a couple of teaspoons of pikopiko powder for extra flavour and colour. I create the powder by grinding the cleaned, dried pikopiko into a fine dust-like product that can be added in small quantities with other dry ingredients.

The secret to working with pikopiko is the cleaning technique. Before cooking, carefully wash the tips thoroughly in cold water, and use your fingers to rub off any brown speckles along the stalk, otherwise the pikopiko will give off a bitter flavour. Without speckles the pikopiko becomes a delicious bush asparagus. The small fern-shaped leaves should also be removed, and the pikopiko is best no more than 25cm long. Like asparagus, pikopiko has a natural snapping point. Check for a black strip that runs up the back of the stalk, break the stalk above the line or it will be too fibrous.

Prepared pikopiko are available to order from maorifood.com. If you are unable to source them, this recipe can also be made using asparagus.

Be in to win this cookbook

Cooking with Charles Royal, Huia Publishers, RRP $45. Available from Cook the Books, 81 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby, ph (09) 360 6513, cookthebooks.co.nz

They have one copy to give away. To enter the draw, email your name and address to books@cookthebooks.co.nz by Monday, December 6. The winner will also receive a 100g jar of pikopiko powder.

- NZ Herald

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