Our new food columnist brings a touch of New Zealand to ‘The Irish Times’

It’s a showstopper: Jess Murphy of Kai Restaurant, Galway, shares her meat pie recipe

NZ meat pie.

NZ meat pie.

 

The thing about living in New Zealand in the 1980s, back in the day when the All Blacks had part-time jobs, is that there wasn’t a whole lot of culinary inspiration. We were famous for Pavlova, Kiri te Kanawa and Sir Edmund Hillary. I grew up in the small North Island town of Wairog, where my grandmother was a big influence on me and sparked my interest in food. She owned a sheep station, where there were always things to do; drinking raw milk straight out of the vat, shaving pigs with my mum’s old Bic razor, or fishing for eels with cat food pushed down mum’s tights.

November is Food Month in The Irish Times. You will find food-related content in all of our sections, plus reader events, competitions and lots of exclusive content at irishtimes.com/food
November is Food Month in The Irish Times. You will find food-related content in all of our sections, plus reader events, competitions and lots of exclusive content at irishtimes.com/food

When I hit the wise old age of 19, I left home to cook all over the world. Mum and Dad bought me a suitcase for my birthday, so off I went to Perth, in Western Australia, (well, because that’s the nearest place you can go when you are from New Zealand) and that’s where I met Dave, a Carlow man in the Outback. Curiously, that was the first time I ever “bought Irish”, but not the last! Since then it has become a regular habit.

We moved over to Ireland, and when I’d been cheffing in Galway for a few years and David was working down the Galway docks, I came home and said: “I’ve found the place!” We jumped in with both feet and opened our restaurant, Kai. Sure, it was a lot of work with Dave making the light fittings and me trying to keep control of the very tight budget you need to open a restaurant which just happened to be between a church and a gay bar. Twenty years later and here we are on the west coast of Ireland and loving every minute of it.

Jess Murphy at Kai Restaurant in Galway. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy
Jess Murphy at Kai Restaurant in Galway. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

New Zealand isn’t all about hobbits and sheep, although there’s a fair amount of both around the place. Although we are not really known for our cuisine, there are a few things we do exceptionally well. The meat pie is one of them, the unofficial national dish of New Zealand. So, for my first column, that’s what I’m going to share with you. This one is a showstopper, almost medieval in appearance and served with baked or mashed potatoes, this punchy salad, some pickles and the obligatory New Zealand condiment, a dollop of ketchup, it makes a great dish for “The Dinner” – as you’d say here in Ireland.

NEW ZEALAND MEAT PIE

NZ meat pie.
NZ meat pie.

This is a beef pie, but just as nice made with mutton, hogget or even goat if you can get your hands on some. You don’t have to use the marrow bone (you can just cut a hole) but this looks much better. The marrow bone costs only a few pence from most good butchers and makes an everyday pie into a Game of Thrones style extravaganza. Carrots bring the colour and sweetness, but no notion-sey baby carrots need apply – you want good Ballinasloe bog carrots in here. If you don’t fancy eating the marrow from the bone yourself, it will keep your furry friend happy for hours. This is, after all a family pie and our two pugs, Gurtie and Francis, can’t get enough of them.

Ingredients
Serves 4
600g braising (stewing) steak, cubed
2tbsp flour
1tsp salt
1tsp pepper
1tbsp vegetable oil
2 large onions, diced
2 fat garlic cloves, minced
2 sticks of celery, diced
2 tsp of your favourite mustard
500ml O’Hara’s Stout
250ml beef stock
1tsp fresh thyme
1tsp dried oregano
2 large carrots, cut into rounds
450g all butter puff pastry
1 beaten egg yolk
A few inches of marrow bone (optional)

Method
Coat the meat with the flour, salt and pepper. Heat the oil and brown the meat a few pieces at a time, removing the cooked pieces to a bowl when they’re done. Put the onion, garlic, celery and mustard in the same pan and cook on a low heat until the onion is soft.

When the mixture is cooked, add it into the bowl with the meat. Return the empty pan to the hob, turn up the heat and pour in half the stout. Let it bubble, scraping all the bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Pour the meat and onions into the pan, add the stock, herbs, carrots and all the remaining beer and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.

Preheat the oven to 190C.

Roll out the pastry till it’s about 50mm thick. Pour the filling into a suitably sized, ovenproof pie dish, add the pastry top and press down round the rim. Cut a hole on top and add in your marrow funnel if using.

Trim the edges, brush with egg and bake for 40 minutes till golden brown.

ROASTED BEETROOT AND HAZELNUT SALAD

Roasted beetroot and hazelnut salad.
Roasted beetroot and hazelnut salad.


This simple salad really lets the sweet depth of the beetroot shine through. Serve with the meat pie or with crusty sourdough for a lighter meal.

Ingredients
Serves 4
12 small beetroot
3tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
2tbsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper
A generous handful of curley parsley
A squeeze of lemon juice
20 hazelnuts, toasted and de-skinned
2tbsp nut oil
A generous knob (about an inch) of grated horseradish, optional.

Method
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Wash the beetroot well to remove any dirt.

Arrange the beetroot in a roasting tray, then drizzle with 1tbsp balsamic vinegar and the olive oil. Season with salt and black pepper, then cover the tray tightly with aluminium foil. Roast on the middle shelf of the oven for 35 minutes, then remove the foil and cook for a further 15 minutes, or until the skins have become wrinkly and the beetroot feels tender when it’s pierced with a skewer.

Let the beetroot cool a little, then remove the skins.

Wash the parsley and then shake the water from it, toss with the warm, peeled beetroot on a plate with a squeeze of the lemon juice.

Scatter the nuts over the salad, then drizzle with the remaining balsamic along with the nut oil. Season with salt, pepper and the horseradish, if using, and serve. If you can find some pretty, edible flowers to sprinkle on top, all the better.

BEETROOT KETCHUP

Beetroot ketchup.
Beetroot ketchup.

Deep Purple is a pretty cool rock band from back in the day, but it is also one of the staples for the winter months. Beetroot gets a bad rap in jars of vinegar, and sure, it makes a mess of your fingernails and countertops, but it’s easy to grow and versatile in the kitchen. Give it a go and you might end up loving it as much as we do in the restaurant – beetroot on everything.

Ingredients
1kg beetroot, peeled (you might want to wear gloves)
½kg apples, peeled and cored
750g malt vinegar
750g brown sugar
Garlic, about 5 cloves
½ lemon, zested and then juiced
1tsp ground pepper
1tsp ground mace
1tsp ground ginger, or large knob grated fresh ginger
½tsp ground cloves
½tbsp salt

Method
Put all the ingredients into a large saucepan or preserving pan.

Cover with water and bring to the boil, stirring frequently. Cook over a medium heat until the beetroot has broken down and become very soft.

Pass through a coarse sieve, return to the pan and bring back to boil for about five minutes. The sauce should be a nice ketchup-y consistency by now. If not, boil for a little longer.

Cool slightly and pour into pre-sterilised bottles or jars, screw lids on firmly and store in a cool, dark place.

Note: The amount of bottles/jars this recipe will fill will depend on how much you have reduced the ketchup, and the size of your jars, but allow for six to eight 200g jars with tight-fitting lids.

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