Ruth Pretty and her team have been in Auckland catering for VIPs at Eden Park during the Rugby World Cup. The negotiations for this contract started two years before the Cup and culminated in Pretty catering for all the official guests at the major games.

Pretty is based on the Kapiti Coast so a military-style operation was required to enable it happen. All pre-prepared food and staff had to arrive in Auckland in top condition for serving to New Zealand's many international visitors, from princes to prime ministers.

I worked for Pretty during this time and was inspired by her total focus in the kitchen, making sure every detail is perfect. Her food is beautifully classic, with a twist. Tasty, true to its ingredients, and presentation and ease of eating were thoughtfully considered. Think about this if you are planning a party - how easy is it to manage a glass, cocktail food (2 bites max, and what happens to the toothpicks?) or a plate.

This recipe is inspired by one of the main courses Pretty served. Make it into smaller offerings as pick-up-stick food, or make a big platter to share, with plain rice and wilted spinach and bok choy (cook quickly in peanut oil and season with sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds).


Thai beef and fresh pineapple skewers
1. Make a marinade by mixing equal quantities of soy sauce, fish sauce and chilli sauce. Add crushed garlic, grated fresh ginger, a chopped red chilli, 2 kaffir lime leaves if you have them, and a tablespoon of grated palm sugar.

2. Cut your beef into the size you want to skewer and mix through the marinade. Leave a good few hours.

3. Peel and cut a fresh pineapple into chunky slices.

4. Pat the meat dry and cook the pieces as you would a steak. Remove and keep warm.

5. In the same pan add the pineapple and quickly warm through. Pour a little of the marinade over the pineapple while cooking to colour.

6. Skewer the meat and pineapple pieces.

7. While the pan is still hot and sticky from the pineapple, grill a few lime halves cut side down to use as a garnish.