Jamie Morton is the NZ Herald's science reporter.

Thrifty mayor is kitchen star

Supermarket specials on menu in Gisborne with nightly recipes shared on Facebook

Meng Foon loves food. So much so that the Gisborne mayor has taken to posting on Facebook pictures of nearly every dinner he cooks, complete with commentary.

One night there was fried cabbage with thinly sliced beef, steamed rice and mushrooms separately seasoned with oyster and soy sauce.

Another night showed leftover chicken with mushroom, potatoes and "Popeye food" - spinach.

"My boil-up for tomorrow ... pork pieces with Chinese winter melon ... yummy in my tummy," he posted a few days ago.

But the true beauty of his creations is that everything is made on a shoestring budget, with costs listed.

His special stir-fried chow mein beef broccoli noodles served three people for $3.50 each.

Pan-fried chicken and beans with scallop potatoes? Just $5.

"Whatever's on special at the butcher's or the supermarket dictates what I'm going to be eating that day," he said yesterday.

"Most of my meals are $3 to $5 a person. But if I can get four lamb shanks in Gisborne for $10, that's pretty good value."

Recipes are usually suited to all tastes, but sometimes he gets adventurous, working wonders with a $4 tray of chicken gizzards.

Crayfish, an East Coast specialty, is garnished on the barbecue with butter and a slab of mayonnaise just before it's done.

Mr Foon's no-frills cuisine - which he described as a fusion of Western, Asian, Gisborne and Maori tastes - has its own reputation among locals.

"When I see people on the street, they say 'What are we having tonight Meng? What's on special, darling?"'

He now considers his cooking a mayoral responsibility.

"A lot of people in our community are struggling to put food on the table, and I'm promoting nutritious, best-budget and easy-to-cook meals."

He has no time for processed food.

"If [you] buy a McDonald's burger and a drink and chips, that's all about 10 bucks.

"If you bought $10 of fresh food, you couldn't eat it all.

"That's enough for mum, dad and two kids."

Cooking with Meng

Chicken gizzards: Wash gizzards, place in pot with ginger, soy sauce and a little salt. Bring to boil with water covering meat and simmer for an hour. $4.20 a head.

Lamb rump: Pan fry lamb rump for one minute each side with oil, then place in oven (preheated to 180C) for 12 minutes, take out and rest for five minutes. Cook potatoes in salt until soft and mash. Combine spuds in pan with a heated cup of milk and two tablespoons of butter. $9 a head.

Stir-fry beef: Fry cabbage, thinly sliced beef and mushrooms separately seasoned with oyster and soy sauce. Mix together when cooked and add steamed rice on top. $4 a head.

- NZ Herald

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