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Mariana Ryan: Eating in, in the pink

Thursday January 16, 2020 Written by Published in Art
With salmon, green beans and quinoa, this isn’t a local dish – but sometimes we crave something different to keep us satisfied and not sitting here looking at all the different food around the world online wishing we could jump on the next flight.   KATRINA TANIRAU 20011501-20011503 With salmon, green beans and quinoa, this isn’t a local dish – but sometimes we crave something different to keep us satisfied and not sitting here looking at all the different food around the world online wishing we could jump on the next flight. KATRINA TANIRAU 20011501-20011503

FOOD COLUMN: What’s for dinner? The inevitable question on everyone’s mind mid-afternoon here in Rarotonga. Heck, I start that anxiety triggering process from the moment I wake up.

I see it every day on my 100th but last trip to the supermarkets, it is always a clearly visible stressful time and try not to think I’m evil but, sometimes a little entertaining seeing people standing there with a blank, confused look over the face before they even get fully in the store.

Most, like ourselves end up grabbing the same old boring meats, veg and carb. Hardly ever anything new, or you just end up hitting the local take-out that night.

Because let’s be honest, most things taste better when you don’t have a kitchen to clean up after!

Well it’s a new year people and it’s time to get creative. There’s a lot more available the you may think.

Let me show you an easy, new, and accessible meal to please most. But first, let me introduce myself.

Hey, I’m Mariana Ryan the co-owner of Kai & Co Eatery and cafe alongside with my partner, Maeva Rongo.

I’m not a chef like Maeva but a passionate cook and menu creator. From a young age I’ve been weirdly obsessed with everything food.

We’re talking 5 years old, watching cooking shows over cartoons, cooking magazines over colouring books. Yeah that strange (chubby) child.

Parents having a dinner party? No worries! Personal little cook ready to handle the whole night’s feasting, but you wouldn’t dare come into my domain or you would have been smite!

It wasn’t till I was much older and met Maeva, an actual chef/hero who would help bring my dreams of cooking professionally to life.

A long love story, blood, sweat and tears Kai & Co came about, my playpen for foodie creations. and the rest is history.

Enough about that though and onto the food! Most of our regulars know we generally have a certain style of cooking. We like to combine cuisines, focus on fusion mash-ups and play with new products or put our twist on an oldie for our weekly specials.

Some love it and some don’t and what I’ve come to learn is you can’t please everyone and that’s fine.

But, just like you when it comes to home cooking, especially after doing it for a living, we even get a bit stunted for new dinner ideas.

So when I got asked to write up a recipe I thought, what a great challenge to try create something new and easy enough for people to cook at home and add it to the repertoire.

So I’ve chosen a protein a lot would usually immediately cross out because of maybe the price (which isn’t that bad) or just haven’t dealt with it before. For this recipe I have chosen salmon. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, stay with me.

I did want to choose something I don’t see a lot of people or even restaurants here use. You just might be surprised on how delicious and even a little different it can be.

You can always sub the salmon out for maybe mahimahi, parrot fish or other locally-caught fish. But try give this lonely little guy in the freezer section at Prime foods a crack. You just might have a new favourite.

I have also chosen to work with a carb that looks quite daunting to some but is also delicious and nutritious:.quinoa, a grain/seed that is rich in protein, fibre and B vitamins. Not only good for you, but I love the fluffy texture and it doesn’t leave you feeling as heavy as a normal rice/carb does.

Plus it’s great hot or cold tossed and through salads. I have sourced the majority of the ingredients from Prime foods, their salmon is always great quality and generally have a good selection of local veggies.

If like me you miss the morning markets they should have you covered. So with all that being said, let’s get into the kitchen!

Herb and lemon-baked salmon with quinoa,
roasted veges and cheat’s pesto mayo

Serves: 2-3
Cooking time: 1 hour
Tools: Oven, sheet pan, basic kitchen utensils like spatula, knife, cutting board, baking paper

2 raw salmon fillets thawed (not smoked salmon)
1 cup red, white or mixed quinoa
2 cups water
3-4 good-sized zucchini and/or green beans
1 eggplant
1 red onion
8 Cherry Tomatoes
Pack of mixed fresh herbs (parsley, dill, coriander, basil)
¼ cup pre-made basil pesto (Prime Foods fridge section has a great ready pesto or you can make your own)
½ cup mayo
1 large lemon
2 cloves garlic
4 generous Tbspns olive oil
Salt and pepper


1. First things first we need to get the oven cranked up to 165-175C depending on how hot or not yours is. You be the judge. Grab a smallish pot, chuck in your chosen quinoa and give it a rinse under cold water. Drain well and pour in the 2 cups of water. Put on a medium to high heat with the lid off until it starts to bubble and water starts to evaporate, put on low and cover with the lid for a further 5-8 minutes and switch off with the lid still on and let sit.

