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The new school cookbook: A Napier school's slick fundraiser

Picnic time for Napier Central School pupils (from left) Salvatore and Zita Meo, Honor and Claudia Tosswill.

A fundraiser cookbook that’s – almost – too cool for school.

The school cookbook fundraiser used to be a modest little number – typed-up recipes that were run through the school office copier and stapled together, maybe with a black-and-white sketch on the cover. 

Neighbourhood Eats, a cookbook created by a team from Napier Central School’s PTA, is neither little nor modest. It’s a splendid 1.3kg of “treasured family recipes from our neighbourhood”, as the accompanying coverline attests.

Rebecca Moses, one of the PTA’s four-person fundraiser team, jokes that her two daughters have made her promise never to do another cookbook. Not that they objected to the recipe-testing – just the amount of time Mum spent on the project over the past year. Her girls will also benefit from the funds raised from the cookbook sales; all profits will go to solar heating and much-needed repair work on the school pool, which is used for swimming lessons in term time and summer holiday recreation for the wider school community.

Sofia Kerr enjoying Berry Jammy on Fry Bread; both recipes feature in the sleek-looking cookbook.

The PTA Four who enthusiastically and, Moses admits, “somewhat naively” put up their hands for the fundraiser decided at the outset to produce a quality hardback cookbook – something that could stand alongside professional cookbooks, with beautiful photographs and smart graphic design.

What they didn’t anticipate was the deluge of recipes that came in from school families. “It got to a tipping point where we thought we really had to include a recipe from every family with children at Napier Central,” says Moses, who teaches part-time at the primary school. “That also meant sifting through dozens of recipes in different formats and making sure we didn’t end up with three versions of chocolate brownies…”

In the end, nearly every family contributed a recipe – many accompanied by colourful and intriguing little background stories, the pick of which have been printed alongside the recipes. “Our school families were far more diverse than we imagined. We got recipes from as far afield as Germany, Greece, Iraq, Mexico, Japan and South Africa.” The recipes include everything from Vietnamese Pho Bo to Māori Fry Bread.

The project team even hit up some Kiwi notables for recipes – and received a celebrity-handful of responses, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s Fish with Eggplant, Almond and Preserved Lemon, and boxer Joseph Parker’s Samoan Sapasui. Even international chef Peter Gordon joined in with his Shiitake and Haloumi Fritters.

A sponsorship drive among Hawke’s Bay businesses – and professional input above and beyond from local photographer Florence Charvin and designer Annaliese Wyatt – meant printing and production costs were covered. A volunteer army of cooks and bakers from the school community delivered their wares to numerous photo shoots. “And every one of the 250-plus recipes was taste-tested to ensure it was foolproof,” says Moses.

So, having sampled many of the recipes, she must have a favourite or two? “Many new favourites and some surprises – like licorice ice cream, which is delicious, and shakshouka, from a school mum with Jordanian heritage. It’s a Middle Eastern egg- and tomato-based breakfast or lunch dish. Simple yet stunning.”

Recipes extracted from Neighbourhood Eats (Bookprint Ltd, Napier Central School, $45). The cookbook can be purchased online at neighbourhoodeats.co.nz. All proceeds go to the school pool fundraiser.

Berry Jammy

Ruby and Samuel Dirks

Each summer it is a family ritual to get up early on a Saturday morning and head to a local berry farm to pick berries – enough to make a supply of jam for the year. It’s great fun and as the children get older, they have become more helpful as pickers, rather than pick one, eat five… Fresh is best but you can also use frozen berries.

3 cups berries: raspberry, boysenberry, blackberry or mixed

2¾ cups white sugar

This recipe makes 2 x 350ml jars. We usually get a large volume of berries and add just under 1:1 in weight of sugar.

  1. Place the berries in a large pot or preserving pan and cook slowly until the juice runs from them. Bring to the boil.
  2. Add the sugar and stir until it has dissolved. Turn up the heat and bring to a rolling boil for 3-5 minutes.
  3. Pour into sterilised jars and screw on the lids.

