It was Christmas time, a few years back – before Andrew Brown had built a career on culinary excellence.
“It was when I still considered myself a surfer,” he said.
“I was over at Hokitika, and we’d surfed over a mussel bed and went back and picked some.
“We got a fire going on the beach, put on a billy, had a few beers and cooked up the mussels.
“That is dead-set summer to me.”
Even after carving out a reputation among Christchurch’s top chefs, Andrew says the simplest food experiences are often the most enjoyable.
“Close your eyes in the middle of summer and bite into a tomato like you would an apple,” he said.
“That smell, that burst of flavour, that lightness – that’s what summer is about.
“It’s simple food.
“Over the Kiwi summer, Christmas and New Year’s, outside of the dirty-old ham that’s sitting in your fridge, it’s the perfect time to bring out the salmon, mussels and oysters.”
There’s just something about New Zealand aquaculture products that go well with entertaining.
“The best garnish for food is good company,” he said.
“Food is a great medium for building friendships and prompting conversation, and if you look at mussels, salmon and oysters, all three are stunningly good products that when done in certain ways will promote conversation and interest.
“Simple is best – with mussels, salmon and oysters, you’ve got a premium product to start with so the hard work’s done before you even open the fridge.”
“You can’t go past the mussels – there are certain flavour profiles that go really well mussels and one of them is beer,” Andrew said.
“For me the Kiwi Summer is about sitting in the sun and having a beer.
“Mussels become a versatile shared dish. You can put them in the middle of the table, freshly steamed mussels with something as simple as white wine and lemon juice, and people will happily pick at them while they have a drink.
“The flavour profile of a malty, hoppy beer works well.”
“It’s very popular at the moment to serve smoked salmon at a barbecue,” he said.
“It becomes a nice informal vehicle to have platter food and over summer it works exceptionally well.
“The other great thing about salmon, is that you can hot smoke a whole side on your barbecue.
“It will taste great and really impress your guests.
“Oysters have the same social appeal as the mussels – but they just take it up a level,” he said.
“They’re perfect for special occasions like Christmas and New Year’s when you have friends around for a celebration.
“You might want to dust off a bottle of sparkles to add to the occasion.
“They are a premium product but they can also be enjoyed with beer.”
Andrew’s top tips for summer:
1: Food safety – while it’s hot be very careful to use proper handling, storage and preparation.
2: Keep it simple – by choosing mussels, salmon, and oysters you are choosing a quality product, the hard work is already done. Use minimal cooking methods and flavours.
3: Summer = good food + good friends + good times
Hot Smoking Salmon using a hooded BBQ
100gms Smoking wood chips
10gms Fennel Seeds
1 Cured Salmon Fillet
(chilled so as not to cook too quickly)
• Preheat the BBQ on high with the lid up for approx 5-8 minutes (depending on the BBQ), the grill plate needs to be hot without retaining any heat under the hood. Then place a sheet of aluminium foil down on the hot plate & sprinkle the smoking wood chips & fennel seeds over the plate. As soon as they begin to smoke heavily, place salmon on the warming rack & roll the lid down & turn off the gas. It is important at this stage to leave the lid down for at least 4-5 minutes so as to allow the smoke to form & flavour the salmon. Be very careful not to over cook the salmon, an indication is as soon as you see white protein leeching out of the side of the salmon it will be cooked. Remove & allow to cool quickly.
• Serve with your favourite pesto or mayonnaise.