Lauraine Jacobs

Food & Wine Writer

16 August 2014

IMPROMPTU PART ONE

Open the fridge, scour the pantry, twenty minutes later; lunch!

I love cooking at the beach, even if it is winter and there's slim pickings in the farmer's market until the weather get warmer (and drier.)

This was our lunch today. A riff on the Genoese classic, cappon magro. Traditionally this is a cold seafood dish, cooked as a Christmas treat. Italy is weathering winter around late December so this is appropriate for mid winter in New Zealand.

Carrots and cauliflower star in the dish. So that's where I started. There's no need for exact quantities. I included a small cauliflower, chopped and blanched and about half a dozen baby carrots, halved and blanched. I layered these with an assortment of lettuce and mesclun leaves plucked from my pot plants, one large acid free tomato chopped, two hard boiled fresh free range eggs from Jenny Quayle at Matakana Farmers market, a chardonnay vinaigrette with freshly chopped mint.

The piece de resistance? A tin of ALBO pulpo - delicious octopus in a salty olive oil which I always keep in my pantry. (Sabato import). YUM!

31 July 2014

INNOVATIVE FOODS

I love meeting new food producers, tasting new products and seeing old friends. I went to the food show today and my first stop was the Auckland on the Menu precinct. Huge congratulations to ATEED for pulling this showcase together and assisting some of our local innovative food heroes to put their products to the market under their organisation.

Do not go past that area without checking out Greg and Kath of Salumeria with their new pork and leek sausages, the fabulous Tringhams of Curious Croppers with their amazing pasta sauce they have created with Sean Connolly’s help, Rob and Lisa Hay of Mahurangi Oysters, Genevieve’s stunning mousse she has made with their Mahurangi Oysters, the Black Garlic Aioli made by four young enterprising students from Manurewa High School, Dollop, Hot Samoan Boys and so much more. Here are my top picks of the show:

Best of the Show:

• The brand new West Coast Cocoa Merchants. Everything was fantastic from the packaging and the presentation of the booth, through to the totally knock-out cocoa to the flavours of silky rich chocolate drinks and The Chai. The Chai. The Chai. I loved it all. My top pick of the year.

More Great Stuff:

• Salumeria Fontana’s pork and leek sausages – the most meaty, flavoursome, sophisticated sausages ever.

• Chantal Organics four flavours of tahini, their new rice syrup, some amazing peanut butter and organic kale powder, ready for your smoothies.

• Satya’s new Indian spice range; the picks for me were the dark roasted cumin and their garam masala mix, ready to grind in a purposeful jar.

• Heilala Vanilla Virgin Coconut Oil – more coconutty flavour than every other coconut oil

• Giapo tiramisu ice cream – smooth, creamy and brimming with the very best ingredients. The stuff of dreams.

  • Genevieve's new Creamy Mahurangi Oyster mousse - sublime on thin hot toast. This woman does everything so well!.

• Urban Bakery’s Ginger and dark chocolate cookies

And it was also good to catch up with Wilcox potatoes from Pukekohe, the happy team from Uncle Joes with their Walnut oil of Marlborough and other newly awarded oils they’d claimed in a London exhibition, Cloudy Bay clams, genuine organic Urban Hippie miso from Nelson, and full marks to the Heritage who had their chef Jinu Abraham cooking the remarkable raw and vegan food you can experience in the hotel. Loved his raw cocoa nib truffles!

And don’t miss the food from Brazil and all the lovely folk on the large Korean foods stand. And stop by and chat with the guys at Taste mag, Food mag, the Healthy Food Guide and the effervescent talented Mike McHugh of Mindfood.

30 July 2014

NEW ZEALAND"S BEST PIE

We love our pies. We eat them on the road, as a snack, for lunch and dinner, and whenever we are hungry. Our favourite is the mince and cheese of course. Especially when crowned with a buttery flaky pastry top.

Last night at the Bakels Supreme Pie Awards the Supreme Pie of 2014 was the Lamb Cutlet & Kumara Mash pie, baked by Michael Kloeg at his Clareville Bakery in Carterton. A fine example of kiwi food innovation as no two ingredients could be more iconic than NZ lamb and NZ kumara.

Too bad about broadcasters Sean Plunket and Marcus Lush who are so unsophisticated they declared this morning they couldn't even imagine how good this pie might be! I would happily travel the roundtrip to the Wairarapa just to try this pie.

More than 4000 pies were entered and some of this year's more exotic entries included rabbit and wild boar, caramelised rhubarb and wildberry, chilli con carne, spiced duck with bacon, and a ‘cheeky cheese’ slow cooked beef cheek and cauliflower cheese pie.

