Northern Thai Pork Sausage ‘Sai Oua’

Pandawan Cooking School is one of a number of cooking schools based in Chiang Mai. What makes Pandawan different is their luxurious cooking facilities upstairs, with views out towards the gardens. That’s not a must have, however, when you’re sweating about what you have to cook, you don’t also want to be physically sweating in a stuffy working kitchen in Chiang Mai’s old town!

The first stop on the tour was to the local markets. Just as you’d expect anywhere, there’s a plethora of what you recognise and a wide array of ingredients you’d rarely find in New Zealand. Our guide explained the difference between Holy Basil and Sweet Thai Basil. (Sweet Thai has a anise clove flavour) and then the difference between lime (used for it’s juices) and the wrinkly kaffir lime (used for it’s skin, similar to lemon rind).


Chiang Mai Market Butchery

The butcher is a different place altogether from what you’re used to at Gourmet Direct. Meat is presented in the open, in a slightly cooled room with every part of the animal there to be bartered for. Chicken doesn’t just come in breasts and thighs, there is no wasted parts of the chicken, after all, Thailand has 67 million people to feed!


The prize chickens are the fighting ones, well the fighting cocks that lost. They are well looked after, at least when they’re alive, so they taste the best, so we’re told. 

prize fighting chickens

Angry bird shaped precooked meat helps kids eat their soup as fast as any other trick.


Chiang Mai Market Butchery

On to the first tasting and it’s pork scratchings with a northern green chilli paste delicacy that is sweeter than most with a fire that fills the mouth not the throat. I decide to buy a little of both as they go great with a Beer Chang or Singha. Ideal for the cooler evenings, after these super hot and dry days in their 30’s.


Marinate then make the sausage

Last stop on the way out of the market, is also the first stop for most during the evenings so I’m told with queues ready to buy 3 – 4 kg at a time.  The Pork Sausage looks like the South Africa boerewors yet taste a world apart. Here it’s about spicing the sausage for marination before making the sausage not after. That way the marinate is integral to the sausage.


Inside the sausage goes turmeric, galanga, lemon grass and chilli paste, but despite some smiles and wrangling, I was unable to get the exact measure of each to make these beauties. Needless to say the chilli paste is more important than the pork in these 100% pork sausages. We decided to take up the challenge and make Northern Thai Pork Sausages, now available at the link below.

Gourmet Direct Northern Thai Pork Sausage

>> Link to pork sausage

Gourmet Holiday Shopping ideas – headstart

Get a headstart on holiday shopping this year by addings a little something to make kitchen work easier this holidays, or as a gift for the foodie in your family. These gifts have been chosen buy the Gourmet Direct team as must have items in their kitchen.

1. Sparkling Water from Sodastream

A soda stream machine can sparkle your chilled water as NZ water is fantastic, ‘who wants to buy imported water’ say Napier store manager Pia Russell. Watch the video below of how the SodaStream “Crystal” product works. You can even sparkle your white wine for bubbles! This is the only one in the range that serves direct to glassware (not plastic) so you can pop directly on your dining table afterwards. Buy for $159.99 from your nearest Briscoes or online.


2. Meat Thermometer from iGrill

The black digital grilling thermometer with dual probes means you’ll know exactly the minute your meat is cooked from the outside through to the bone. There’s an iPhone app that will notify you when your meat is ready. This is Ian Christie’s foodie tip. ‘If there’s a meat geek in your family, this is the ultimate gift for them’. Buy for $119.95 from BBQ’s and More here.


3. Gourmet Meat Packs

‘The best gifts are the ones that are experienced’ says Gourmet Direct Marketing Manager Ryan Jennings. ‘I give meat packs to family before Christmas and to business colleagues for their support throughout the year’. Gourmet meat packs can be made to suit your recipient or designed to exactly the right budget you have. ‘It’s an easy way to gift great memories, to people you care about’ says Ryan. Gift Packs are available from Gourmet Direct with great gift packs available for $250 or so.


4. Knife Sharpening

‘Sharp knives are safe knives’ says Lance our Remuera Butcher. You can slice and dice to your heart’s content to create culinary magic without any stress if you have sharp knives. Lance will sharpen your knives for you at our butcher in Remuera. Outside of Auckland, try a Steel Sharpeners. Buy for just $44.99 from Living and Giving or see us at our shop, map below.

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The Art of the Summer BBQ – how to cook steak

The Art of the Summer BBQ has many opinions but underlying all of these, should be a healthy respect for the meat. Kate King – co-owner of Gourmet Direct shares the Art of the Summer BBQ with us and how to cook steak.

Meat Temperature Preparation

“Take the meat out of the fridge well ahead of time. Give yourself at least 30 minutes and consider the depth of the cut. If it’s a thick cut steak, say 200 or 250 grams, the meat will need 30 minutes.” says Kate King.

The GD Test: You can touch the meat without shock to body temperature. When meat hits the skillet, it’s warm, not freezing cold.

