Ruth Pretty's five cookbooks, weekly columns and cooking classes are loved well beyond her Wellington home.

To me, summer holiday food means ...

Colourful, tasty and incorporating herbs and salad greens from the garden. For holiday food, I like food which is expandable or, vice versa, where leftovers are handy the next day.

When a crowd unexpectedly descends, my favourite loaves and fishes trick is to ...


Expand the dish. If you are planning to barbecue lamb and a few guests turn into a crowd, make spicy lamb kebabs but also make spicy vegetable kebabs. Or if you were planning roast chicken for a crowd, change your thoughts to chicken salad.

My favourite summer drink is ...

Lemon verbena tea which I should really refer to as lemon verbena infusion.

In my camping/boating/picnic chilly bin/storage box you'll always find ...

A fillet of beef. Which I can use to make steaks, whole fillet, sliced fillet salad, thai beef salad, kebabs. Quick cooking, low on prep and has wow factor.

My best meal/dish this year was ...

My friend Sandra Cottle from Scotsman Valley in Waikato baked crumbed hogget cutlets using their own hogget. She served the sweet, crispy chops on a big platter accompanied with tiny new potatoes, peeled and drizzled with fresh mint sauce, asparagus cooked al dente and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and thinly roasted butternut with a jug of hogget jus.

The favourite cookbook/food book I read this year was ...

A friend parted with a book published in 1976 - Food in Vogue: Six Decades of Cooking and Entertaining. The recipes capture so much of the English era they are from.

Next year I'll be ...

Thinking about another book for 2014.

My New Year's resolution for 2013 ...

Is to take the time to read more.

Summer Chicken Salad with Eggs, Herbed Prawns and Capers
Serves 6

60g (3) shallots (finely chopped)
1 tsp finely chopped Italian parsley leaves
2 Tbs chopped French tarragon leaves
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
3 Tbs lemon juice
10 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
3 small anchovies (rinsed and mashed)
20g salted capers (rinsed and finely chopped)
645g (3 large single) corn-fed chicken breasts, skin on
4 cloves garlic (peeled)
100g (1 stalks) celery (cut in half lengthwise and diced)
Crispy prosciutto (recipe below)
6 hard-boiled eggs (recipe below)
12 herbed prawns (recipe below)
12-24 arbequina olives (small, sweet, greenish-brown variety from Spain; rinsed)
4-5 small sprigs French tarragon (optional)


Preheat oven to 200C.

To make dressing, place shallots, parsley, tarragon, mustard, lemon zest and juice, 9 Tbs oil, anchovies and 2 tsp capers in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk to combine and set aside.

With some of the remaining 1 Tbs oil, lightly grease a low-sided roasting tray. Place chicken and garlic in a bowl, add remaining oil and toss to coat. Place chicken on tray skin-side up. Slip garlic under chicken. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until chicken is tender and juices run clear when pierced with a metal skewer.

Remove from oven. Cover tray with a tea towel and rest chicken away from heat for 10 minutes.

Remove skin from chicken flesh. Place skin on tray and return to oven for 10-15 minutes or until very crisp. Cool and cut skin into thin strips.

While chicken is still warm, shred into long, bite-sized strips and place in a bowl. Place garlic in a separate small bowl, mash and then add to chicken. Pour dressing over chicken, add celery and toss to coat. Serve or cover and refrigerate overnight.

To serve, roughly crumble prosciutto, add to chicken salad and toss together. Pile on to a large presentation platter and arrange eggs and prawns to one side. Scatter with olives and remaining capers. Garnish with crispy chicken skin and, if you wish, tarragon sprigs.

Crispy prosciutto

Use shards of crispy prosciutto to garnish soups or salads, or crumble to use as a topping.

40g (4 slices) thinly sliced prosciutto (halved lengthwise)


Preheat oven to 150C.

Arrange strips between two sheets of baking paper. Place on a low-sided roasting tray and position another tray on top. Bake for 5-7 minutes or until lightly browned and crispy.

Remove top tray, cool prosciutto then remove from tray. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in pantry for up to two days.

Hard-boiled eggs
Makes 6

1-8 tsp salt
6 eggs


Place a medium-sized saucepan of water over high heat and bring to the boil. Add salt.

Using a large spoon, place eggs one by one into water. Reduce heat to medium so water is not at a rolling boil. Gently boil eggs for eight minutes (use a timer).

Immediately remove from heat and drain eggs. Working quickly, shake the saucepan to crack shells and run eggs under cold water until cool enough to handle.

Remove shells from eggs. Halve eggs while still warm. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to two days.

Herbed prawns
12-18 prawns (de-veined, peeled but with tail intact)

1 Tbs finely chopped dill or fennel, or French tarragon or Italian parsley leaves
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil


Preheat oven to 200C.

Place prawns, herbs, lemon zest, salt, pepper and olive oil in a medium sized bowl. Toss prawns to coat evenly. Spread prawns on a low-sided roasting tray with around 1cm space between. Place in oven for 3-4 minutes or until prawn flesh begins to turn white.

Remove prawns from tray and allow to cool. If you choose to cook prawns in advance, cool and refrigerate until required.

From Ruth Pretty Cooks at Home by Ruth Pretty