New Zealand could teach us a thing or two in a number of food related areas, they are obsessive about keeping plant animal and insect diseases out of the country. So woe betide anyone who tries to smuggle anything in or forgets they have a piece of fruit in the bottom of their bag. There are plenty of warnings at the points of entry, fines for the heedless are substantial and rightly so. Agriculture is a huge part of GNP. Fonterra is the biggest dairy company in the world and is responsible for more than a third of all international dairy trade and 25% of New Zealandâ€™s export earnings. Kiwi dairy farmers are doing well at present.
As in Ireland, New Zealand can grow brilliant grass yet New Zealand butter didnâ€™t seem to be so highly regarded in some foodie circles. Twice when I enquired about the best butter, I was surprised when it was suggested that I buy Lurpak.
In New Zealand, as in this part of the world artisan producers are growing in numbers and their produce despite recession is gaining popularity. Cuisine Wine Country magazine lists not only the top wine makers but the Farmerâ€™s Markets and Artisan Producers and of course cÃ¢fes and restaurants on both North and South Islands.
Farmers Markets are a good place to get a real insight into what local people are eating. I visited several during the course of a couple of weeks. The Hawkes Bay Farmerâ€™s Market in Hastings is the original and many would say still the best in New Zealand. Itâ€™s held every Sunday and is run by a voluntary committee. Itâ€™s mid Summer down under now so the stalls were over flowing with fruit and vegetables. The asparagus season was just over but there was a abundance of gorgeous cherries, stone fruit and berries. The New Zealanders have always been great picklers so there were lots of creative combinations made with both exotic garden and wild fruits.
I particularly loved Gernots preserves at the Hawkes Bay Farmers Market – sublime jams and jellies – all made from fruit grown in the local area – Crab apple and saffron Jelly, Apricot and Gin Jam, Tangelo and Cointreau Marmaladeâ€¦
Another company make a range of delicious products from St Andrews Limes including a superb lime and passion fruit curd, Feijoa and Black Pepper Jelly and a Lime and Fig Marmalade â€“ divine.
The Damson Company in Havelock North had a fantastically good damson paste, damson vinaigrette, damson chocolates and damson liqueur which is just like our damson gin. They have already been a recipient of the Cuisine Artisan Food Awards.
The North Island of New Zealand particularly is blessed with a Mediterranean climate hence the thriving wine and a growing olive oil industry. On the North Island we also made it our business to be in Matakana for the Saturday Farmerâ€™s Market one of the most stylish markets Iâ€™ve been to in any country.
We visited various farmers and cheese makers and a Omaha Blueberry farm where Robert and Shannon Auton grow 40 acres of organic blueberries close to the beach. Again they are highly innovative and even though they sell huge quantities of fresh blueberries, they encourage people to come onto the farm to eat their homemade blueberry ice cream, sorbets, yogurt and smoothies. I also visited Heilala Vanilla Company. The vanilla grows on the Pacific Island of Tonga and is processed in Tauranga on the North Island. In just a few short years Heilala Vanilla has swept the boards and beat all comers in blind tastings. They can scarcely keep up the demand for their vanilla extract, concentrated vanilla syrup and of course plump vanilla pods. The enterprise has saved an entire community in Tonga and they plan to market over this side of the world before too long.
The farmhouse cheese industry is also growing, we visited several dairies including Over the Moon in Putaruru on the road between Hamilton and Rotorua. They make a variety of cow, goat and sheepsmilk cheese and have recently set up a highly acclaimed cheese making school. Whangaripo Buffalo Cheese Company was equally fascinating. One normally associates buffalo milk with mozzarella but at present Phil Armstrong nicknamed Buffalo Phil and his lovely wife Annie make a fantastic creamy blue cheese called Marin Blue, a Pecorino type called St Malo, and produce thick unctuous yoghurt. We visited them on their lovely farm in Whangaripo valley and had a little feast of farmhouse cheese and cured sausage and fresh berries on a long table under a canopy in the field below their Summer bach.
They are just a few of the spirited innovative artisan producers we met who are creatively adding value to their produce. Many like Phil and Annie start by doing market research and selling their produce at the Famers Markets and to local chefs but soon are wooed by delis and in some cases supermarkets who are anxious to supply their customers with local food they increasingly demand.
Check out the following websites for more information and inspiration.
Pavlova with Kiwi Fruit or Passion Fruit
Pavlova is the quintessential Kiwi dessert, smothered with cream and seasonal fruit; itâ€™s still a huge favourite.
Serves 6 – 8
4 egg whites
4 ozs (110g/1 cup) castor sugar
2 teasp. cornflour
1 teasp. pure vanilla extract
2 teasp. white malt vinegar
Â½ pint (300ml) cream
4-5 kiwi fruit or the pulp of several ripe passion fruit
Garnish: fresh mint or lemon balm, sweet geranium
Preheat the oven to 150C\275F\regulo 1.
Line a baking tray with silicone paper (Bakewell). Check that your bowl and whisk are dry and free of grease. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then add the castor sugar, little by little at a time. Fold in the cornflour, vanilla extract and vinegar.
