Kira Ghidoni is the head chef at the award-winning The Grove Restaurant in Auckland, New Zealand. Since opening in 2004, The Grove has consistently ranked among Auckland's best restaurants. They offer a menu of "modern New Zealand food with a French twist" that showcases the very best seasonal ingredients available. In order to get to know Chef Kira better, we asked her a few questions, and to share one of her favorite recipes.
What do you like to cook and why?
"I’ve always been into food from a young age. I learnt how to clean a trout when I was 4 years old with my grandpa and spent hours and hours in the kitchen with my mum, making bread, cakes and so on. When I was 15, I was really confused and thought I had to go to high school because all my friends were there. Well, one day I woke up thinking - What if I become a Chef? - and I've never looked back. I still love what I do, and cooking is my biggest passion."
What is your best cooking tip for readers?
"Always cook with your heart… And taste your food, so important!"
What do you know now, that you wish you knew when you first started as a chef?
"I know how not to panic, that comes with years and years of experience. I wouldn’t be the Chef and person I am right now if it wasn’t for all the mistakes I’ve made. Knowledge is power. To have the knowledge, you have to work hard, learn as much as you can and read a lot. My life functions around the kitchen; if I’m not working, I’m reading a cookbook, or writing down my recipes and ideas, or watching cooking programs... Food is my life."
What are your favorite dishes to cook on your current menu that you recommend the most to diners?
"Most of the favourite dishes I created at The Grove are actually vegetarian. When I became in charge of the restaurant, I decided to always have a vegetarian course straight after the starter. I want people to understand that vegetables are amazing and can definitely have a 'wow' factor. The asparagus dish we have at the moment is a good example. We serve it with koji sauce and guests end up wanting to lick the plate! Our specialty is degustation, but our menus are personalised, so if for example you’re pescatarian, you’re going to have plenty of fish and vegetables and we create a menu around your needs. We make an effort to cater for every dietary need."
Why did you choose this recipe to share?
"I chose this recipe because it’s one of the best dishes I created this year. I was about to go to Fiji, but before going I thought I should make something with coconut. Then I had some mandarins in my garden and I decided to use them with the fish and the coconut, and boom the dish was born. We arrived in Fiji and had “Kokoda” and I was like, wow, my dish actually tastes like this, and I had come up with it before arriving in Fiji! - Long story short, I was really proud of myself."
Recipe: King Fish with Mandarin
- Prep the kingfish by removing the skin and leave it in the fridge. Slice for service.
- When serve marinate 5pcs of kingfish with salt and leche de Tigre. Add some red onions, mandarin zest and pickled coriander stalks and dress on top of the burnt coconut milk.
Leche de Tigre:
- 50g Ginger
- 1 Garlic clove
- 8pcs Limes
- 2tsp Mirin
- 2tbsp Mandarin juice
- 1tbsp Soy sauce
- Cut the ginger in brunoise, and the garlic in half. Mix with the lime juice and let it steep for 5 minutes.
- Strain and add the rest of the ingredients. Taste, and keep in a squeeze bottle ready for service.
Burnt coconut milk:
- 4 Coconuts
- Xanthan gum
- Burn the coconuts on the BBQ until they start to open. Let them cool a little, crack them open with the hammer and collect all the water. Remove the flesh and chop it up a bit.
- Put that into the Thermomix along with coconut water, some tap water, salt and a pinch of sugar. Let it steep for few hours.
- Hang it overnight and the next day blitz the liquid with a bit of xanthan. Taste and adjust if needed. keep into a squeeze bottle and put a bit in the middle of the plate when away.
Pickled coriander stalks:
- 150g rice vinegar
- 50g sugar
- 50g water
- Bring all the ingredients to the boil and pour over the stalks. Cover with cling film until cold. Cut into small pieces.
- Cut the red onions in brunoise and cover them with water and ice to remove their strength.
- Remove from the water, drain well.
- Mandarin skins
- Mandarin leaves
- Vegetable oil
- Kaffir lime leaves
- Baby spinach
- Dehydrate the mandarin skins and the leaves, then infuse in a large vac-pac bag with the oil for a few hours.
- Put into the Thermomix and blitz with salt, kaffir lime leaves and spinach at 85ºC for 5 minutes. Cool over ice and let it mature in the fridge overnight.
- Hang into a coffee filter and collect the oil. Freeze some and keep the rest into a small squeeze bottle.
- Fresh tamarillo (scoop out seeds, reverse blitz into Thermomix)
- Tamarillo “kina”
- Baby coriander
- Dried toasted coconut (after burning the coconut remove slices with peeler, toast and dehydrate)