Kiwi stars’ kitchen confessions

Shopprice New Zealand

Kiwi stars Sam Neill, Hilary Barry and Lucy Lawless let Erin Simpson in on their kitchen secrets.

There are a lot of people in New Zealand who Erin Simpson now owes a favour to. The former children’s TV presenter, along with legendary artist Dick Frizzell and his business partner Christian Kasper, has spent the last two years hunting down and pleading with 101 Kiwi celebrities to be a part of their new book, Cooking for Change, which is raising money for four different charities.

The premise? Each celebrity contributes a recipe or two for the book, which is really a who’s who of New Zealand, and all of the profits of the finished product go to Starship children’s hospital, Auckland City Mission, Paw Justice and Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand.

And yes, finding 101 famous New Zealanders was as hard as it sounds! “It was a matter of hustling!” Erin laughs. “But we got there. New Zealand is such a wonderful country to make that happen -– it’s all friends of friends of friends.”

From calling contacts to leaving Suzy Cato a note at the post office – it turns out she actually signs her text messages with “See ya, see ya later”, Erin tells – she and the boys managed to convince all 101 to take part. “That’s the coolest part of the whole thing – seeing how many people wanted to help,” she says.

There’s even a second book in the works, this time featuring well-known faces and their beloved mums. “I’m trying to get 70 people for that, so if anyone knows Lorde or has a famous neighbour, let me know!”

Here, Erin shares her experiences with three Kiwi personalities and the recipes they provided for the book.

Sam Neill agreed to take part after Erin and her team spent a day with him at his vineyard in Central Otago.
Sam Neill agreed to take part after Erin and her team spent a day with him at his vineyard in Central Otago.

Convincing Hollywood legend and Hunt for the Wilderpeople star Sam to take part was a little more challenging, says Erin.

“He wanted us to be friends beforehand, so we had to go to his house and have a day with him, to prove that we were good people! He took us around his vineyard, which is in Central Otago, and introduced us to his pig Angelica – who’s a boy! We did this whole adventure to prove ourselves. And then, he’s like, okay, let’s cook something! Since then, he’s been the first one to put up his hand to help.”

Sam’s shepherd’s pie
Sam’s shepherd’s pie

Serves 6-8
- Oil, for cooking
- 3 onions, finely chopped
- 3-4 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
- 1kg lamb mince
- ½ bottle red wine
- 2 cups beef or any other stock
- 4 tbsp tomato purée
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp Vegemite
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp each thyme leaves and rosemary leaves, finely chopped
- Pinch of ground nutmeg
- 500g packet frozen peas
- 400g can corn kernels
- HP Sauce, to taste (optional)
- Brown sugar, to taste (optional)
- 4 cups creamy mashed potato

1 Heat some oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for a few minutes to soften. Add the carrots and cook for 3-4 minutes further. Increase the heat, add the lamb mince and brown all over, using a fork to break up the meat.
2 Pour in the red wine and cook, stirring, allowing the red wine to bubble and evaporate.
3 When most of the red wine has evaporated, add the stock and stir, then add the tomato purée, Worcestershire sauce and Vegemite. Stir to combine.
4 Reduce the heat, then add the bay leaves, thyme, rosemary and nutmeg. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes.
5 Preheat oven to 200°C. Add the peas and corn kernels to the mince mixture, mix everything to combine and simmer for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste the mince mixture and add HP Sauce and brown sugar to taste, if desired.
6 Pour the mince mixture into an oven dish and top with the creamy mashed potato. Bake the pie in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes until the top is golden brown.
Tip: Serve with a selection of your favourite green veges on the side.

Hilary Barry says her recipe for hummingbird cake is “family famous”. She also contributed a recipe for slow-cooked venison.
Hilary Barry says her recipe for hummingbird cake is “family famous”. She also contributed a recipe for slow-cooked venison.

Despite the fact that Hilary has had a rather busy year, leaving her two jobs on Paul Henry and Newshub at 6pm in search of greener pastures and a well-deserved holiday – she was spotted pretending to steal a hotel room safe last week, as well as posing in Ireland’s famed Killarney National Park – the nation’s favourite newsreader still found time to help the cause, Erin tells, even though she couldn’t be there in person.