Spread the meringue mixture onto a 9 inch (23cm) round or oval on the silicone paper. Bake in the centre of a preheated oven for 45 minutes. Then turn off the oven and leave for a further hourto dry out and crisp. Cool on a wire rack and peel off the paper. Remove from the oven and peel off the paper. Cool on a wire rack. Allow to get quite cold.
Put the pavlova onto a serving plate. Whip the cream softly, smother the pavlova with cream and decorate the top with peeled and sliced kiwi fruit o drizzle with passion fruit puree generously. Garnish with mint or lemon balm leaves
Easy and gorgeous â€“ these little drop scones can be made in minutes, perfect for children to help with also.
Makes 30 approximately
2 free range eggs
100g (3Â½oz) caster sugar
275g (10oz) plain white flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
60g (2 Â¼ oz) melted butter
350ml (2fl oz) milk
Whisk the eggs and sugar together. Sieve dry ingredients together and fold gently into the base. Gradually whisk in the milk and finally the melted butter.
Heat the cast iron pan on a medium heat. Brush with a very little oil, put tablespoons of the batter well apart on the pan. Cook on one side until the bubbles burst, about 2 minutes. Flip over and continue to cook on the other side until golden. Eat warm with butter and caster sugar.
Passion Fruit Melting Moments
250g (9oz) butter
60g (2Â½ oz) icing sugar
210g (7 Â½ oz) plain white flour
50g (2oz) cornflour
50 g (2oz) butter
60g (2Â½ oz) icing sugar
sieved pulp of one ripe passion fruit
Preheat the oven to 180Â°C/350Â°F/ Mark 4.
Cream, the butter and icing sugar and beat until fluffy. Stir in the sieved flours. The mixture should be stiff but crumbly. Pipe into rosettes or form little balls and flatten with a fork in a criss cross pattern. Bake for 12 â€“ 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
Meanwhile make the filling, cream the butter, add the icing sugar and the sieved pulp of ripe passion fruit, beat until light and creamy Sandwich the melting moments together with a little of the passion fruit filling. Dredge with icing sugar and serve.
Scary stuff but addictive, so antipodean â€“ another great favourite down under.
Makes 10 x 10cm (4 x 4 in)
450g (1lb) chocolate dark (62% cocoa solids)
450g (1lb) marshmallows
175g (6oz) toasted hazelnuts
175g (6oz) almonds, toasted
175g (6oz) jelly beans
50g (2oz) cherries
20.5cm (8in) square tin lined with silicone paper
Melt the chocolate gently in a Pyrex bowl tepid water, allow to cool but while still liquid stir in the marshmallow, nuts, jelly beans and cherries. Toss gently to coat in the chocolate. Pour evenly into a lined tin and allow to set. Cut into 5cm (2in)
Rocky Road Ice Cream
Serves 20 approximately
450g (Ilb) Rocky Road
1.65 litres (2 Â¼ pints) Vanilla Ice Cream
Cut rocky road into pieces, fold into ice cream, freeze and enjoy.
Jeffâ€™s Redcurrant Tart
Serves 10 approximately
Jeff Bryant made this delicious tart especially for us with fresh red currants from his garden in Queenstown.
Â½ cup chopped walnuts (or hazelnuts/almonds) toasted
1 tbsp white or Demerara sugar
150g (5oz) butter
225g (8oz) sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
165g (6oz) self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
450g (1lb) of fruit (most other fruit could be substituted for the red currants)
Mix chopped, toasted nuts with first quantity of sugar and nonchalantly put aside.
Melt the butter in microwave bowl or in pot until just soft/liquid.ã€€ Add the cup of sugar, the eggs and vanilla and beat recklessly until blended.ã€€ Shake in the flour and bp and mix in with half the nut and sugar mix.
Spread the cake batter evenly in a buttered or sprayed 23-25 cm round (loose bottomed) cake tin.ã€€ Mixture raises as it cooks.
Place fruit (peeled/stoned/hulled whatever) over the mixture, press some in lightly into the base first, and then sprinkle over the rest of the sugar and nut mix with indifference.
Bake at 180Â°C/350Â°F/Mark 4 for about 40 minutes until cake has risen around the fruit and browned lightly.
Serve warm (if as a dessert) with an air of insouciance and a dollop of cream!
Mahon Point Farmers Market re-opens on Thursday 13th January and Midleton and Douglas Farmers Markets re-open on Saturday 15th January, 2011.www.cookingisfun.ie for more information. Bursaries available.www.organicrepublic.ie firstname.lastname@example.org 0863623918.
Learn how to grow vegetables, herbs, fruit and cut flowers.
Earn your living from your gardening skills â€“ The Ballymaloe Cookery School inaugural Diploma in Practical Horticulture begins Monday 28th February 2011. See
In seasonâ€¦ Marmalade oranges are in the shops now; organic Seville oranges are available from Catriona Daunt from Organic Republic who also deliver seasonal organic (certified) fruit and vegetable boxes in Cork city and suburbs. Order a box every two weeks or weekly, minimum box price â‚¬20.00