Why is this important

“Proteins of meat are sensitive to temperature abuse throughout their lifecycle. At Gourmet Direct we understand the lifecycle journey of muscle to meat. That’s important because once you shock meat with temperature abuse, the proteins tighten and they don’t release again. Although it’s not a bomb disposal exercise, you don’t have to be super careful with modern meats. With spring lamb, Rose Veal, good beef and venison, the proteins in the meat have to be treated with respect. That means no thumping it on the table and tenderising.

BBQ Meat sauces, marinades & rub preparation

“Salt plays quite an important part in enhancing and drawing out good flavours in beef and lamb, but only put it on at the last minute. Salt extracts moistures, so don’t put on 30 mins before. Don’t use salt in marinade, unless you’ve got tough meat. If it’s tough, throw in a couple of kiwifruit too.”

Use good salt, good pepper and good butter. Once you’ve oiled the meat with a good coating of olive oil, add a small quantity of Lewis Road butter on the BBQ straight before the meat. Consider inserting garlic inside if is a big slice of meat. These are just simple things done well.”

The GD Test: You should be able to enjoy the individual flavours on the plate with meat the hero of the dish.

Why is this important

“If you’ve got a good cut, you shouldn’t need to bomb it with a huge amount of sauces and rubs. Good quality ingredients, then common sense to a large degree. Your guest should be able to enjoy the individuals flavours on the plate, rather than making a ‘big meat milkshake’. You don’t have to do that unless you’re an astronaut!”

How to get the best from your BBQ

How hot should the BBQ be

“Overheating and searing way too hot isn’t a good idea for modern cuts of meat. You can get a good seal without smoking out the neighbourhood. Nine times out of ten, the proteins won’t like it too much. Turn your BBQ down and let the proteins settle. If you slow cook, gently sear and get a nice BBQ crust happening. Do what Americans do, let it cook slowly. If you’re going to do slow, do real slow. 2 hours isn’t slow.”

“Be conscious of what you add as marinade. Honey and pomegranate will burn on the BBQ. If you want those flavours, think about how to have them so they won’t be charred or ruin the flavour of the meat.”

The GD Test: The goal here is to create the equivalent of searing steak on a skillet and finishing in the oven.

How long to cook the meat

For ‘rare’ cook 2 minutes per side.

Rest 2–3 minutes, even up to 5 minutes.

Double the numbers for ‘well done’.

Half way in between for medium rare.

“It’s difficult to give advice for BBQ’s because the outside conditions change. On a cold day you’ll get more temperature fluctuation. If you spent 7 grand on a BBQ you can treat it more like an oven. You know your BBQ the best. If you’re using a BBQ recipe, take into consideration where the recipe came from. Look at original of recipe. English medium rare is a lot medium than rare. America is more rare than medium. Where was book published, where are they from. Chances are you need to adapt to kiwi BBQ conditions when looking at temperature conditions. Same with buying US thermometer vs English thermometer. Take this into consideration.

The GD Meat Test: Hold your thumb and forefinger together, then add your second and third fingers. The more give, the rarer the meat.

Why is this important

Rule is if its underdone you can do something about it. Overdone, it’s over. Less is more. Don’t be afraid to add extra resting time, especially if it has bone in it.

How long to rest the meat

The rule is, rest in the oven at 180 degrees for 3 minutes for beef. Every oven is different and you will know your oven best. Make sure you rest the meat after the oven too.


“Source a piece of stone to cook pizza on the BBQ, from the local headstone maker. Take advantage of your headstone maker before you’re dead! A good slab of stone is an essential in a kitchen. It’s also the cheapest place to get marble. Marble great for pastry rolling it, keeps cold. Marble is sensitive to knife cuts so talk to your headstone guy about the best one.

Fresh rosemary, aromatic herbs and stick them on the shelf underneath and that infuses a beautiful flavour.

BBQ Lamb Cutlets with fresh asparagus and new spuds

There’s something about getting a recipe handwritten with your meat that tells you this dish is going to be special. When we’re asked for meat advice, we’re happy to oblige! This recipe is a simple twist on lamb rack that elevates the BBQ from a snarler and drumsticks band to a full singing orchestra. Here’s what you need to know.

Pick a packet of Lamb French Racks with 2 inside from our display cabinet or find them here.


We’re going to marinate these for 24 hours, or at a push at least a couple of hours. Smash some garlic, skin on. Gather herbs, lotsa fresh mint, rosemary, parsley. Get some lemon zest ready and salt and pepper ready too.


Slice the racks into single cutlets and place in non metal bowl so there’s no bowl taint. Give it a good drizzle of olive oil.


24 hours later, your bowl full of cutlets is presenting a beautiful aroma! Time to get these on the BBQ.


Charcoal BBQ will enhance the flavours even further, gas will get the job done in a snap.


Serve with fresh asparagus and new spuds and you’re ready to go. A good bottle of Pinot goes well, as does some of Noel’s Aromatic Te Mata Sauce.


