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"To read a book about a country's cuisine isn't simply to go looking for 'good things'; it is also to better know - by means of the recipes - the customs and the richness or poverty of a place, and the spirit of those who inhabit it. It is above all, to participate in the symbolic celebration of the shared repast."

~ Ginette Olivesi-Lorenzi, La Cuisine Mentonnaise



Savoring Tuscany : Recipes and Reflections on Tuscan Cooking

Savoring Tuscany : Recipes and Reflections on Tuscan Cooking (The Savoring Series)
by Lori De Mori

Part of the Savoring Series, which is one of my favorite series of books about Regional Cuisine, Savoring Tuscany is a beautiful book filled with sumptuous recipes and delectable writing about the cuisine and culture of Tuscany. As with all the books in the series, Savoring Tuscany is put together beautifully and all of the recipes are well written and presented. The recipes that we tested were all superb and the book is an excellent source for fans of Tuscan cuisine.


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Thai Fish Cakes
by Pat Churchill

Pat Churchill shares her recipe for Thai Fish Cakes along with a slice of Kiwi Life with her essay about Thai Fish Cakes. Make sure to try the quick and easy make ahead recipe for fish cakes and accompanying salsa. For those in the West, Rockmelon is very similar to cantaloupe and can be interchanged in this recipe.

Thai Fish Cakes

A friend had his parents in town visiting over the New Year. They'd come to help him celebrate his 30th birthday so The Spouse suggested he might like to bring them over to our place for a barbecue.

In our last home town, Wellington, inviting anyone over for a barbecue was tantamount to ordering a brisk southerly wind and a collection of clouds that scudded by, threatening rain at any minute.

Well, things haven't exactly turned out all that different in our new home town, Christchurch. We've issued barbecue invitations twice in the past 10 days. On the first occasion we didn't even venture outside for the pre-barbie drinkies. At least on the second occasion, we were able to sit under the sun umbrella sipping on ales and sauv blancs but then it got a little chilly so we opted to dine inside.

The Spouse absolutely refuses to let anyone else near the tongs once the gas burners are fired up. And he graciously accepts the kudos for the salads and other things I have spent the afternoon manufacturing.

Anyway, on the night in question I decided we would have some Thai fish cakes on the menu, as well as steaks.

My usual fishmonger was on holiday so I tried a new fish market. There wasn't exactly a wealth of choice, because the usual boats weren't going out over the Christmas/New Year period, so the owners of the new business had to take a van a couple of hours' drive up the coast to collect a fresh catch. Fortunately they had some supplies of one of the softer varieties of fish, and that's what this dish requires. Forget it if all you can get is a firm fish. This dish is best if you use the sort of fillet that usually breaks up into a mush in the pan.

I actually cooked the fish cakes ahead and The Spouse just reheated them on the solid griddle when they were required. But they can be cooked on the barbecue if you like. I serve these fish cakes with a salsa made of finely chopped rock melon, drained and mixed with the juice of a lemon, a pinch of salt, a little chopped spring (green) onion and some chopped fresh coriander (cilantro). You can throw in a couple of chopped chillies, too, if you wish. It's a refreshing accompaniment. Instead of rock melon you can use fresh mango.

Thai Fish Cakes

750 grams boneless fresh soft fish fillets (I used a local variety of cod but my usual choice is something like hake)
3 tablespoons commercially prepared red Thai curry paste
3 small chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
3 dried kaffir lime leaves, soaked and very finely shredded (or the zest of a lime)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 egg
250 grams small green beans, topped and tailed and cut into 1 centimeter pieces

Cut the fish into chunks and process until smooth in a food processor with the curry paste. You may want to do this in three or four batches. Turn out into a bowl and mix with the remaining ingredients. Wet your hands and take a small handful of the fish mixture and form into a round patty about 6 centimeters in diameter. Repeat until the mixture is used up, putting the patties on a dish as you go. Set aside for at least half an hour.

Heat a little oil in a pan or on the barbecue griddle and when hot cook the patties for about three or four minutes each side until cooked through. They will brown a little as you cook them.

Serve with rock melon or mango salsa and a tossed salad. If you don't mind getting cross-cultural, some warm ciabatta bread is an ideal accompaniment.

This recipe also makes a good first course for a dinner party. It can be served at room temperature, if you prefer.

Pat Churchill is the contributing editor for Kiwi Kitchen, a regular column about New Zealand cuisine.