10 Questions with David Cohen and Kathy Paterson


Q1: What part does RNZ play in your daily life?

Kathy Paterson: It’s a constant, one that informs me with interviews connected to news headlines from the time I wake up. Just like my morning coffee, I can’t really do without it.

David Cohen: It’s always tended to be my media of choice whether I’m having a shave in the morning, fixing lunch or in the car running late for an afternoon appointment. These days it also overlaps with my professional life because I make the rent working part-time as a producer on Morning

Q2: How important have the various RNZ shows been to New Zealand’s food culture over the past few decades?

KP: It’s extremely important as RNZ is known for choosing the best of the best. Its mixed menu of chefs, food writers, producers and food entrepreneurs follows local strengths and trends in growing, producing and cooking, but always with a watchful eye on the global food community.

DC: I agree with Kathy. For all the talk about the eclipse of traditional media, RNZ is still a dominant cultural medium. And our local culture is nothing if not big on epicurean adventure. So, really, the two continue to go together like hamburger and bun.

Q3: There are thousands of recipes on the RNZ website. How on earth did you filter through them to make this selection?

DC: Initially the idea was to include recipes going back the better part of a century! What soon became clear, though, is that there was a culinary discrepancy between these interesting artifacts and what discerning people might actually want to cook in the 2020s. That’s when the focus shifted to the 21st century. And we went through the possible candidates, um, slowly. It was like judging a competition with nearly 4,000 finalists.

Q4: What do you think it tells us about our food culture?

DC: I think this land of ours that was initially settled by agriculturalists and horticulturalists from both Britain and Polynesia is making good on its founding promise. Or at least that’s how I’d put it after a few wines at a dinner party.

Q5: The collection is pretty much a who’s who of our chefs and food writers. Is it a sort of roll of honour?

DC: Yeah, nah. Sure, there are loads of celebrity names in this collection, as you’d expect, but for Kathy and me, and others involved in the process, the biggest deal was on the quality of their recipes. Even the best cooks turn in the occasional dud. Even the more obscure restaurateur can do something for the ages.

Q6: The timeline of RNZ history was an inspired idea. Tell us about the ghost of Aunt Daisy.

DC: Aunt Daisy, or Maud Basham, is really where RNZ’s cooking timeline begins, back in the 1930s, with her trustworthy style and enthusiasm for decent dining. She didn’t so much refute the chauvinistic argument of her era that a woman’s place in kitchen, but rather showed how the public media — and listeners in general — could benefit from spending more time in that part of the house as well. As I explain in the opening essay, it’s that influence that still hovers above the operation.

Q7: Favourite dinner recipe in this collection?

KP: Pan-fried fish with pāua and tuatua sauce by Kasey and Kārena Bird. It’s hard for me to go past a fish recipe, but with pāua and tuatua in the mix, impossible. Having recently eaten their smoked crayfish on toasted brioche with lime at a Matariki celebration dinner, I can vouch for their locally-inspired, full-of-flavour dishes and recipes.

DC: I really like Ashley Sumner’s Moroccan lamb meatballs. The recipe has some great novel touches — the use of saffron in the sauce, for example, and honey. Middle Eastern dishes involving lamb can sometimes taste better in our part of the global woods, because our lamb tastes so good.

Q8: Favourite dessert recipe?

KP: A difficult decision for a sweet-tooth, so can I give two? Queen of Puddings from Jeremy Jones has been cooked several times since making and checking this recipe for the cookbook. I’ve used jam or guava jelly or even a thick, salted caramel sauce for the filling and it’s a brilliant way to
use slightly stale leftover bread. Queen of Puddings is the ultimate comfort food and harks back to our inherited early British food culture. Sean Connolly’s Argentinian crème caramel is luscious, silken and creamy. The caramel made using just raw sugar is probably the simplest caramel with the best results I’ve made.

DC: Give me Mom and Al Brown’s apple cobbler.

Q9: Best oldie but goodie?

KP: Muffins bring to mind early café days in New Zealand so I would have to say, the whole-orange and date muffins from Lauraine Jacobs — so easy to make and so delicious — or Nadia Lim’s banana and blueberry bran muffins.

DC: Catherine Bell’s chilli-grilled squid on rocket with lime and coriander mayonnaise is basically a sweet riff on the kind of classic calamari dish that almost everybody you dined with in the 1990s ordered as a starter.

Q10: What do you hope readers will find in this collection?

KP: A recipe book chock-a-block with useful and diverse recipes — a cookbook that will quickly become well-thumbed with many pages folded at the corner. This cookbook is a tribute to these working chefs, cooks and food writers — a celebration of themselves in words.