Shehnaz Hussain is studying medicine at the University of Auckland. She's also a chef, recipe-developer and food photographer. Last year, she created her first cookbook, Tang, Spice, Crunch, from which all the profits were donated to an orphanage in Chennai, India.
Hussain says it's a place that's close to her heart, a place she and her family have been supporting and visiting for more than 20 years. The book has sold out but she shares her recipes here, and you can check out more tangy, spicy, crunchy inspiration on her Instagram: @shehnazzy_cooks
Chickpea with coconut sundal
Sundal is a famous Tamil beachside snack of chickpeas tossed in coconut, black mustard seeds, curry leaves and lemon juice.
2 cans chickpeas, drained
½ handful frozen grated coconut, or desiccated coconut
8cm piece of ginger
1-½ Tbsp black mustard seeds
5-10 curry leaves (optional)
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 lemons, juiced
1 mango, peeled and diced into small cubes
½ red onion, diced
Coriander leaves, chopped
In a small blender, add the grated coconut, chilli and ginger. Blitz until a paste forms. Add 1 Tbsp of water if needed (especially if using desiccated coconut, which can be quite dry). Taste and add more chilli if you want it spicier and blitz again.
In a large bowl, add 1 tin of chickpeas. With a fork or potato masher, smash these chickpeas so that they are roughly broken up (not mashed though. Then add the other tin of chickpeas, but don't mash these.
In a pan over medium-high heat, add the oil. Once hot, add the black mustard seeds and curry leaves. Temper until the spices "bloom" and the mustard seeds start popping, about 1 minute.
Now add the coconut-ginger-chilli paste you made earlier to the pan. Stir and cook for another minute.
Add the chickpeas and salt to the pan now. Stir so that all the chickpeas are coated in the paste and spices.
Transfer the chickpea mixture to the large bowl. Add the diced mango, onion and the juice of a lemon. Taste and add more lemon juice or salt as needed.
Garnish with chopped coriander and serve.
Steak au poivre with shiitake
Steak au poivre is traditionally a French pepper steak recipe. I have adapted it to include shiitake mushrooms (my favourite) to add more texture and complexity to the flavours.
4-6 sirloin steaks, or any cut you like really
1 Tbsp salt
4 Tbsp freshly cracked black pepper
3 Tbsp olive oil
4 Tbsp butter
4 sprigs rosemary
8 garlic cloves
Shiitake black pepper sauce
200g shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
½ onion, finely diced
1 knob butter
5 garlic cloves, peeled and finely diced
¾ cup beef stock
½ cup heavy cream
3 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
Season steak with salt and pepper and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes-1 hour.
Heat a large pan on medium-high heat, then add the oil. Once oil is hot (you can check by splashing in a few drops of water. It should make a sizzle sound), add 1 steak and cook for 2 minutes on each side.
Within the cooking period, add 2 garlic cloves, a sprig of rosemary and 1 Tbsp of butter (per steak) to the pan; preferably at the first minute mark. Once the butter has fully melted, tilt the pan so that the butter and oil pools to one side and spoon over and "wash" the top of the steak with these juices. This is what creates a crusty sear. Do this for at least 1 minute of the total 4-minute cooking period.
Remove from pan and let sit for 10 minutes. Repeat with the other steaks.
In a pan over medium-high heat, add the butter, onions and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions become translucent.
Add the black pepper and stir for another 30 seconds. This will bloom the pepper so that its flavour becomes more prominent.
Add in the shiitake mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes. At this point you should taste and season with salt.
Pour the beef stock into the pan and stir occasionally, until the beef stock has reduced to half its original amount, approximately 2-4 minutes.
Turn the heat down to medium-low. Add the heavy cream. Stir for 1 minute. Here you should taste and add more black pepper or salt to your liking. I personally like a strong peppery taste.
To assemble, slice the steak against the grain and arrange on a platter. Pour your shiitake black pepper sauce over the cut steaks and serve immediately.
Deconstructed sweet & salty jelly-tip cheesecake
I love the combination of cream, jelly and chocolate in the the iconic Kiwi Jelly Tip icecream. So, I thought why not create a classy, dinner-time version of this to impress your guests? It has four elements but is so simple to make and can be made up to three days in advance and assembled just before serving.
Cheese cake filling
50g cow's milk feta, at room temperature
225g cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup caster sugar
½ cup double cream
1 packet raspberry jelly
½ cup double cream
125g Whittakers 62 per cent dark chocolate, chopped
12 digestive biscuits, crushed
In a heatproof container, add the jelly crystals/powder and follow packet instructions. Store in fridge to set.
In a large bowl, add feta, cream cheese and caster sugar. Whisk until combined.
In a medium-sized bowl, add the double cream and whisk until soft peaks form.
Add half of the whipped double cream mixture to the larger bowl and fold through until just combined. Repeat with the other half of the whipped double cream. Do not overmix, just fold gently. Place in fridge for at least 2 hours, but it can be stored up to 3 days.
In a saucepan, over medium heat, add the double cream. Once it has a few bubbles, immediately remove from the heat and add the chopped dark chocolate.
Stir until the chocolate has melted and a ganache has formed. Add a generous pinch of salt as well to the ganache.
The ganache can be stored at room temperature for a day, so ideally make this on the day you plan to serve. Simply heat in microwave for 30 seconds if it gets too solid.
Add the digestive biscuits into a sealed plastic bag. Crush with your fist until large crumbs form.
Once ready to serve, in a nice dessert glass add the cheesecake filling, raspberry jelly, chocolate ganache and top with the biscuit crumble.