“When we first started this process, we set up a Kickstarter campaign to fundraise for our travel costs and other associated costs. She couldn’t be a part of the video we did because she was out of town, but she didn’t let that stop her!

“She just said, ‘Nah, stuff it, put me in coach!’ and Skyped in instead, so she’s been helping from the very beginning. And, of course, she provided two recipes.”

There were no requirements when it came to choosing the recipes, says Erin – they didn’t even care if the book had double-ups. “It was anything they liked!” As well as the hummingbird cake below, Hilary also provided a slow-cooked venison recipe.

A long-time lover of baking, Hilary’s hummingbird cake is “family famous”, she reveals – it certainly looks delicious! Indeed, Hilary is apparently a bit of a whizz in the kitchen and as her two sons get older, she reckons she’s becoming more adventurous with the dishes she whips up – but teriyaki chicken is still a favourite.

Hilary’s hummingbird cake
Hilary’s hummingbird cake

Serves 10-12
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ½ cup oil
- 400g can crushed pineapple, drained of some of its liquid
- 1½ cups each flour and mashed banana
- ½ cup desiccated coconut
- ½ tsp each ground cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder

Cream Cheese Icing
- 60g cream cheese
- 30g butter
- 1½ cups icing sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
1 Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 22cm cake tin with baking paper.
2 Place the eggs, sugar and oil in a mixing bowl, then lightly beat together. Add the remaining ingredients and mix to combine.
3 Pour into the prepared cake tin, smooth the top and bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes.
4 Meanwhile, for the cream cheese icing, beat the cream cheese and butter together to soften, then beat in the icing sugar and vanilla essence.
5 Remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. When it is fully cool, ice with the cream cheese icing.
Tip: The cream cheese icing is delicious but for a slightly less calorific topping, you could make a lemon glaze. Just mix ½ cup icing sugar with enough lemon juice to make a glaze with a smooth consistency, then pour over the cake.

Erin and her team went to great lengths to get Lucy Lawless’s delicious “I hate cooking” frittata recipe.
Erin and her team went to great lengths to get Lucy Lawless’s delicious “I hate cooking” frittata recipe.

Going to Lucy’s home to shoot her for the book required a very quick change of plans, Erin explains.

“We were shooting with [women’s Black Sticks captain] Kayla Whitelock down in Palmerston North, and then Lucy calls us, ‘Yup, I can do it! See you tomorrow in Auckland at 11.30.’”

After Erin and the crew shared a brief moment of panic, they hatched a plan to get back up to Auckland in time. After all, it was Lucy Lawless, and Erin and Dick had been trying to find a time for her to cook her recipe for weeks and weeks.

“We were like, ‘Oh, okay! Well, if Lucy can do it then, then we’ll make it happen!’ So we ditched the rental car we were supposed to drive back up in, all booked flights and made it to her place on time the next day. And she was absolutely lovely! It was so worth it.”

The I-hate-cooking frittata
The I-hate-cooking frittata

Serves 2
- 6 eggs
- Milk, for mixing
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Oil or butter, for cooking
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- Small bunch silverbeet, stalks removed and leaves finely chopped
- 50g creamy goat’s cheese, crumbled
- Anything else you have to hand that you’d like to add, for example chopped leftover cooked potatoes, ham and/or capsicum etc (optional)
- 2 tomatoes, sliced or handful cherry tomatoes, halved
- Handful grated tasty cheese
- Green salad, to serve
1 Place the eggs in a bowl with a splash of milk and season with salt and pepper. Beat together and set aside.
2 Heat some oil or melt some butter in a large frypan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the silverbeet and cook, stirring, until soft.
3 Preheat the grill. Reduce heat to medium and add the egg mixture. Cook for about 3 minutes, then add the goat’s cheese and any other ingredients you want to add, if using.
4 Top with the tomatoes. Once the frittata is starting to gel on the sides and pulling away from the pan a little bit, you will know it’s time to add the tasty cheese and pop it under the preheated grill.
5 Watch it carefully! The frittata should start to puff up and the grated cheese will go golden brown.
6 When it’s perfectly done, take it out and leave to cool a little before cutting it – if you cut it too soon, it will deflate like a soufflé. Serve it with a green salad.

Cooking 4 Change was released on August 26. Available or selected bookstores. RRP $49.99.