The recent inaugural Feast Waikato proved beyond doubt that the small food producers in New Zealand have talent. From award-winning boutique butters, ferments and cheeses to brews, honeys and ice cream, these dedicated entrepreneurs are at the forefront of the country’s culinary discoveries.
Rory and Helen O’Brien of Hunter & Gather Bee Co (huntandgatherbeeco.com) are a great example. Wanting to be part of an industry that had a more positive effect on the environment and the future of their young family, they ditched their jobs, sold their Cromwell house, shifted to Raglan, bought some bee hives, moved into the ‘bee’ shed and started work. Their first year’s bounty was a ‘sweet success’ — a sell-out. The couple concentrate on producing specialised honeys such as their award-winning, malty Rewarewa (NZ honeysuckle) honey.
Then there are the three mums who had a passion for raw, unpasteurised, fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut and — wait for it — fermented pesto. Their GoodBugs (goodbugs.co.nz)process brings a whole new taste sensation to pesto that can be added to muffins, dips and is delicious served with pasta.
Cajeta (a Mexican sauce) is a very new product from Cilantro artisan cheesemakers, Monica Salerno and Jenny Oldham (cilantrocheese.co.nz). Prepared from goat’s milk, it is slow-cooked with mixed spices and sugar. The resulting delight has a cream-cheese like texture with explosive flavour. Drizzle it over ice cream, spread on pancakes, stir into coffee or enjoy straight from the spoon.
MUESLI & HONEY SCONES
I used the Muesli Company’s Macadamia Nut (themueslicompany.co.nz) variety and chopped the larger nuts. When cutting the scones, press straight down rather than twist. Twisting can make for uneven scones. The buttermilk (bellefield.co.nz) was from the Cambridge Farmer’s market.
2 1/2 cups self-raising flour
25g chilled butter, chopped
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon malty-flavoured honey eg Rewarewa
1/2 cup roasted muesli
extra butter or spread and honey for serving
Preheat the oven to 220°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Place the flour in a large bowl. Rub the butter in with your fingertips. Add the buttermilk and honey and mix evenly. Add the muesli. Tip onto a floured bench and knead gently to fully incorporate the muesli.
Pat or roll into a 2cm (approx.) thick oblong. Using a 5-6cm biscuit cutter, form rounds of the dough. Press the scraps together gently and cut more rounds. Place about 1cm apart on the baking tray.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until browned. The tops can be brushed with a little honey after removing.
Serve with butter or spread and honey. Makes 12.
CIDER ONION SOUP
I sliced the onions using my food processor. No tears! Plum cider (goodgeorge.co.nz) provides delicious flavour depth to this soup.
1kg onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sugar
3 each: bay leaves, thyme sprigs
salt and pepper to taste
330g can plum cider
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock
Topping: 4-8 thick slices sourdough baguette or similar
3-4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
To make the soup, melt the butter in a large heavy-based saucepan. Add the onions, sugar and herbs and mix well. Season. Cook, uncovered on medium-low heat until browned, about 35 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Add the cider and simmer until reduced by half. Add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes or until the onions are very soft. Remove the bay leaves and thyme stalks.
Before serving, turn the grill to high. Spread the baguette slices with butter and grill both sides until golden. Top with the cheese and grill until just melted. Garnish with parsley. Serve on the soup. Serves 4 as a main.
CROISSANT CROSTINI WITH FERMENTED PESTO
The sharpness of GoodBugs fermented pesto balances the richness of the croissants.
2 croissants, halved
2 tablespoons butter
50g garlic & chive gouda cheese or similar, grated
4 tablespoons fermented pesto
fresh herbs to garnish
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Lightly butter the cut sides of the croissants. Place on a baking tray and bake for 5 minutes. Top with the cheese and continue baking until the cheese is just melted. Dot with the pesto. Serves 2 as a snack or nibbles with drinks.
Can't find cajeta? Use caramelised condensed milk combined with a little cream cheese.
125g butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons finely grated orange rind
1 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup plain yoghurt
Filling: 3 tablespoons cajeta
3 tablespoons icing sugar
yoghurt for serving.
Preheat the oven to 160°C. Line a 6-8 hole patty pan with paper cases.
Cream the butter and sugar, until light. Add the eggs and the orange rind, beating well.
Fold in the sifted flour and baking powder, alternately with the yoghurt.
Spoon into paper cases and bake for about 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool.
Using a teaspoon, scoop a round 'lid' from each cupcake. Fill the hole with about a teaspoon of cajeta. Top with the reserved lid. Dust with icing sugar and serve with yoghurt. Makes 6-8.