Forget token gifts, spend time cooking.

Gender stereotypes bother me at the best of times but especially around Mother's and Father's Days. Weeks ago I started seeing the advertisements for Father's Day gift ideas - gadgets for the "man cave" and sports equipment and all other recycled ideas of what supposed manly dads should receive. The same happens with food. When I said I was doing a Father's Day column, someone asked if it would all be brown and all meat, to which I replied "absolutely not".

I despair at the way food is categorised to be manly or girly and I refuse to buy into it.

A prominent food reviewer described a pub as having "dude food" on its menu, whatever that is supposed to mean. I'm not interested in any of it.

So, for Father's Day I figured the best approach was to enlist my own dad, Ron. Like many men his age, Dad has had his share of health scares in the past few years.

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So at the beginning of this year he and Mum overhauled their way of eating and started to do more exercise. Less red meat, more fresh fish, fewer complex carbohydrates and no more sneaky meat pies for lunch have led to a huge improvement and has shaken up Dad's cooking.

He loves cooking and when my sisters and I were growing up, his signature dish was without a doubt spaghetti bolognaise. We'd probably have it once a week and it was always a favourite.

He would test the readiness of the spaghetti by throwing a strand on the wall. If it stuck, it was done. I swear there was a cooked strand of spaghetti stuck above our oven wall for weeks at one point.

More recently he has wholeheartedly embraced lentils, so his signature dish has had an overhaul. The lentils still offer protein and this rich sauce is a delicious alternative. He has discovered a love of eggplant, too. He'll roast it whole and scoop out the inside, or cut it into cubes and sneak it into anything he can. It adds a richness to this bolognaise sauce.

Fish has always been a favourite and I didn't realise quite how easy it was to eat raw until I started making ceviche earlier this year. People probably think of this as a summer dish, but it's winter when limes are at their cheapest, and it's a lovely fresh alternative to slow braises and lots of meat or simply as a great starter or snack.

Salmon is not something we ate fresh when we were growing up, although I do have memories of Mum making savoury crepes for dinner with broccoli and tinned salmon in a bechamel sauce. Pretty fancy for the early 90s. Now, fresh salmon is more readily available and is easy to cook. I often pan fry it to get crispy skin, but baking it is even easier. This is Dad's recipe and has the Italian influence of olives, capers, and plenty of lemon.

Dad and I had a lot of fun in the kitchen prepping these dishes. Rather than buying a token present, I imagine lots of fathers would enjoy getting in the kitchen for Father's Day, being cooked for or sharing a meal with their families.

I'll probably end up cooking for Dad, and I'll be grateful to do so as I think about my friends whose Dads are no longer around to stand over their shoulder and pester them about adding more olive oil. Happy Father's Day!

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Try Delaney's delicious recipes below at bite.co.nz

Baked Salmon with Olives and Capers
Lentil and Eggplant Bolognaise
Ceviche