(To sterilise the jars and lids, wash in hot soapy water, rinse and place in oven at 120°C for 30 minutes; or boil the jars and lids for 15 minutes.)

Fry Bread

Shikira Reedy

5 cups self-raising flour

2 cups warm water

2 Tbsp yeast

Pinch of salt

2 Tbsp oil

  1. Place 5 cups of flour into a bowl and add warm water mixed with yeast. Stir the mixture and then knead together. Place this mixture into a bowl and cover for 3 hours, allowing it to rise.
  2. Knead the dough gently, roll out and cut into squares. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and, when hot, add the squares and fry until golden brown.
  3. Serve with jam, golden syrup or honey.
Peter Gordon’s Shiitake and Haloumi Fritters.

Shiitake and Haloumi Fritters

Chef Peter Gordon, The Providores, London

These fritters are often on the menu at The Providores, although we sometimes replace the shiitake with other mushrooms, or add some shredded spinach, diced grilled red capsicums or roast pumpkin.

70g flour

100g polenta

1 tsp fine salt

1 tsp baking powder

⅓ tsp baking soda

1 Tbsp coriander seeds, toasted and ground

350g plain yoghurt

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp water

1 free-range egg

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

180g shiitake mushrooms, sliced

2 spring onions, thinly sliced

1 handful of basil leaves, torn

200g haloumi

Vegetable oil, for deep-frying

  1. Sieve the dry ingredients, and set aside.
  2. Whisk the yoghurt, olive oil, water, egg and garlic together. Mix the dry ingredients into the yoghurt mixture. Mix in the shiitake, spring onions, basil and cheese and rest for 5 minutes then mix gently once again.
  3. Heat the oil to 180°C. Using two spoons, scoop out walnut sized pieces and push off the spoon into the hot oil and cook until golden all over. Drain on kitchen paper and keep warm in a low oven. Serve with aioli.

Pho Bo

Sophia and India Moses-Powrie

Pre-children, I took up a teaching position in Saigon. Pho Bo is the national dish of Vietnam and is usually served to locals seated on plastic stools at modest street side cafes for breakfast. It quickly became a firm favourite of ours for any time of day, and has become my children’s favourite dish too. The soup is designed to be garnished at the table – one reason children love it – and the flavours develop as you eat it.

Serves 6

Beef Broth

1.5kg oxtail, chopped into pieces

1.5kg beef shanks

4 litres water

3 thumb-sized pieces fresh ginger

1 large onion, cut in half, unpeeled

4 shallots, unpeeled

3 carrots

4 star anise

6 cloves garlic

1 cinnamon stick

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper corns

¼ cup fish sauce

Accompaniments

500g dried flat rice noodles

300g beef round in one piece,

   about 7cm thick, sliced wafer thin

1 large onion, sliced

2 spring onions, sliced

2 small red chillies, sliced

Handful of bean sprouts

Bunch of fresh coriander

Bunch of fresh mint

2 limes, cut into wedges

Fish sauce

Sriracha sauce

Hoisin sauce

  1. Place the water and meat in a large stockpot and bring to the boil. Meanwhile, turn the grill to high and grill the ginger, onion and shallots until brown on all sides. After 5 minutes, when the water comes to the boil, skim off the scum with a wire skimmer or spoon. Continue until the broth is clear of all foam. 2. Add browned vegetables and all other ingredients, except the fish sauce. Bring to the boil then reduce to simmer. Cover and simmer for 3 hours, the longer the better. When the broth has cooled, strain through a fine sieve, reserve solids. These can be enjoyed with some crusty bread and Dijon mustard for an easy lunch. Stand the broth in a cool place and skim off any fat. Add the fish sauce and taste for seasoning.
  2. Soak the noodles in warm water until soft (20 minutes), drain and put aside. Dip the noodles into boiling water for 30 seconds and divide among six deep soup bowls. Top with wafer thin slices of raw beef, onion, spring onions, a few chilli slices and beansprouts. Ladle the broth over the top and serve with bunches of herbs, lime wedges and sauces to garnish, as preferred, at the table. The beef will cook in the hot stock.