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Recipes: How to create the taste of Marlborough

Marlborough mussel and salmon chowder.

Just like wine, food can develop a taste of its own according to where it grows. Photographs by Liz Clarkson; styling by Kate Arbuthnot.

Many years ago, I was invited to a banquet in Blenheim where the handful of food and wine writers present were asked to share ideas on the region’s promotion of its bounty. Those were the days when sheep farms and cherry orchards were still being ploughed up for vast plantings of sauvignon blanc grapevines.

As an entrée, we were served a seafood chowder crammed full of delicious local mussels and salmon raised in the aquaculture farms in the Marlborough Sounds. Though I was just a fledgling food writer at the time, it seemed obvious that the seafood in that creamy soup should be reworded on the menu to highlight that the ingredients were truly representative of the place. I suggested Marlborough mussel and salmon chowder.

In winespeak, terroir is used to reflect distinct flavours that are representative of the place where the grapes are grown. It can equally be applied to food, especially seafood, as oyster lovers tend to know that the taste of every oyster is influenced by the exact place in which it grew. Tides, the water flow, the season and the nature of the seabed show up in the taste, determining such flavours and textures as briny, metallic, sweet and savoury, not just in oysters but in all shellfish.

A fig grown in Marlborough soil will taste different from a North Auckland fig, just as Marlborough sauvignon blancs are distinct because of the local terroir. These days, marketing is everything, and yet local ingredients incorporated into menu items are not always flagged. Tourists and food lovers appreciate that detail.

I’m sure that the seafood chowder we had way back would not have included fennel, as that vegetable has become popular only this century, but it adds a lovely flavour dimension to this soup.

Marlborough mussel and salmon chowder

18 fresh mussels

200ml white wine

2 tbsp butter

2 bulbs fennel, finely sliced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

1 small pinch saffron threads

pinch of sweet paprika

1 tbsp flour

800ml fish stock

150ml cream

200g fresh salmon, cut into cubes

fresh parsley for garnish

Place the mussels in a saucepan with the wine, cover with the lid and bring to a gentle simmer until the mussels all open. Take most of the mussels from the shells, remove the beard and the foot from each and place them in a small bowl covered with a little of the liquid that has been released from the shellfish. This will keep the mussels moist and tender.

Melt the butter in a deep saucepan and add the fennel and garlic, tossing well over the heat until the fennel starts to soften. Add the potatoes with the saffron and paprika and stir well over the heat for a further 4-5 minutes. Stir in the flour, add the fish stock and stir with a wooden spoon until the liquid comes to a simmer. Allow to simmer very gently for 10 minutes.

To finish, add the cream, the salmon and the mussels with the mussel liquid. Return the pan to a simmer and cook just long enough for the mussels to reheat and the salmon to cook.

Garnish with chopped parsley and serve piping hot with crusty bread and lemon wedges on the side.

Serves 6
Wine match: Marlborough sauvignon blanc

In this delicious pasta dish, I used a new variety of red pepper called king sweeties. They are longer, darker and sweeter than the more traditional red capsicums. If you cannot find them, red capsicums will work just as well.

Tuatuas with linguine and red pepper paste.

Tuatuas with linguine and red pepper paste

4 large red peppers (king sweeties)

1 small chilli

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

200g linguine

600g tuatuas

2 extra tbsp olive oil

basil leaves for garnish

Heat the oven to 180°C. Place the peppers in a roasting pan and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until the skins are blistered and the peppers are soft. Allow the peppers to cool before peeling the skins and discarding them along with the seeds.

Place the peppers in a food processor with the chilli, salt and olive oil and process until it becomes a smooth paste. Taste this sauce for seasoning and adjust with extra salt and some freshly ground black pepper.

To cook the linguine, fill a large saucepan with salted water and bring to a boil. Add the linguine and cook until al dente or according to the instructions on the packet (about 10 minutes.)

While the linguine is cooking, put the tuatuas into a pan with half a cup of water and place the pan over high heat. They should open in 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and keep them covered to stay hot.

Drain the linguine when cooked and return to the pan, tossing with the extra olive oil. Stir the pepper sauce through and heat well.

To serve, divide the linguine and sauce between four heated bowls and top with the tuatuas.

Garnish with basil leaves and serve while still hot.

Serves 4
Wine match: Marlborough chardonnay

This article was first published in the June 24, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.