The gala event at which I was hosted was a bit of a circus; amazing circus antics from some very double jointed artists who had the audience enthralled. The best bit however was to see how humble gold medal winners were when presented with their awards. Many of these superb bakers are recent immigrants and they have truly embraced the Kiwi traditions of baking and are producing many amazing award winning pies. It was a privilege to be there to applaud their success.

24 July 2014

MUSINGS ON DRY JULY

Over the past three weeks I have had one only alcoholic drink. That was yesterday and it was a small glass of Dom Perignon 2004. It would have been extremely rude not to accept that as I was invited to an exclusive preview of the Dom Perignon Room, a new initiative at Clooney. (Very exclusive as there were just six of us.) But I am participating in Dry July so drinking anything much apart from water, tea or the occasional coffee is out for me.

My motivation was not to lose weight (I would go on a diet to do that) nor to wake up with a clear head (I always do that), and neither was it to support the Dry July charity (apart from my own generous donation, of course.) My reason was purely and simply triggered by the sign in the entry foyer at Auckland Hospital I spied while visiting my mother, inviting me to go a month without an alcoholic drink, and hopefully raise a little money to support the gifting of extra equipment and some treats that would make cancer patients lives more bearable. So, yes. I could be that strong!

I have been shocked and hurt by the response from the booze industry. Many who work in wine, spirits and associated promotion seem to have lashed out in wrath like a ton of bricks. It seems they believe their livelihood is threatened, despite the fact only 5,800 kiwis signed up which is a mere fraction of one percent of the two and a half million or more adults of drinking age in New Zealand. Some even suggested we could give up dairy for a month “The Cheese Freeze” or eat no lamb in September “Embaaargo” (sorry Rebecca, lambs of 4 weeks old are too young to eat in September anyway.) How silly. Yet there’s a huge movement called Meatless Mondays headed up by Sir Paul Macartney and family and I have never heard a single person bleat about that.

So I am completely puzzled as to why the poor souls who make our wine, sell hard liquor or produce drinks for public consumption believe their livelihood is threatened by Dry July and have even gone so far as to attack the Dry July Team’s administrative practices (“Do you know where that money ends up?” one critic asked.)

Dry July has not stopped me going to restaurants, not stopped me opening wine for friends and not stopped me buying wines to stock our cellar. But it has enabled me to make a couple of really important observations that I want to share, and believe me this month has really woken me up to:

• Never drive even after one drink.

• And never post anything on Facebook or Twitter after a night drinking, at home or out in the company of others.

(And also thanks to the one anonymous person who donated to DRY JULY in my name!)

24 July 2014

A PUSH FOR FOOD TOURISM

Why does FOOD not have top billing on our tourism agenda? The fastest growing area of any tourism thrust around the world is Food Tourism. Yet New Zealand with some of the world’s freshest and cleanest food and wine, seems to be ever so slowly waking up to the possibilities of promotion.

Ireland (Good Food Ireland) and Ontario (Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance) have long had exemplary programmes to attract and encourage tourists to indulge in the superb eating opportunities. Australia has just announced a major initiative for food tourism which they’ve called Restaurant Australia. So why is our tourism focus on hobbits, thrill seeking adventurers and stunning scenery? When did you last see a tourism posted exhorting traveller to visit for food and wine?

Our food and wine are rarely publicised and rather understated, just like much in the kiwi psyche. We base much of our working economy on the export dollars earned by sending our food products overseas, so why not encourage the world’s food lovers to visit and indulge in our excellent cuisine here in the very place it is grown and harvested.

Elle Armon Jones, an energetic and enthusiastic food lover started a food tourism business in Auckland, The Big Foody. Armon Jones is out almost every day with food tourists as she designs bespoke food tours to showcase the Auckland Region and beyond.

“Clients find me on the web, email with requests for my tours but also want to know everything connected with food. They will pay around S165 per person for five 5 hour tour, and certainly forgo flash hotels so they can spend more in our very best restaurants. They are curious for the stories, the tastes and to experience the food production side of our country,” she explained. “Once they finish my tour they will have introductions to other producers throughout the country, have lists and reservations for the restaurants I recommend and know exactly which specialty foods to look for. I take delight in giving them a ‘braggable’ experience. They return home talking about unique experiences like a visit to the Whangaripo Buffalo farm, seeing the herd being milked and tasting the cheeses, or picnicking on goodies bought at a local farmers market under the shady olive trees at a large olive plantation.”

Visitors to New Zealand also want authentic Maori experiences with genuine activities, so she arranges to gather clams and cook them over an open fire by the beach, helps them make Maori fried bread or spend an hour or two out on a waka in the harbour with a feast to follow. She knows that the dollars tourists spend have a far greater impact when they go direct to local producers. Visitors spend on memorable tastes, unique edible gifts and take the stories home with them.

