Wednesday, October 19, 2011


In Al Brown's new book he takes us on a major culinary journey, sharing his love of cooking outdoors. He goes back to basics working with the natural flavours of the food and reverting to time-honoured cooking methods. He concentrates on embracing the imperfections and enjoying a simpler way to prepare food whether it be on an open fire, bbq or pizza oven. 
 ‘For me, the enjoyment of food these days is in heading away from technology and embracing the old-style methods that have stood the test of time — methods used centuries before we got ourselves all wound-up and stressed-out with technology. These methods are about slowing down, being more deliberate, putting yourself out there in the pressure zone, testing and continually pushing yourself. I find it far more stimulating being in that exciting place where there is more room for skill and, for that matter, risk and error. It gives me so much more reward and enjoyment as a cook.’
Al shares with us his experiences of traditional outdoor cooking methods from New Zealand’s diverse cultures — a hangi at Matahiwi Marae on the Wanganui River, cooking tandoor with his Wellington grocer Sanjay Dayal and putting a pig in a pipe with a third generation Chinese New Zealander Rodney Wong.
He is, as we know from television, a keen hunter and gatherer and he forages in Canterbury for porcini mushrooms, collects seaweed with Lea & Neil Bramley on the Wairarapa coast and goes hunting for deer as well as trout fishing. 
Stoked is laden with delicious, accessible recipes and celebrates the rewards of eating outdoors — food with a view! Interestingly enough though the dish I prepared I cooked in our kitchen rather than outside and of course there is that option with most of the dishes. I  cooked this for English visitors here for the RWC and it went down a treat. We had vegetables left over from the dish so they went into a delicious fry-up the next morning!
The publishers have given me permission to share this recipe, and Kieran Scott photo, with you via the blog and I warmly recommend it to you:
Serves 6
Step 1: To Prepare the Lamb Shoulder
1½–2kg boned lamb shoulder
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh garlic
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons artichoke oil (from the artichokes used below)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Step 2: To Prepare the Vegetables
1kg large Agria potatoes, peeled and quartered
24 whole shallots, peeled
2 x 280g jars artichoke halves, oil drained off and reserved
24 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon dried oregano (preferably Greek)
¼ cup fresh oregano leaves
zest of 3 lemons
1–2 fresh red chillies, seeded and roughly chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
 Step 3: To Cook and Serve
1–2 lemons
1/3 cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
This is one of those easy, one-dish meals that is very humble in its ingredients and approach; however, it eats just beautifully. It’s no wonder the Greek people have been pairing lamb with oregano, lemon and garlic since day dot.
Step 1: To Prepare the Lamb Shoulder
Place the lamb shoulder in a bowl. Rub the remaining ingredients all over the lamb and season with sea salt and black pepper. Reserve.
Step 2: To Prepare the Vegetables
Place all the ingredients in a roasting dish. Toss together, adding a little of the reserved artichoke oil. Season liberally with sea salt and black pepper.
Step 3: To Cook and Serve
Preheat the oven to 180˚C or crank up your pizza oven.
Place the lamb on top of the vegetables skin side up. Cover the dish with tinfoil, then place in the oven.
Cook for an hour then remove the tinfoil. Cook for a further 10–15 minutes until the outside of the lamb is golden. Remove and set aside to rest.
Using a spatula, flip the vegetables, then place in the oven for another
10 minutes to crisp up.
Once the vegetables are crisp, drain off any excess oil, then squeeze liberal amounts of lemon juice over and toss over the parsley.
To serve, carve the lamb then serve on a platter with the roasted vegetables or serve individually. Have a few lemon halves in a bowl alongside. Serve now.
Just a note; my kind butcher offered to roll the boned-out shoulder for me but in fact the meat in this instance is cooked flat.

 The recipes are supported by wonderful photography from Kieran Scott showcasing New Zealand’s most amazing scenery, including the high country above the Wakatipu Basin in Central Otago, the rugged south Wairarapa coastline and hunting and fly fishing at the 8000-acre Ngamatea Station in the Central North Island. This is a complete package.
In the style of the ever popular Go Fish — winner of the People’s Choice and Best Illustrated Book in the 2010 NZ Post Book Awards and winner of Best Single Subject at the highly regarded IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) Awards in the USA — Stoked includes great tips on a wide range of topics: lighting a fire, how to get the best results from cheaper cuts of meat, on using smokers and even how to build a wood fired oven.
 About the author:
Al Brown enjoys eating just about anything, but most of all simple food, cooked perfectly.
After leaving school Al started work in the New Zealand hospitality industry, before travelling to North America where he gained his Culinary Arts Degree at the New England Culinary Institute, USA. After working in several restaurants around the world and in New Zealand, Al teamed up with Steve Logan, to open the successful Wellington restaurant Logan Brown in 1996.
Al’s flair in the kitchen has earned him plenty of recognition, winning several awards, including helping Logan Brown to attain Cuisine Magazine’s 2009 Best Restaurant award.
And in something of a new venture he made a great job of interviewing the acerbic food critic A.A.Gill at this year's Auckland Writers & Readers Festival.
He has recently opened Depot in Auckland’s Federal Street to much acclaim. I have tried to get in there three times so far without success that is how popular the place has already become.
And finally he is also the presenter of  successful TV shows Hunger for the Wild, Coasters and Get Fresh (currently screening).

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