Shrimps with tamarind and coconut. Photo / Annabel Langbein Media
There are quite a few things you should never do in a kitchen, some for kitchen protocol or safety reasons, others for health reasons. Like cutting the ingredients for a salad on a cutting board, you
just cut up chicken without washing it first or tried to catch a falling knife. Mixing hot water and oil is another recipe for disaster, and using your sharp knife to scrape food off the board is sure to dull the blade faster than you can say “shit”.
More subtle, but just as powerful, are the cultural codes we have around how we cook. Take, for example, a wooden spoon. We don’t really think about this low-tech gadget when scrambling our eggs, sautéing our onions, or making sure the white sauce doesn’t stick. You might well say, “Pfft, you can use a metal spoon to do all that,” but somehow, somewhere deep in our subconscious, that idea seems wrong.
A wooden spoon is deeply etched in the kitchen code, a heritage passed down for as long as people have been stirring things in pots.
Unlike metal, wood does not transfer heat, which means you can stir a hot pan without burning your hands. It is also non-reactive, meaning its surface does not break down when it comes into contact with acidic things like citrus fruits or tomatoes. It won’t melt or leach chemicals or strange tastes into hot food like plastic does. It won’t hurt or cut food the way the sharp edge of a metal spoon does, and it’s non-abrasive, so it won’t scratch the surface of the pan when you scrape it .
A wooden spoon can be used to stir any dish in any type of container. It can muddle limes for a caipirinha, prevent a jar of jam or a jar of pasta from overflowing, mix wet and dry ingredients for a batter, and prepare a casserole or salad. Sure, you can use a metal spoon to stir things up in a stainless steel pan, but its sharp edges don’t feel as nice when you scrape the bottom of the pan.
Besides functionality, there’s something incredibly soothing about stirring a pot or pan with a wooden spoon. Maybe it’s because of the comforting, familiar feel of wood in your hand, or the fact that you’re so tacitly engaged with the food you’re preparing, or maybe the spoon is the one you’ve had for a long time. and that there’s a calming feeling of grounding, doing something like this has always been done.
Here are some dishes to rediscover this timeless and always useful tool.
Tamarind and Coconut Shrimp
You can double the sauce and freeze some for another time. It is also excellent with chicken and pork.
Ready in 45 minutes
For 6 persons
1.2 kg large prawns, peeled
6 heads of bok choy, chopped cilantro leaves, for serving
Toasted desiccated coconut, for serving
Rice, for serving
TAMARIND COCONUT SAUCE
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 long red chilli, seeded and coarsely chopped
5cm fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
½ cup shredded coconut
2 tablespoons tamarind puree
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon chilli flakes
2 tablespoons of neutral oil
4 tomatoes, cored and finely chopped
1½ cup coconut cream
1 teaspoon salt and ground black pepper, to taste
To make the sauce, blend the onion, garlic, chilli, ginger, coconut, tamarind, cumin, coriander, turmeric and chilli flakes in a food processor to a smooth paste . Heat the oil in a medium to large saucepan and fry the batter over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 5-6 minutes. Add the tomatoes and coconut cream and bring to a boil. Reduce to low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season as desired. The sauce can be made ahead up to this point, refrigerated for up to 48 hours, or frozen and finished just before serving.
When ready to serve, bring back to a boil then stir in the shrimp and bok choy. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until shrimp are cooked through (3-4 minutes). Garnish with cilantro and coconut. Serve with rice.
Lemon carbonara with spring greens
The bright lemon freshness in this simple one-dish dinner is so appealing. You can skip the cream if you prefer.
Ready in 20 minutes
For 4 people
2 bunches of asparagus, trimmed
100g snow peas or snow peas
3 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks
½ cup cream
Zest of 1 lemon and ¼ cup lemon juice
Salt and ground black pepper
1 cup grated parmesan, plus extra, for serving
400g dried fettuccine
2 tablespoons of butter
180 g minced bacon, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil for the asparagus and pasta. Boil the asparagus for 1 minute, remove and cool under cold water. With tongs, take out of the water, cool under cold water, drain and put in a bowl with the raw snap peas.
In another bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, yolks, cream, lemon zest and juice. Season and mix with Parmesan. Put aside.
Cook pasta according to manufacturer’s instructions, being careful not to overcook. Remove and reserve ¼ cup pasta cooking water when draining.
While the pasta cooks, heat the butter in a frying pan and cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Add the garlic, asparagus and snow peas to the pan and sauté over medium heat until the snow peas turn bright green, about 2 minutes.
Drain the cooked pasta, return to the pan off the heat. Add reserved 1/4 cup cooking liquid to egg and cheese mixture, stirring to evenly combine, then toss into pasta, stirring to evenly coat. Add bacon and vegetables and sprinkle with parsley. Stir to combine and serve. Add additional parmesan at the table as desired.
One Pot Ricotta Apple Cake
I love cakes that you can make in a pan and stir with a wooden spoon. Only use your wooden spoon for the sweets, you don’t want your cake tinged with a hint of curry.
Ready in 1h30
Makes 1 medium cake
150g melted butter
1 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons of mixed spices
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ cup milk combined with 1 teaspoon baking soda
3 medium tart apples, peeled, cored and cut into thin wedges
½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts, optional
Icing sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 160°C rotating heat. Butter the sides of a 22 to 23 cm springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Heat the butter in a saucepan until melted. Add the sugar and ricotta, and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Incorporate the eggs one by one, then the vanilla extract and lemon zest.
Stir in flour, baking powder, spices, milk and soda mixture until blended. Stir in apple slices and walnuts if using. Pour into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until the cake is puffed, golden and set and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean (about 1 hour and 15 minutes). Let cool completely in pan before unmolding. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Combine them with…
by Yvonne Lorkin
(Tamarind Coconut Shrimp)
The Landing Boathouse Bay of Islands Chardonnay 2020 ($29)
If you thought the Bay of Islands was just a breeding ground for big snappers and crazy kingis, then you’ll be delighted to learn that it’s also becoming home to some of the most sensational chardonnays around. from the country. With beautifully balanced nectarine, grapefruit and pineapple tones, this Chardonnay has a creamy layer leading to a dry, mineral and bright finish. It is perfect with these Creamy Coconut Shrimps as it is lightly structured and supple on the palate, fine grained and textured in taste. thelandingwine.co.nz
Loveblock Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2021 ($26)
Looking at all that lemony, bean, and studded with snow peas, my eyes become misted with the longing for a tall, swirling goblet of cool, calm Sauvignon Blanc. Grown in Kim and Erica Crawford’s certified organic ‘Woolshed’ block in the Lower Dashwood region of Marlborough’s Awatere Valley, this Sauvignon has been one of my favorites over their 15 year history. Why? Because it’s so gently delicious and soothing. It gracefully unfolds fresh-cut herbs, spunky passion fruit, peach tones and soft, creamy tropical textures. Textures gleaned from a mix of stainless steel, concrete eggs, clay amphorae and neutral oak fermentation vats, 35% wild yeast and 25% malolactic fermentation. It’s a beautiful thing.
Stolen Girlfriends Club & Loted Espresso Martini ($69)
Coffee and cake go together like love and marriage, horse and carriage stuff, right? So, by injecting a splash of alcoholic goodness, you create a romance that will impress with every sip and crumb. The folks at Batched Premium Cocktails & Stolen Girlfriends Club launched their Espresso Martini last month featuring premium local vodka and fair trade coffee beans hidden inside a bottle displaying an intricate anatomy sketch by Marc Moore of Stolen Girlfriends Club. So get ready to bake and get ice and start shaking for that classic frothy top – then pour and enjoy.