Armon Jones focussed her sights on bringing the World Food Travel Association’s summit to New Zealand. Working with the assistance of ATEED (Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development) and NZ Tourism, she has landed the rights to the 2017 conference to be held in Auckland. This will be a serious opportunity to showcase the best food and wine of all our regions.

The time has come for the vision for a food and wine trail to stretch from North Cape to Bluff like the cycle trail currently under construction. Apart from a few places where regional pride in food has established an advertised pathway around the district such as the very good Hawke’s Bay food and wine trail, the Central Otago wine trail, or a stunning fortnight-long event like Wellington on a Plate, we’re hiding our most shining light from the glare of possible publicity. Every region has food specialties and what better to seek them close to where they’re grown – it wouldn’t be hard to create and co-ordinate a blueprint for a trail of all things delicious and to promote that internationally.

This piece was published in the Listener as part of my cover story on Kiwi Kai.

24 July 2014

WHO KNEW? FOOD INNOVATION

A well-designed modern facility in the maze of roads surrounding Auckland airport stands out from the other industrial sheds. It is the Foodbowl, a state of the art resource where our people are leading with some of the world’s food innovation and development projects. With gleaming stainless steel benches, modern high tech equipment, a highly developed security system and access to experts and food scientists, it provides a national web of science and technology resources created to support the growth of food and beverage businesses.

We all hear mutterings of new foods, but the New Zealand Food Innovation Network is forging ahead helping small producers with great ideas to get some clever products into the international and local markets. As Angus Brown, manager of the Foodbowl explained, New Zealand can’t feed the world from our tiny islands, but we can provide premium products that will earn more export dollars than simply exporting the raw materials we grow so well. It is all about adding value and providing the food solutions the world seeks.

Products like the healthful beverages of the Homegrown Juice Company which are raw-cold pasteurised so that taste and nutrition are not diminished and the natural flavours seem to leap from the bottle, or Genevieve Knight’s smooth gourmet pâtés and her latest creamy Mahurangi oyster mousse, Henry McKenzie’s IAMSAUCE, a tasty seasoning sauce relatively low in salt with no additives, preservatives or added sugar and a two year best by date, and the superb Fresh As range of freeze dried fruits have all been developed here. And a host of others as both large and start-up food companies take advantage of the facilities during the development stage of their new and exciting food products.

Additionally there are experts to assist and advise with food safety requirements, documentation, packaging and export marketing. Most importantly confidentiality is guaranteed so that no-one else can gain from the intellectual property that is the result of the development process.

Food Innovation Network, funded by regional councils, central government and Callaghan Innovation, is the umbrella for work being carried out at Food Waikato, Food Hawkes Bay, the Food Pilot at Massey University and the associated Riddet Institute, and Food South Island. Each of the territories and four regional food product development centres has a different focus depending on the needs, maturity, strengths and capabilities of local businesses. Between them, they offer a complementary suite of services. The Innovation Network also works alongside Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to get our value added foods into overseas market - proudly supporting New Zealand grown and made.

1 July 2014

THE GREAT NEW ZEALAND COOKBOOK

The Great New Zealand Cookbook, published this month, celebrates the emerging diversity in our cuisine. Leafing through the pages you will not blanch at the variety displayed in the range of recipes from 80 of our best cooks, chefs and bakers. That’s our food!

Vibrant cuisines of immigrants and travelled chefs have stamped bold influences on the way we eat. Mexican, Japanese, Chinese, Greek, Italian, Thai and Polynesian recipes inspire the fare we savour and devour every day.

I am honoured to be part of this book; it is an amazing slice and insight into the contemporary food scene of New Zealand. That's my page and there's no prize for guessing what season my recipes represent.

The team that pout this together are amazing and were such fun to work with. thanks Murray Thom Music for including me!

On sale everywhere now but please buy your copy at your local New World as they have been so generous in support of this terrific project.

1 July 2014

MEREDITHS WITH A CAUSE

It was far too long since I had been to Merediths. But the thought of a special night with a special cause was a no brainer.

Michael Meredith is one hugely talented chef. His food is often quirky and always carefully thought through and delicious. His insistence on the degustation menu was our stumbling block as six or eight courses at night is quite tough when we usually only have one or two courses.

But for now on Tuesday nights, Merediths Restaurant will be supporting the Fred Hollows Foundations through "Dine by Donation" by offering a Four Course Degustation menu (cost by donation only, beverages additional).

So we went to this stunning restaurant last week and had four 'experimental' courses of delicious food. Standouts were the clever play on a Caesar salad and the terrific duck dish pictured above.

