It often takes foreign eyes to remind us what we can celebrate in New Zealand. When British artist Deborah Hide-Bayne "escaped" (as she puts it) her hectic life in London, she landed in Coromandel to a lifestyle she says "stopped me in my tracks". Nearly 10 years later, with a home, husband and son, and an orchard at her door, she created her book, Coromandel Flavours: A year of cooking at the bach. In it, she sketches, photographs and keeps a charming diary of the seasons and her food.
To get fish for this summer snapper recipe, Deborah's lucky enough to have a friend with a boat, or she fishes off the rocks.
She says you need local knowledge from fishing mates, who will all have their own favourite fishing spots, baits and techniques.
"Find someone who's in the know to increase your chance of catching a lovely fish for your dinner. Remember to put plenty of ice in your chilly bin, to keep whatever you catch as fresh as possible."
If luck evades you, buy a whole gutted snapper (the smaller the sweeter) from the fish shop.
Deborah's friend Yaning (wife of David, the neighbour with the boat), is a a recent immigrant from China. The pair share a great friendship and a love of food. This is one of Yaning's recipes. Deborah says Yaning never measures the ingredients, just tastes the dish regularly to see how it is going, and she can tell when the fish is cooked just by looking at it.
Use this recipe as a starting point, as the cooking time will vary depending on the size of the fish and the heat of the burner. Check it by using a sharp knife to gently lift the skin and poke at the inside. You want it just starting to flake and looking opaque.
• 1 whole gutted snapper
• small bunch spring onions
• thumb of fresh ginger
• 2 cloves garlic
• 1 red chilli
• 3 Tbsp soy sauce
• 1 Tbsp sugar
• 2 Tbsp vinegar
• whole szechuan or black peppercorns
1. Heat the oil in a wok. Put the fish in the oil to sear it on both sides and place to one side.
2. Add the spring onion, ginger, garlic and chilli, and cook for 2-3 minutes, until fragrant.
3. Put the seared fish on top of the spices, add the soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, peppercorns and enough water to cover the fish. Cover and cook for approximately 10 minutes.
4. Garnish with parsley and serve with rice or vegetables.
To serve, take the meat off the bone and pour a little of the broth or cooking liquor over the top. Recently, I cooked a 1.25kg fish, which took 12 minutes, starting in cold water. We ate it in soup bowls with noodles cooking in the broth.
Just put dried noodles in once you have taken the fish out, and by the time you have flaked the fish, the noodles will be ready.
Coromandel Flavour: A year of cooking at the Bach, by Deborah Hide-Bayne, $45, published by Coromandel Flavour. Buy from the website coromandelflavour.co.nz
Weekend Life has one copy of Coromandel Flavour, by Deborah Hide-Bayne, to give away.
To enter, go to nzherald.co.nz/weekend, enter your details and the keywords Coromandel Flavour by midnight, Wednesday, January 30.