MasterChef judge, restaurateur and BMW ambassador, Josh Emett chats to us about food, Christmas and family as he looks forward to a festive season at home in New Zealand.
BMW: With MasterChef, your retail range of meals and new restaurants across New Zealand, do you ever find time to cook at home anymore?
JE: I have to be honest, Helen does a lot of the cooking at home because I travel a lot. We often catch up on Sunday and put a meal plan together. Over the weekend, when Helen cooks a family meal I like to get stuck in. Sometimes it’s just thinking about what to make that I don’t seem to have the brain space for, the hands on cooking part I love. Plus, by getting involved I know the kitchen will be tidy when it’s time to sit down and eat!
BMW: What are your plans for Christmas Day? What will you be serving up?
JE: We will be right on the beach so we’ll fire up the BBQ. We tend to start bringing out food from 11am. Serving a few hours of canapés, all prepared in advance and washed down with glass of champagne or Pimm’s. Then we sit down for the main course around 2pm. The kids will most likely graze all day and they’ll be keen to play with their new toys, so we don’t insist on them sitting through our leisurely long lunch. We haven’t discussed what meat we’ll serve but we usually have three desserts, a Christmas pud, a pavlova and the French inspired Yule log.
BMW: Do you do the cooking on Christmas day?
JE: Christmas Day is the one day of the year that I really don’t like to do too much, but I would rather be doing the cooking than the dishes. We’ll divide and conquer this year because we are all meeting at a neutral spot and hiring a bach on the beach. We will definitely cook up a feast and we all have dishes we love to cook. One thing’s for sure, with Helen’s family used to a wintery English Christmas, roast potatoes will feature and I love serving my pancetta wrapped prawns from my BBQ book as a pre-lunch canapé.
BMW: What do family and friends buy one of New Zealand’s top chefs for Christmas?
JE: I’m not too bothered about what I get for Christmas these days it’s all about the kids and seeing that Christmas magic through their eyes. I always like simple and practical things though. Things that I can put to good use. Even a good pair of socks fits nicely into that category!
BMW: If you could invite anyone to Christmas dinner at yours, who would it be?
JE: Christmas is about family and both Helen’s father and mine died far too young from cancer. I never had the chance to meet Helen’s father but I’d give anything to have those two round the table together just once.
BMW: What are the key ingredients this summer?
JE: Tomatoes, cherries and lots of seafood.
BMW: And where will you be getting your fresh ingredients from?
JE: We are very lucky to have the Good Grocer general store at the end of our road in Kohimarama. They only have seasonal, local produce. I like to walk in and figure out what we’ll have for dinner based on what looks best that day. Another kiwi treat is stopping on the side of the road for honesty box bag of fruit or veg. Helen’s sister lives on a farm in Hawke’s Bay so they’ll bring a box full of seasonal goodies for Christmas and perhaps some delicious free range meat from their rather well stocked freezer.
BMW: If you were doing a food road trip around NZ this summer, where would you stop?
JE: We’re so lucky in NZ that we have amazing foodie spots all over. It would definitely need to involve diving for crays and fishing for snapper. I love the west coast of the Coromandel. I know the best snapper spots along that coastline.
BMW: What’s the secret to mastering the BBQ grill?
JE: Time and temperature is the key, in fact, so much of cooking is about that. Get your BBQ to the right temperature, not too hot (which is often the case), and think through the cooking times of everything. For example, if you’re cooking chicken wings, sausages and steak, the sausages go on first, then the wings and lastly the steak. Don’t be afraid to place the longer cooking cuts on a higher shelf while those with short cooking time are being cooked.
BMW: Do you have a Christmas Day favourite or a stunning summer recipe you’d like to share with our enthusiasts?
JE: Caramelised shallot tart with goats’ cheese and thyme (see the recipe below), we always serve this or my Aunty Jude’s pissaladièrre as a canapé to start with.
Caramelised shallot tart with goats’ cheese and thyme
10 shallots, finely sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
400 ml good red wine
1 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar
1 sheet puff pastry
200g good French goats’ cheese
Sprig fresh thyme
In a wide base pan heat the olive oil then add the shallots and caramelize until they have a nice colour. Add the butter, then the red wine and sugar, and cook until the wine has evaporated and the onions are sticky and a bright burgundy colour. Season with sea salt and then add the red wine vinegar. Cool. Lay out the puff pastry then slightly crimp the edges. Dock the base with a fork then spread the shallot mix evenly across the pastry. Brush the crimped edge with egg wash. Bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes at 200º until the pastry is cooked.
Remove and sprinkle the goats’ cheese and fresh thyme over the top, then cut and serve.