Bowl Food, Raw Food & That Time We Made Broad Bean Sliders: 25 Years Of Viva In Recipes

By Kim Knight
Three-hour lamb with sundried tomato pesto and kūmara. Photo / Babiche Martens

It’s Viva’s 25th birthday! This week, we’re celebrating with a mighty survey of the past two and a half decades, from taking stock of era-defining dining (what restaurants we’ve lost and what we want), looking back on our most memorable and joyfully irreverent — fashion shoots, charting Aotearoa’s architectural

You say tomato. We say slow-roasted with spaghetti and lemon basil (2002), packed into a coriander salsa (2012) and served as ceviche (2022).

The home kitchen is a constant, but track a single ingredient across 25 years of home-cooked recipe pages and discover food trends, societal shifts and the occasional bona fide horror show (looking at you, tomato, kale and vermicelli salad with almond and honey dressing, circa 2015).

We are what we eat and what we eat is, often, influenced by what we read.

How does a quarter of a century of domestic cooking taste? In 1998, the year Viva launched, international trendspotters predicted hot tickets for home kitchens would include domestic tandoor ovens and geographically specific sea salts. Everything would be artisanal. White asparagus, eggplant and anchovies would have more cachet than their green, purple and brown counterparts. Big white lima beans would be, well, big and so would anything with a tentacle.

The year in a glass? Tomato ceviche from the Viva recipe archives. Photo / Babiche Martens
The year in a glass? Tomato ceviche from the Viva recipe archives. Photo / Babiche Martens

Can you remember your kitchen way back then?

I was 28 and a decade into A Long Term Relationship. I lived in the suburbs, worked for the local council and served dinner on tomato red plates purchased from Freedom Furniture. Weeknights were crustless quiche and spaghetti bolognese; weekends were lasagne or complicated layers of rice, chicken, ginger, spring onions and Shaoxing wine. We went out for Mexican and things wrapped in filo or stacked on eggplants. These were the cappuccino years.

The year 2000 ticked over (sample “soup” recipes included cappuccino of puy lentils, lobster and tarragon). Our computers did not blow up, the clocks on our microwaves kept working and seared scallops were still on the menu because our oceans were not quite screwed. But, for Christmas dinner at the end of that year, Viva recipe writers acknowledged changing household demographics barbecued quail for two was the new roast turkey for 10 and, if you didn’t want to cook, then all hail The Deli.

“It wasn’t long ago that most people’s ideas of a flash take-home meal was having battered fish with tartare sauce instead of ketchup,” Viva reported, on the occasion of the opening of a Zarbo satellite store on High St. “This summer, Aucklanders will have a plethora of delis and gourmet stores to change their eating habits FOREVER.” (Hold my recipe ring binder, said 14-year-old Nadia Lim).

Back then, the average egg cost 26c, butchers sold blade steak for $7.99 a kilo and shoppers were told to stop thinking of trevally as bait. “New Zealand is still largely a meat and fish-eating nation,” said Simon Wright from The French Cafe. “There just isn’t a huge demand for $25-plus dishes made of just vegetables.”

Tofu-based omelette, best served with your favourite vegetables and a dollop of cashew butter, from the Viva recipe archives. Photo / Babiche Martens
Tofu-based omelette, best served with your favourite vegetables and a dollop of cashew butter, from the Viva recipe archives. Photo / Babiche Martens

Tofu, believed to have been invented in the second century BC and in common use by the 10th century AD, has been utilised by Viva recipe writers in everything from gado gado to omelette, but its first appearance was in 2001 (crispy, served with a Donna Hay noodle salad and followed, over the years by everything from gado-gado to omelette).

“The big swing,” wrote Julie Biuso that year, “has been towards accepting organics ... flavoured oils have been big. Most of us know what a vanilla pod looks like. Locally produced saffron, verjuice, walnut oil, honeys from native flowers, macadamia nuts, avocado oil and specialty vinegars are there for the taking.”

Viva readers were sophisticated. Worldly. And torn. “Unless you have two video recorders,” our columnist complained, “it’s going to be a toss-up between The Practice on TV3, Water Rats on TV2 and Nigella Bites on TV One. With a dearth of decent telly on most other evenings, couldn’t the viewer be considered first for a change?”

It was 2001 and, according to an online survey, more than 25 per cent of adult New Zealanders were now accessing the internet at least once a week. “Pretty soon,” said one supermarket owner, “customers will be able to simply type in their shopping list and let the computer do the rest of the work.”

In 2002, this is how we frittered. Photo / Nicola Topping
In 2002, this is how we frittered. Photo / Nicola Topping

2002: Rabbit with three herbs and mustard. Celeriac fritters with smoked salmon. And a correction: “A recipe for roasted chicken with sage and orange in yesterday’s Viva incorrectly called for a 1400kg organic chicken. It should have been a 1.4kg chicken.” Rabbit? “I have never understood why some people can happily tuck into chicken but the merest mention of bunny makes them go peculiar, all sort of flopsy-mopsy-and-cottontailish,” wrote Biuso, blithely pairing Peter and Co with rosemary, thyme and bay leaves.

In 2003, Garth Hokianga suggested “indigenous ingredients are poised to become an edible version of Shortland Street or Karen Walker”. Horopito was used to flavour butter, kawakawa went into quickbreads and pavlova and piko piko shoots “added glamour” to salads, stir-fries and sushi. Parāoa Moana was a bread flecked with karengo. It was also the year Te Rautaki Reo Māori was released. Its vision statement said that by 2028 the Māori language would be widely spoken by Māori and “all New Zealanders would appreciate the value of the Māori language to New Zealand society”.