Pretty much the same method as how you would cook rice but I find quinoa is a lot more forgiving if you might overcook it, hence why I love it so much! Now that’s done let it be and get onto the rest.

2. Grab your fresh herbs, garlic, lemon and olive. Chop the herbs as coarsely or finely as you like, crush the garlic and squeeze out the lemon into a small bowl with your olive oil and salt and pepper. Set aside.

3. Next up, gather your zucchini or green beans, eggplant and onion. Slice zucchini/onion/eggplant thinly into the desired shape and top and tail your beans. They shouldn’t need slicing but keeping in mind that they need to cook within a 12-18 minute time frame, so go as small as you can if you like your veggies well cooked. If not go a little thicker. Again you will have to use that noggin.

4. Almost there! Pull out that “cheats” pesto and mayo and combine in a small bowl, taste and see what else you might want extra in there. Garlic? Lemon? Up to you!

5. Were on the home stretch! Line your sheet pan with baking paper if you want easy cleaning and no sticking risk to be taken. Pop your veggies over half the tray and pour half your marinade onto them and toss.

With the left over marinade grab the salmon fillets and gently roll them around in the marinade bowl. Then place onto the other half of the tray along with the cherry tomatoes and slide the whole thing into your preheated hot oven.

Bake for 12-18 minutes or until your salmon just falls apart when poked in the centre with a butter knife and is a darkish pink colour in the centre not raw and lighter colour pink on the outside. All should be cooked evenly.

6. Once cooked to your satisfaction pull out of the oven and remove the salmon and cherry tomatoes to your serving plates and set aside.

7. Your quinoa will be perfectly fluffy by now and ready to be poured out onto the tray with the roasted veggies. Lightly toss them together and scoop desired amount onto your serving plates with your salmon and cherry tomatoes. Splodge some of your “cheats” pesto mayo on the side and if you can be bothered and have some fresh herbs left scrunch them over or maybe a squeeze of lemon and voila!

Dig into a healthy and satisfying meal without breaking the bank too much or skimping on flavour.

Level me up:

If you want to go the extra mile and don’t mind spending a little extra, I adore a little grilled haloumi or crumbled feta with this meal and for an added crunch factor some toasted nuts like slivered almonds and even pumpkin seeds.

Fresh herbs are my absolute favourite so don’t skimp on that fresh aspect of the meal. If you can get your hands on a whole lot of fresh herbs go crazy.

You can also make it more salad-like and add some fresh roquette or mesclun into or on the side of the quinoa veggie mix.

You’re probably thinking, “but Mariana, this isn’t a local dish?” And you’re right, it’s not.

I think a lot of people already know how to make the signature dishes of the island which we all love, but like my approach at Kai & Co.

Sometimes we crave something different, something foreign to keep us satisfied and not sitting here looking at all the different food around the world online wishing we could jump on the next flight just to taste its mythical goodness.

Here’s a pretty easy and accessible meal with local attributes you can cook here and as stated you can swap out that salmon for some local fish if you prefer. It’s really up to you and your taste buds at the end of the day.

If you have any questions regarding this recipe please send us a message on our Facebook Page @kaiandcoraro or give us a follow on Instagram @kai_and_co_raro.

With love and passion for the kai always, Mariana

The Bond Store wine match:  Wine match is a colour match, too

Wine: Wirra Wirra “Mrs Wigley” 2018 rosé
Region: McLaren Vale, South Australia

Mrs Wigley by any other name would still be a cracking good rosé.

Named after the Wirra Wirra vineyard cat (because any self-respecting winemaker needs a dog or cat to keep them company among the vats) this gorgeous blush-pink drink is made from South Australia’s cultish grenache.

So you don’t know your grenache from you gewurtztraminer? That’s not a problem.

The take-home message is simply that some seriously juicy grapes gave gone into the McLaren Vale’s top style of rosé, and this is no exception.

No lightweight, it doesn’t muck around with lollipop sweetness, adding ballast with a nice bit of tannin and all that luscious fruit showing cherry, raspberries and lime on the palate with herbaceous notes on the nose.

Grab a bottle from the Bond Liquor Store next time you’re in the market for an ideal afternoon aperitivo style of drink – just accessorise it with your all-white linen outfit to enjoy on its own or whip up a quick antipasto platter consisting of marinated vegetables, cheeses and cured meats.

While we’re on the subject of food, Kai & Co’s herb and lemon baked salmon with quinoa, vegetables and pesto mayo is the perfect example of Mrs Wigley’s perfect match.

It’s also a great, easy-going match for a pizza; making it easy is the name of this drinking game.

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