Recipes from vibrant volumes

by Lauraine Jacobs / 03 January, 2013
Cookbooks, often with recipes from stars and local identities, are still a great way for groups to fundraise.
Jamie Joseph's crayfish spaghetti, photo Kieran Scott.

Late last year, in a departure from the usual school fund-raising cookbook, Nelson Central School’s Community Group published a vibrant volume, Food Central – Stories & Recipes from the Heart of Nelson ($39.99). To produce the book, a dedicated group of parents and volunteers drew on the colourful and diverse range of Nelson artists and identities, combining their stories, historical snippets and captivating photos with favourite recipes from the school’s families and local restaurants and cafes.

Unsurprisingly, given the book’s quality, appeal and energy, the first print run of 3000 copies sold out quickly and the book has just been reprinted. Copies can be bought in Nelson and Tasman bookshops or online

Many schools embark on recipe publishing projects like this, but most have little idea or experience of the complex process involved in producing a worthy cookbook. It is a straightforward task to request recipes from parents and past pupils, but be warned, it’s then the fun begins. Careful editing and testing is needed to ensure usable recipes that work. The recipe for a favourite family meal can be the intellectual property of a published author, and publishing it can infringe copyright and attract the food writer’s wrath if the recipe is not correctly attributed. The talents of a photographer, cooks to recreate the dishes, a designer and a printer are also needed.

Nevertheless, communities, knowing most of the work is voluntary and for a good cause, develop a degree of tolerance. Purchasers rarely put recipes found in these books under the same scrutiny they’d apply to books from publishing houses. Charities are increasingly looking to books to help with fund-raising, and when the cause is well recognised, the success of a book is assured. The Treasury of New Zealand Baking, which I edited for Random House in 2009, is a collection of recipes for cakes, biscuits and baked treats generously contributed by chefs and food writers. The royalties have earned the Breast Cancer Foundation over $40,000, and the book continues to sell well.

Random House publishing director Nicola Legat, who has helped several schools and charities publish fundraising cookbooks, says that entering a joint venture with a respected publishing house can take the stress out of the production process. The book will get professional editing and production expertise, and help with distribution, marketing and publicity can improve its chances of success.

Over the summer months a favourite in the bookshops has been NZ Rugby Kitchen (Random House, $45). Our rugby boys are known for their love of food and many stars have contributed favourite recipes to this book. It is helping raise money for the New Zealand Rugby Foundation, which supports injured players and communicates safety messages. The recipes are as diverse as the players and their coaches, with meals to impress family and guests.

There’s another genre of book sitting between fund-raisers and professional cooks’ books. This year we’ve seen two. Shackleton’s Whisky, by Neville Peat (Longacre, $39.99), winds the story of explorer Ernest Shackleton’s first historic Antarctic expedition around the 2007 discovery of three cases of whisky under his hut on the ice. Some of the proceeds of the sale of the book go to the Antarctic Heritage Trust.

And for chocoholics, Whittaker’s Passion for Chocolate (Random House, $36.99) is an indulgence worth investing in. Chefs and cooks around the country contributed favourite recipes in celebration of this book, commissioned and produced by the company that’s now the most trusted brand in New Zealand, according to the annual Reader’s Digest survey. The book may be a commercial promotion of the brand, but the recipes are delicious.

This recipe is reprinted, with permission, from NZ Rugby Kitchen.


  • 1 live crayfish

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 onion, chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled

  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced

  • 1 stick celery, sliced

  • 1/2 cup white wine

  • 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes in juice

  • 1 tbsp tomato paste

  • salt and pepper

  • 400g dried spaghetti

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

  • knob of butter

Drown the crayfish in fresh water. With a sharp knife, split the crayfish down the centre from head to tail. Remove the guts from the head cavity and the excretion tube that runs down through to the tail. Separate the head and all the shell to make the stock.

Place the oil, onion, garlic, carrot and celery in a saucepan over a medium heat and cook for 10 minutes. Add the wine, tomatoes and tomato paste, then season with salt and pepper. Place the crayfish head and shell on top and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 1 hour. Sieve the crayfish stock, pressing down on the vegetables to extract more flavour. Place the sieved stock back in the saucepan and, if necessary, cook until it reduces to a sauce consistency.

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to the packet directions in lightly salted boiling water or until al dente. Drain the spaghetti and add to the sauce, stirring through the parsley and parmesan cheese. Add a knob of butter to a hot frying pan and sear the crayfish tail meat until it is no longer transparent. Remove from the pan and slice. Place the spaghetti on serving plates and top with the crayfish. Serve with extra parmesan if you wish and pass around the pepper grinder.
Serves 4.
Wine match: chardonnay

THIS BROWNIE RECIPE from Whittaker’s Passion for Chocolate is by Nanean Ruby Porter, owner and head chef of Ruby’s Cafe in Paremata.


  • 225g butter

  • 450g caster sugar

  • 250g Whittaker’s Peanut Butter chocolate

  • 8ml vanilla essence

  • 45g cocoa

  • 175g plain flour

  • 5 eggs


  • 80g salted butter

  • 390g sweetened condensed milk

  • 1 1/2 tbsp golden syrup

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan bake). Line a small brownie tin (20cm x 30cm) with baking paper, ensuring you leave plenty of overhang to contain the rising mixture. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the sugar, chocolate and vanilla essence, and stir over a very low heat until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is well combined. Sift the cocoa and flour together into a large bowl. Add the chocolate mixture to the flour alternately with the eggs to make the brownie batter.

To make the caramel, melt the butter, sweetened condensed milk and golden syrup in a saucepan. Continue to cook gently, stirring frequently, until a caramel forms. Watch it closely, as it will tend to stick on the bottom of the saucepan. The butter may separate (split) from the caramel. The finished caramel should be the colour of peanut butter.

To assemble, pour half the brownie batter into the tin. Dot over half the caramel, and use a skewer or a toothpick to swirl the caramel roughly through the brownie. Pour over the second half of the brownie batter, top with caramel and swirl through with the skewer. Don’t overwork the caramel as you want to find chunks of it in the finished brownie. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool in the tin, then cut into squares. Cuts into 24 pieces.

Joint ventures

Food Central, largely the work of a dedicated committee and community, has been published with the help of Robbie Burton of Nelson publishers Craig Potton. The book, with all proceeds to Nelson Central School, is available online from:

Whittaker’s fruit and nut, creamy milk and Ghana peppermint chocolate bars have all been made into ice-cream flavours, thanks to a joint venture with ice-cream company New Zealand Natural. The three new flavours of chocolate ice-cream are sold under the Killinchy Gold brand, and they’re some of the richest ice-creams I’ve eaten.
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