I was going through my mother's old recipe cards the other day, hunting in her vast collection of handwritten formulas for an old favourite sweet treat. Travelling down memory lane, recalling Millie's boozy pudding, Maude's shortbread and Hazel Hogg's rum balls, I came across some cards penned in my father's precise, neat hand. My mother's recipes ran all over the page like riddles that few other people could ever decipher but Dad had a crisp, italic style that was easy to read and, as you might expect from an engineer, his recipes made sense. There they were, neatly written with capped headings: Tamarillo Chutney - Lois Daish, Gherkins - Maude, Pickled Onions, Pickled Beetroot.

While Mum ensured the larder was kept stocked with preserved fruits and jams, the savoury pickles and preserves were largely our father's domain. Each year he would fill the pantry shelves with his creations, which my mother would draw on for our meals and entertaining.

She loved having people over and disliked eating out, informing us that it was a waste of money when she could easily make something more delicious at home. Through his work, my father often had lunch meetings at different cafes and restaurants. At dinner I would quiz him at length about where he had been for lunch and what he had eaten.

I was about 9 when he started to take me out to eat in the city. We would head downtown, usually on a Friday night, and find little hole-in-the-wall cafes to try. One of our favourite haunts was a tiny, slightly grungy Chinese cafe in Vivian St, Wellington. It had Formica tables and fluorescent strip lighting, and a bathroom you just knew you didn't want to go to, but the food was delicious. As soon as we sat down they would come out with a big stack of thin-sliced buttered supermarket white bread, which always seemed weird when we were about to eat an Asian meal.

I guess I would have been about 13 when Dad took me to a snazzy new restaurant around the waterfront on Oriental Bay. I remember ordering the sauteed scallops and insisting there was something wrong with them. Poor Dad was so embarrassed, this precocious kid making such a fuss, but there was no stopping me. I wangled my way into the kitchen and asked to see how the scallops were cooked. As soon as I saw the white wine going into the steel pan after the scallops had been browned in butter, I knew what was giving them the nasty metallic taste. I informed the chef that the sauce had oxidised and he needed to change the pan. He nodded his head in disbelief as I explained the chemistry. Had we not already eaten I have no doubt he would have stomped on the scallops before serving them to me, so outraged was he by my challenge. I'm pretty sure that was the last time Dad took me out to eat - my culinary lexicon had now expanded to places that made me a complete pain in the neck as a dining companion.


Thinking back, there are so many things I learned from my father that, at the time, I never
appreciated. As well as practical things, such as learning to drive, growing a vegetable garden and keeping bees, Dad taught me to be curious, to keep asking questions, to ask if I needed help, and to go that little bit further to be the best I could be. His mantra of kindness, charm, honesty and diligence, taught me what you need to get you all the places you might want to be in life.

If he was here today I would love to make him breakfast in bed this Father's Day to thank him.

Here are some ideas of what you might cook for your dad.

Creamy Smoked Fish Kedgeree

Ready in 30 mins
Serves 4

4-6 eggs
2 Tbsp butter
1 large onion, diced
2 Tbsp curry powder
A pinch of chilli flakes or cayenne pepper
4 cups cooked basmati rice
2 cups flaked boneless, skinless smoked fish
1 cup sour cream or lite sour cream
3 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup parsley leaves, finely chopped
Lemon wedges, to serve (optional)

Place eggs in a pot, cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer for 8 minutes. Cool under cold water before removing shells and cutting boiled eggs into wedges. While eggs cook, heat butter in a large, heavy-based frying pan and fry onion over medium heat until softened and starting to brown (about 8 minutes). Add curry powder and cayenne and cook for about another 30 seconds. Stir in cooked rice, smoked fish, sour cream and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and cook over high heat for about 3 minutes until warmed through. Transfer to a serving dish, top with wedges of egg and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with lemon wedges, if using, to squeeze over the top.

Annabel says: Created in the melting pot of the British Raj, this delicately spiced rice with hard-boiled eggs and smoky fish is a weekend brunch classic. It's also a great way to use up leftover cooked rice.

Tomato Wiggle

Photo / Annabel Langbein Media
Photo / Annabel Langbein Media

Ready in 30 mins
Serves 3-4

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely diced
2 large red peppers, finely diced
6 tomatoes, cut into 1cm dice
A pinch of chilli flakes or cayenne pepper
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
6 eggs, lightly whisked
2 Tbsp parsley leaves, chopped
To serve (optional)
Crispy bacon rashers

Heat oil in a large frying pan and cook onions, peppers, tomatoes and chilli over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened and the liquid from the tomatoes has almost all evaporated (about 20 minutes). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add eggs to pan while stirring so they cook like a scramble through the tomato mixture. Sprinkle with parsley and extra pepper and serve hot with bacon and toast, if desired.

Annabel says: This breakfast dish was one of my mother's specialties that Dad always loved. How it got this name is a piece of family history I will never know, but essentially it's just a tender scramble of egg through tasty, homemade tomato sauce.

Bubble and Squeak

Photo / Annabel Langbein Media
Photo / Annabel Langbein Media

Ready in 30 mins
Serves 4-6

3 cups cooked mashed potato
1 cup cooked shredded cabbage or brussels sprouts
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup water
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
To serve (optional)
Fried eggs
Crispy bacon rashers

Mix mashed potato with cabbage or brussels sprouts, salt, pepper and water. Heat oil and
butter in a heavy-based frying pan, add potato mixture and cook over medium heat without turning until well crusted and golden (about 10 minutes). Turn in large sections and cook the other side (another 10 minutes). Serve with eggs, bacon and toast, if using.

Annabel says: Leftover potato fried with cooked cabbage or brussels sprouts is the ultimate breakfast. Mixing the potato with water makes a wetter mixture, which, as it cooks, produces steam that creates a thick, golden crust. Don't be tempted to flip it until the crust is well formed - it takes a good 10 minutes over medium heat on each side.

For more great breakfast recipes see Annabel's new guide to affordable eating, Cheap Thrills (Annabel Langbein Media, $24.95), on sale now at Paper Plus, The Warehouse and all good bookstores. Find out more at annabel-langbein.com or follow Annabel on Facebook or Instagram.