I recently relaxed for a few days in Fiji and noticed a change in the culinary climate. I’ve always enjoyed the tropical fruit, kokodu (marinated fish) and the local curries, which are often a little milder than the true Indian versions. However, a raft of new chefs have introduced a more modern approach to many menus.
At the adults-only Koro restaurant at the Hilton, locals and tourists alike are relishing the shared small plates multinational menu. You could be anywhere in the world but for the tropical environment and swaying palms There are still a few Fijian flavours but the new-look menu is exciting.
Hilton’s exec — chef Indian Pritam Shirlal — was born into a well-established family hospitality business in Mumbai and encouraged into the kitchen at an early age. He then gained valuable experience in Australia where he met his now executive sous chef, Aaron Davis. He also worked with many kiwis. He loved their work ethic which inspired him to join a Waikato restaurant. However, warmer climes beckoned and he is now top chef in a dream resort.
“It’s a challenge to source top class food but local producers are now experimenting in response to restaurant demand,” says chef Pritam. “The microgreens are magnificent as are the small flavoursome and very dry potatoes. We train our cooks to appreciate international flavours so we can serve multicultural dishes — fused with a taste of Fiji.”
PAN-FRIED HALLOUMI WITH SUMAC
Based on a recipe from the Hilton’s Koro restaurant. If the halloumi cools down, zap it briefly in the microwave.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sumac
1 teaspoon olive oil, extra
200g halloumi cheese, trimmed neatly
2 tablespoons chopped mint
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice and sumac together in a bowl.
Heat the extra oil in a small non-stick frying pan on medium. Place the block of halloumi in the pan and fry for about 3 minutes each side, until lightly golden
Cut the halloumi into 8 slices crosswise and in half lengthwise. Keep a neat block shape. Drizzle with the sumac mixture and sprinkle with the herbs. Serve immediately from the frying pan. Serves 4-6 as a nibble.
1 small red onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon each: ground cumin, paprika
pinch each: cayenne, salt
1/2 cup each: chopped parsley, chopped coriander, extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
500g large raw prawns, shelled and deveined
Combine all the ingredients — except the prawns — in a bowl. Mix well. Pat the prawns dry and add to the mixture. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Thread the prawns onto small skewers — two per skewer. Barbecue, grill or cook on a ridged frying pan for about 1 minute, turning once and spooning a little of the marinade over the top. Makes about 12.