New Zealand Lamb Chops with Eggplant and Couscous (Eating, drinking and hiking around the South Island)

( Travels in the South Island of New Zealand, continued; see previous  Mussel post, if interested, for a more information about our itinerary.)

IMG_1041Skirting the coast in our Toyota Corolla, we note Farm to Table is not marketing hoop-la, but in your face reality around every bend in the road.

Plucked from the ocean seafoods, meats and game (they farm deer as we farm beef), artisan cheeses and yogurts, orchard stacked upon orchard, and top-drawer wines – we haven’t lacked for a delicious meal, whether cooking in or dining out; soothing antidotes following days of hiking, biking & kayaking.

The New Zealand grocery stores we’ve been shopping in are fairly Westernized; less like one of those timeless fresh markets dotting the Mediterranean, and more like one of our Whole Foods crossed with a generic grocery chain.

Whatever green-lip mussels aren't sold that day, are not sold.

Whatever green-lip mussels aren’t sold that day, are not sold.

Much of the New Zealand food basket is now exported to China. The good news is the sheer volume of refrigerated square footage in town groceries given to local fare – and what a plethora of riches is to be had, particularly those Green Lips down Aisle 3.

From my limited observations and particular point of view, Kiwis seems deep into the process of defining a unique culinary tradition reflecting their citizenry and culture.

The Asian, Middle Eastern and Western European countries I’ve travelled have such marvelous signature dishes rooted into their landscape, reflecting centuries of refining and reinventing  available foods and spices. And during this time, while all of these delectable recipes were being brought to the table, New Zealand was the sole province of an exotic array of birds – that is until Polynesians (the Maoris) began settling the shores killing off most of the native species.

And then came the Brits, claiming New Zealand as a crown colony towards the middle of the 19th century. Locals have told me the ensuing food served on the South Island was really quite dreadful until the late sixties. Chuckling over the described pub fare, and some of those dishes Mum brought to the table – environmental concerns aside, I imagine the natives with their spitted birds and exotic fruits ate better.

But when more kiwis began traveling abroad, they brought home a new attention to their own horizon’s possibilites. They began re-thinking how they prepared their enviable diversity of produce, grape varietals, fish, lamb and beef in their own backyard – particularly creative juices spent in the Nelson region.

Food carts are just entering the scene. Unfamiliar to locals, the Japanese entrepreneur who sold me my crayfish, said he was struggling.

Food carts are just entering the scene. Unfamiliar to locals, the Japanese entrepreneur who sold me my crayfish, said he was struggling.

Judging from the excellent restaurants, road-side food carts,  food network types of shows, and the glossy culinary magazines I’ve been perusing, it’s clear that New Zealanders are giving serious thought to their own stylized Kiwi brand of cuisine, fusing Indian, Asian and tropical flavors into their rich, abundant local fare.

 

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Curried Lamb Pie with House-Made Chutney

The British stamp, however, remains entrenched into the landscape – those ubiquitous kiwi suppers (think lamb shank, mashed potatoes and peas drowning in gravy), fish and chips and meat pies are available at every “take-away”.  But even their comfort foods are being reinvented with flair and finesse.

 

Mussels perfumed in Thai flavors for lunch, delicately smoked mussels (pictured) for dinner.

Mussels perfumed in Thai flavors for lunch, delicately smoked mussels (pictured) for dinner.

 

As we crawl north up the western coast, my quest for mussels hasn’t dimmed from my last post; in fact, I reached the pinnacle of mussel euphoria in Havelock, closely followed by a plate of beautifully constructed, delicately smoked mussels in the Marlborough Sounds.

But I digress. The following is a simple dinner I made with ingredients purchased at a local store that can be found at any decent USA grocery.

I certainly appreciate being surrounded by granite with a 6-burner Viking and cupboard full of condiments, but when cooking in very basic, minimally stocked “kitchenettes”, I make do with what’s available. I always tote a good olive oil around, but was happy to discover the cottage we were renting had a bit of (low smoke) grape seed oil for searing the chops.

Richard and I had the luck to pick the right winter to escape the Michigan landscape; I worry about friends and kids and all of you traversing the snow & ice, and am relieved to read there’s a warm-up coming soon. Our blessed neighbor has been tending our house and just sent a picture – it looks like an igloo! This is surely a surreal, beautiful landscape to travel, but we’ve been away a long time with crummy WIFI and communication channels; we miss our family, friends and Ann Arbor.

Here are a few additional pics I’ve been snapping during our journey. (Recipe follows.)

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Combing the shore for cockles at low tide in Marahu.

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Trolling the Abel Tasman landscape searching for wildlife.

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Seal pups! How thrilling!!!

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Flipper!

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Shags, baby, shags.

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A fan of fronds, typical of the Queen Charlotte track.

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Pretty bird awaits our return.

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Grumpy old men.

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In Kaikori, this food cart was a mob scene.

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No wonder, with (female) scallops and their red roe so sweet.

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Recipe: Lamb Chops with Eggplant & Couscous

Ingredients

  • 1 medium sized eggplant, peeled or striped if desired, then cut into 3/4-inch slices
  • 1-2 tablespoons grape seed or canola oil
  • 6-8 lamb chops
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1 ( apx. 8 ounce) canned diced tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup good red wine, optional***
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh chopped herbs, plus extra for garnish**
  • 1 1/2 cups instant dry couscous, cooked according to package instructions

Instructions

  1. Season eggplant with kosher salt and allow to drain over a clean cloth or paper towels.
  2. Heat 1-2 tablespoons canola or grape seed oil over high heat. When oil is hot, sear both sides of chops until well-browned on each side, about 1 minute per side. Remove from pan and reserve.
  3. Reduce heat to low, and add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil to pan. Sauté garlic, stirring occasionally, until just fragrant, taking care not to let burn. Dice eggplant into 1/2-inch pieces, stir into the garlic and cook 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in tomatoes, with their juice, and wine, if using, and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, occasionally stirring, until eggplant is just tender. Return chops to the sauce with chopped herbs, if using, and reheat chops to desired level of doneness.
  5. Stir in herbs and serve chops and sauce over couscous, garnishing with fresh herbs, if using.

*I used economical leg, loin chops

** Chives were growing in the garden so I used those; fresh rosemary would have been preferred, but I’d use only a teaspoon or two.

***I used a local Pinot Noir that was delicious served with the dish.

Number of servings (yield): 2-4

Time: 35 minutes

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One Response to New Zealand Lamb Chops with Eggplant and Couscous (Eating, drinking and hiking around the South Island)

  1. Lucy says:

    What a great adventure the places you visited look lovely. Especially like the lamb chops need to try egg plant Lucy

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