Seafood laksa. Dry potato curry. Tamarind and pineapple chutney. Chicken salad with bhuja mix. It’s 2004 and, for the home cook, the recipe pages are heating up. Those readers who are going to restaurants are digging deep. Viva reports the $40 main is on the horizon (O’Connell Street Bistro is already charging $35.50 for prime scotch rib but it does come with potato rosti, sweetbread foie gras ravioli, curly kale and black olive jus.)

“The weekday meals we prepare now are completely different from those my mother served as a child,” writes Hokianga. “It was the 70s and we were a traditional meat-and-three-vege household. I remember the meal taking two to three hours, a marathon process that none of us can afford in the time-poor 21st century. Now, the designated cook probably has around 30 minutes to whip up an evening meal. "

2005: Bowl food. 2006: Pomegranate molasses. 2007: Kale. And, in 2008, an A-Z of new food trends that start with agar-agar, the gelling additive needed for spherification aka molecular gastronomy or The Year We Ate Foam and Cooked Steak in A Plastic Bag. At home? Edamame beans are now available in delis.

My kitchen had moved islands. From Christchurch to Auckland where I cooked for one on a gas stove in a sparkling city where the citizens appeared to subsist on lunch, which was always salt and pepper squid with a side of pear and rocket salad. These were the long-black-and-a-hangover years.

Cheese has always been fashionable, but in 2010 we put the spotlight on mozzarella (make your own! Buy it from the Clevedon Buffalo Co!). Roasts had gone out of fashion, but a wine company brought them back. Viva responded to the first Selaks National Roast Day with recipes for lamb and anchovies, chicken with baharat spice and an entire salmon baked on its bones.

It’s (raw) cake. Photo / Babiche Martens
It’s (raw) cake. Photo / Babiche Martens

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction: “Right now,” wrote Angela Casley in 2013, “raw food is incredibly fashionable”. Cue carrot and pumpkin “cheesecake” uncooked and dairy-free.

Was this the beginning of the end? Or, as Rebecca Barry Hill asked in 2015: “When did we become so precious about food?” She interviewed a woman whose companion had recently sent back a restaurant steak without taking a bite; food editor Nici Wickes suggested we take a chill pill with a side of duck fat chips. “You don’t go along to an art show and say, ‘I want that painting smaller, in blue.’”

2017’s baby broad bean burgers. Photo / Babiche Martens
2017’s baby broad bean burgers. Photo / Babiche Martens

2016: Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and citrus salad. 2017: Broad bean sliders. 2018: Miso eggplant. Are you sensing a trend? It’s 2019 and now everyone is sending their steak back. Sample recipes from Viva in the year that New Zealand ranked fifth in the world for veganism include a tofu scramble and cashew brownies with dairy-free dark chocolate.

Can we talk about 2020 yet? The rise of the air-fryer. The supermarket queues and the fight for online grocery delivery spots. The weeks and weeks (and weeks) of home cooking. We couldn’t go to restaurants and many of us couldn’t even go home. Viva asked four chefs about the dishes that transported them back to their roots and learned about a Filipino dad who marinated whole fish with “lots of garlic, rock salt and fish sauce” and a French mum whose specialty was Toulouse sausage-stuffed tomatoes. In Covid times, nostalgia was the dish du jour and at the back of every fridge was a sourdough starter gasping for more flour. (In 2021, Casley cracked open the family recipe book and gave us pineapple upside-down cake and rhubarb and prosecco jelly.)

Carrots and onions aka dinner and lunch. Photo / Babiche Martens
Carrots and onions aka dinner and lunch. Photo / Babiche Martens

The pandemic was not gluten-free. We learned to make cinnamon scrolls, focaccia, crumpets and wonky home-boiled bagels. We had time to cook and we cooked to connect. Back decks were the new dining room because outdoors felt safer than indoors. Barbecued mushrooms and flatbread. A carrot and caramelised onion salad that worked with a lamb chop and then again for work-from-home lunch. Carne asada tasted like the travel we couldn’t afford and also reflected the downtown trend for restaurants with South American flavours.

2023 and it’s a different kettle of fish. Kahawai, because it’s cheap, and mussels, because nobody can afford an oyster. In my home kitchen, I’m cooking greens because they’re growing in my home garden. A mental health hobby pays off during a cost-of-living crisis. Tatsoi is immune to snails, cavolo nero is the dinosaur kale that keeps on giving and a $6 tray of free-farmed pork mince can be stir-fried, meatballed and, as always, lasagne-d. My kitchen is on trend. Last month, under the heading “penny savers”, Viva featured recipes for quick bread, chorizo (a little goes a long way) pasta and curried rice with savoury mince. Times are tough, but it is nearly always fashionable to be frugal.

Crowd-pleasing favourites, show-stopping flavours.

Viva’s 50 Most Popular Recipes Of All Time. Your future what-should-I-cook quandary will thank you kindly.

30 Chocolate Recipes You Want In Your Life. Think gooey brownies, baked cheesecake and self-saucing pudding.

22 Roast Recipes To Make On The Weekend. Ready the gravy boat for these roasts for dinnertime or anytime.

Barbecuing Recipes (And Salads) You’ve Been Waiting For All Year. Warm weather’s humble calling: Grilled mains and crisp, hearty salads best eaten outside.

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