Ways with wraps (+recipes)
When I was in London cooking on the BBC show, Saturday Kitchen, a few weeks ago, the show's host Matt Tebbutt asked me, 'What's New Zealand food about, how do people cook down there, what do you guys eat... there's lots of sheep right?'
I've been asked this kind of question a lot over the years and, as a result, I've thought about it quite a bit. There's often this idea that we are still languishing in the past on a steadfast diet of roast lamb and overcooked veg. Little do they know.
In the nicest possible way, we Kiwis are magpies at heart when it comes to cooking. We travel the globe, tasting new dishes, discovering new ingredients and when we come home, we bring these ingredients into our own kitchens and recreate the tastes of our travels or reinvent them using familiar ingredients.
Being a young, multicultural society means that many enterprising immigrants have gone out of their way to bring the unique foods and flavours of their homeland with them - from Southeast Asian dried shrimp paste and fragrant rosewater to fiery sriracha and tangy pomegranate molasses.
Food writers start using these ingredients and giving us new recipes to try, we eat out at little hole-in-the-wall joints and taste just how good these things can be and then, before we know it, they become mainstream, and we no longer have to drive all over town to find them, we can get them at the local supermarket. Altogether it's a formula for exciting home cooking.
Even something as basic as the bread we can buy has been influenced by the varieties to be found around the world. Not so long ago the bread section of the supermarket was characterised by row upon row of packaged sliced bread, but now there are sourdough, bagels, muffins, raw seed and nut loaves, vegan loaves and gluten-free loaves, to name but a few.
And, of course, wraps. Just about every culture has its own form of flatbread, from Mexican tortillas to Indian roti and Middle Eastern pita bread - and now they're all at our fingertips, ready for us to fill with flavours gleaned from all over the world. And best of all, we get to eat them with our hands.
Throughout Mexico and Central America wraps are an integral part of daily eating. Sometimes they are made with corn, sometimes wheat. This breakfast treat hails from Honduras and is filled with black beans and whatever else you fancy. You can add cheese, or sausage or chicken or pork but I like them best with scrambled eggs and avocado. They are really addictive. Get the recipe
These simple salad wraps are a great way of getting lots of veges into your own lunch or your kids' lunchboxes. I'll often poach a couple of chicken breasts on Sunday evening to use in lunches for the next couple of days. Get the recipe
Quesadillas (pronounced kay-sa-dee-ya) are toasted sandwiches made with flour or corn tortillas - keep a stash in the freezer to put together these tasty toasties. In their most basic form, quesadillas are made by sprinkling chillies and cheese onto half a tortilla, which is then folded over and fried in a lighty oiled pan on both sides. Sometimes refried beans are also added. Add fillings such as olive paste or pesto, spicy sausage or parma ham and good cheese for a great snack or supper, or an accompaniment to soups or salads. Get the recipe