Ask Peter: Kina dip
I would like to do your kina dip for my daughter’s wedding. I lost my recipe from the marae cooking show. Please could you run the recipe?
It’s nice to be reminded of that kina dip as it was quite controversial when it made its first and second appearances. When I created it, on a whim, I wasn’t even sure if it would taste okay, which was quite a worry as I needed to make enough to serve around 700 people including the Maori King, Tuheitia Paki.
I was cooking in the huge kitchen at Turangawaewae marae in Ngaruawahia with the Aunties and some friends for a fundraising dinner for the marvellous Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre of which I’m a patron. The dinner was organised by my cousin Hinewehi Mohi, so the music was sorted and all I had to do was feed 700 people. Gulp, no pressure then.
Thankfully the Uncles were in charge of the hangi itself so my role was one more of creation and graft. A few years earlier I’d cooked just the main course at a similar event and that had been hard enough, as I was introduced to the way of the hangi “oven”, but this time I was creating and making all three courses and as you may know having watched the series Fusion Feasts, I like to introduce new flavours to traditional marae cooking as I think it is of benefit. It was unheard of to marinate meats, for example, in things like ginger, soy sauce, garlic, even fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme, but during the course of the dinners I made some firm allies in the kitchen as we shook things up a little.
I love freshly caught kina, smashing it gently on a rock to snap open the lower part of the body, and then using the back of my thumb nail to scoop out the golden or orange brown roe.
It is richly sweet, earthy, salty and savoury all in one. Fresh kina is one of the culinary world’s great and delicious offerings. However, kina are not only to be found in New Zealand. I’ve eaten “uni” in Japan, “oursin” in France and of course “sea urchin” here in the UK, but not always raw like back home.
However, not everyone likes it, so I wondered whether I could create something that more people may enjoy and figured out that as New Zealanders love a good dip, I should make something dip-like.
I bought in cream cheese and sour cream, and had plenty of limes and lemons on hand so figured I’d just puree it all up and hope for the best.As I hate to waste any food, especially our precious kai moana, I knew I had to get it right. I was also trying to figure out just how fishy I could make it without pushing people over the edge.
In the end I gently whipped up cream cheese and sour cream until lightened. Then I pureed defrosted kina in a food processor with lemon and lime juice and finely grated zest until very smooth and then mixed it together to taste with plenty of coarsely ground black pepper and sea salt flakes.
We served it and it was overwhelmingly liked — although some purists felt I’d destroyed something that shouldn’t be changed. Yet others wondered what this lovely salty creamy dip was — and were in fact quite surprised when they realised they’d eaten raw kina — something they’d avoided all their lives.
A few years later I was cooking a graduation lunch for a few hundred people at Orakei marae, Bastion Point, for Fusion Feasts, produced by Hinewehi.
I actually had people in tears in the kitchen as I pureed the kina, this time with yuzu juice — the sweet and sour juice of a Japanese citrus fruit.
I was told I was destroying something natural and local. I disagree, and happily kept making the dip. The flavour you’re after will really define what quantities you should use, and also the freshness of the kina, but as a guideline use the following ratios:
1½ cups cream cheese
¾ cup sour cream
¾ cup kina
½ cup citrus juice (lemon, lime or yuzu)
Salt and pepper, to taste
It’s also really tasty for breakfast, spread on toast with bacon and a fried egg on top!
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you're stumped over something food-related, send your question to email@example.com and keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes here.