The restaurant itself has been refined and I loved the plants, the decoration and the intimacy. A superb evening. Don't miss this opportunity to eat well and support a great cause.

to make a donation: givealittle.co.nz/cause/365eyes

Merediths, 365 Dominion Rd T 09 623 3140

15 May 2014

LOST IN TRANSLATION

“Here’s a recipe that will change your life.” When I read something like that from Amanda Hesser, I take notice. The former NY Times writer (did you see her playing herself in Julie and Julia?) has a website, FOOD52, which is a treasure trove of recipes, food stuff, competitions and really knows how to connect with keen cooks.

The recipe turned out to be, wait for it: Peanut Butter Pavlova. As a New Zealander I was outraged at such a travesty. The pavlova was invented here, and I have previously published the definitive recipe in my Listener food column. Baked often by my mother, it was passed to her by my grandmother who actually baked it for the young Queen Elizabeth when she was on her 1952 tour of the South Pacific (my grandfather grew the strawberries specially.) Peanut butter in this lovely meringue concoction? Poof!

But then I noticed the recipe had been created by Alice Medrich. I love her. I met her at an El Rey chocolate dinner in San Francisco many years ago. She is the queen of chocolate cookery and a great baker. After reading my tweet that expressed such indignation, Alice contacted me. I agreed to bake her recipe before squawking anymore.

But here’s the catch. America, the land of innovation that led the world in techie stuff, and is the mother of most inventions has yet to discover metric measurement. So cooking any American recipe is fraught with difficulties. My oven does not register Fahrenheit, my scales only measure in grams, nobody knows what an inch is any longer and what the hell is a cup? Added to that my own experience tells me that cornstarch is cornflour, superfine sugar is caster sugar, parchment is baking paper, and heavy cream is probably cream. Does everyone know that?

As for peanut butter, Alice told me in a message to use smooth peanut butter, not the sweetened type. Sweeten peanut butter? Yikes! Why? Only in America. I have no idea just how our peanut butter differs from the American stuff, and I was not sure how to measure half a cup, but I boxed on.

I followed Alice’s instructions as well as I could. And they were very clear and precise. But my peanut butter pavlova looked nothing like Alice’s. It crumbled around the edges. I suspect I overmixed the peanut butter into the meringue. I may have baked it at too high a temperature. Perhaps Pic’s peanut butter, made in New Zealand with organically grown Australian peanuts is nothing like American peanut butter? Maybe recipes really do get lost in translation?

But here’s the thing. I took the peanut butter pavolva, topped with cream and persimmon slices in place of strawberries which are no longer in season, to my 91 year old mother. She adored it! She really did. The proof is always in the eating. Go Alice and Amanda!

The peanut butter recipe can be found on the FOOD52 website.

15 May 2014

A TASTE OF CHABLIS

For lovers of good wine, I am going to share a secret.

Last night my husband booked us to a Chablis tasting at Maison Vauron in McColl St in Newmarket. For those who don’t know this culinary destination in the back streets, this may be the fastest way to get to France without buying an airplane ticket. Jean Christophe and Scotty run a little café/wine warehouse where downstairs you can have a coffee, buy French inspired snacks, experience the most amazing selection of French cheeses and feel very Parisien. Upstairs the warehouse is stacked with a huge array of everything good that comes out of a bottle in France – wine! But not the expensive snobby stuff that is waxed on about by Robert Parker. No.

Jean Christophe and Scotty go to France several times a year and find absolute treasures from small producers in a range of prices to suit every good palate without breaking the bank. And they are such neat guys. Every so often they organise tastings like our Chablis tasting.

We worked our way through nine wines. And we learned so much about Chablis. JC is so funny, almost without knowing it. He told us Chablis is the Sacre Coeur of Burgundy – the star that shines above all else just like the famous church does over Paris. We tasted one ‘Petit Chablis’, two ‘Chablis’ three ‘Premier Cru Chablis’ and three magnificent ‘Grand Cru Chablis’ wines. They are priced from $31 to $80 and my favourite was the Denis Race Chablis Grand Cru Blanchots 2011 - a wine I could have happily sipped away on forever.

But there was more! We were served Clevedon Coast oysters in the shell to start, then one warm oyster Florentine topped with champagne sabayon. With the second flight of wines, a very generous portion of flaky ocean fresh hapuku with vegetable julienne. The third flight were the Grand Cru wines, accompanied by fabulous cheese. Oozy Chaource from Burgundy and the wonderfully savoury Comte from the Savoie.

An amazing evening. Get on Maison Vauron’s mailing list for future wine tastings, and in the meantime go visit this little corner of France at 5 McColl St, Newmarket 1023, T 09-529 0157