Make sure you order the fine weather in advance! This photo is taken from Bluff Hill, Napier which is about 10 minutes walk from our Gourmet Direct Ahuriri Shop.


Triple Apricot Pie


This pie gets eaten at warp speed.



¼ sheet of Gourmet Direct flaky full butter pastry

2 cups of preserved Apricots – drain the fluid and reserve

2 Tbsp good quality tart Apricot jam

1 generous handful dried Otago Apricots sliced thinly

Juice of 1 Lemon

Rind of 1 Lemon

Sprinkle of white sugar

Splash of Verjuice

Icing sugar to dust

Three injections of Apricot goodness.

Preheat your oven to 200 C.
Roll the pastry out thinly  –
2/3rds for the bottom of the pie and 1/3rd for the top.

Boil your electric jug and briefly soak the dried apricots
to soften.

Spread the jam evenly over the base of the pie. Fill the
case with the drained Apricots.  Drain
the dried Apricots and spread evenly over the pie dish. Sprinkle with white
sugar and squeeze juice of a lemon over the top.  Grate the lemon zest over the top. Reduce
half a cup of the Apricot juice mixed with a splash of verjuice until
thickened.  Pour 3 tbsp of this liquid
over the top of the fruit.

Place a lid on the pie and trim the edges pushing them
together with your fingers. Cut wee holes in the top of the pastry.  Cook in preheated oven for approx 30 minutes
or until puffed up, golden brown and crispy.
Allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Dust with icing sugar and serve.

Lamb Shank Redemption – Slow Cooked Lamb

In this article I give you a Lamb Shank recipe and some slow cooked Lamb cooking tips.

The Lamb shank season has self extended owing to inclement weather and a proliferation of rugby making them a year round option. Hopefully this Lamb Shank recipe will inspire you to take the time to prepare this very popular slow cooked lamb cut. Lamb Shanks are not something I would recommend you cook on the Barbie but I bet people do. The fact is we sell more in the Winter when slow cooking comes well into fashion.  Once tossed to the dogs Lamb Shanks are now  much coveted and indeed eagerly anticipated when on offer. Largely due to the length of time it takes to complete most Lamb Shank recipes and the divine aromas created along the way, your guests will always appreciate the end result. So how to choose and then to cook?  How can this be hard I hear you say?  It’s not, but there are things to look out for along your culinary way.

Choose nice fat hindshanks with good colour.

Foreshanks and hindshanks provide the first fork in the road. Depending on your Lamb Shank recipe, it could call for either one.  Lamb foreshanks are from the fore legs (not the four legs) of the sheep. They are distinctive by their slimmer more muscly appearance. Unlike your choice of human mate these characteristics are not necessarily indicative of quality when choosing dinner. Good quality Lamb foreshanks are more than suitable for your favorite recipe but I always try to source hindshanks as a first choice. Lamb hindshanks have a lot more meat on them and look like mini lamb roasts. Each shank will weigh approx 450gms if they’re any good. Cook at least 2 at once and preferably 4. It’s going to take you the same amount of time and work to prepare 2 or 4 or 6. Just make sure you adjust the recipe to ensure your Lamb Shanks are covered during their slow cook.  You never know when you might get unexpected guests so you might as well invest in more meat and reward yourself one tired night when you can whip a home made meal out of the freezer and in record time you have a scrumptious slow cooked Lamb Shank meal on the table.

Lamb Hindshank slow cooked with Gourmet Direct Lamb Glaze

There was a time when you were obliged to buy lamb shanks frozen but now with year round lamb supply you should be able to pick them up chilled ready to cook. Not that frozen is a bad thing these days but that’s a whole other blog.

So now your mouth is watering and you want a Lamb Shank recipe. Each lamb shank added contributes to the flavor intensity of the entire dish. We very rarely sell less than two packs at a time. It’s who we are.

So how to cook ? Well it’s easy. Dredge each shank in flour and shake off the excess. Chop celery onions carrots and garlic . Fresh bay leaves if you can otherwise dried will suffice. Julia Child would have you sear the shanks then roast briefly to further toast the flour and ensure flavor and thickening success. Turn them after the first ten minutes. Then remove from the oven. Sear off the chopped veges, the quantity of which  will depend on the quantity of shanks. Now you can add 1 tsp of good tomato paste per shank. Mix with the shanks. Add the veges. Deglaze the vege pan with a good pour of balsamic vinegar. Add your favorite stock or gourmet direct beef glaze for those in the know. Add the juice to your shanks. Season with sea salt and fresh black pepper. Add enough good stock to cover the shanks. You can 50/50 with good red wine here if the budget allows. Cook slowly. I can’t speak well enough of my breville rectangular crock pot but your oven in a cast iron pot will do the same. Allow a few hours to finish til the meat is falling off the bone- longer if you dream of  shank ragout and fresh papadelle pasta.

Roll the credits.  More Lovely Lamb Shank Recipes.