A Christmas pav’ and the vegetable of the sea

Sun, family, fun – and oilyrag feasts. That pretty much sums up summer holidays for many so we thought we would come up with some kiwi treats.

No kiwi cook could be whole without knowing how to whip up a tasty Christmas Day pav’. There are lots of pavlova recipes but the key ingredients don’t generally change. And for those with lots of eggs, it is a low cost treat. All you need are 4 egg whites, 1 cup castor (fine) sugar, 1 teaspoon vinegar, 1 teaspoon vanilla essence, and 1 tablespoon cornflour.

Preheat the oven to 150C. Beat the egg whites until stiff (when peaks like the Southern Alps form). Add the sugar one tablespoon at a time, beating after each. Beat for another 10 minutes or so then sprinkle the remaining ingredients in and mix carefully. Place the mixture onto a baking paper covered tray (baking paper not grease proof paper!), and shape into a circle about 200mm in diameter. Put the pav into the oven and turn down to 125C. Wait an hour then turn the oven off. Leave it in the oven until cold or overnight (this forms the nice crust).

Top your creation with a layer of whipped cream and slices of kiwifruit (of course!), strawberries, and blueberries, finished with a splash of tomato sauce (just kidding about the tomato sauce!).

A great school holiday project for the kids, in the run up to Christmas, is to make gingerbread santas. Here’s a simple recipe recommended by Chelsea sugar: Sift 2 cups of flour with ½ teaspoon of baking soda and a tablespoon of ginger. Add ½ cup of sugar then mix in 150g of soft butter then 1 beaten egg. Make into a dough, adding extra flour if it’s too sticky. Place the dough in the fridge for about half an hour then roll out on a lightly floured surface until about 5mm thick. Use a cookie cutter to make gingerbread santas or use a sharp knife to create your own shapes – like a santa sleigh! If you intend to hang your treats from the Christmas tree, don’t forget to make a hole for the ribbon to go through. Bake in a pre-heated 180deg oven for about 10 minutes until golden brown.

To make the icing, add a few drops of food colouring and 1 to 2 teaspoons of water to icing sugar, then use to creatively decorate your santas! The icing can also be used as a glue for lollies and other decorations.

Summer holidays is also about beaches – and seaweed! An oily rag reader writes, “I make sea lettuce chips. I cut a dried sea lettuce leaf into potato chip sized pieces and deep fry them until they are crisp. Yum.”

Here are some things you may not know about seaweed. There are thousands of different types of seaweed, generally grouped by colour: reds, browns and greens. About 800 are indigenous to New Zealand but only a few types (red and green) are used for eating.

The red varieties are much smaller than the brown, growing up to about 30 cm long. The best-known red is the edible Karengo which grows on rocks near the high-tide level. It looks like light purple cellophane. It is related to nori which the Japanese use for sushi. Karengo can be prepared fresh by boiling in a small amount of salted water with 1 tablespoon butter for 20 to 30 minutes. It is (apparently!) delicious with corned beef.

The most common green variety is sea lettuce which attaches to rocks but is often seen washed up on the shore after a decent storm. It looks like green tissue paper (and about as appetising!) but is full of vitamins and minerals.

While it can be eaten fresh, it is usually dried and used like a chopped herb on fish, in soups, sauces, dips, as a pizza topping, or sprinkled on salads and vegetables like boiled or baked potatoes.

The best way to harvest your seaweed is to pick the outside leaves of the plant, wash them in fresh water to remove the salt, then hang them on the clothes line to dry out (that will get the neighbours talking!).

Bon Appétit – and Merry Christmas – from the oily rag team.