Lauraine Jacobs

Food Writer and Author of Delicious Books

Lauraine’s blog

28 April 2020


There it was. A golden chicken, straight from the oven, roasted unadorned with nothing more than a smear of olive oil and some salt. The panel of three judges working on the ‘paddock’ section of entries of the Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards sniffed the aroma, prodded the skin and grabbed a sharp knife to carve into the bird before them. The dark leg meat and slices of white breast meat were devoured with gusto. They raved. “Outstanding flavour, succulent, great texture and truly delicious.”

Held in the week before lockdown, winners of the awards were announced last week. It is a total privilege to serve as Head Judge of these awards. I spend a whole day moving around the many teams of expert judges – food writers, small business owners, chefs and teachers - observing the tasting, answering questions and adding opinion when asked. The food is judged blind – no branding or link to the producer or grower as an entirely different panel marks the sustainability, and the brand story to add to the total marks.

That wonderful chicken, an organic whole chicken from Hawke’s Bay Bostock Brothers, won the Supreme Champion with almost perfect marks. The business owners, two young brothers are a fine example of our country’s innovative and energetic food producers. They identified a niche market, put in endless hours of hard work to get these birds into our supermarkets and it was a thrill to see them come out on top. Congratulations Ben and George!

The Awards team each year invites all New Zealand food and producers to enter, from tiny start-ups to well established businesses. Products are judged in various categories; Paddock, Dairy, Water, Drink, Earth. Gold, Silver and Bronze medals are awarded including champion awards for the best in each of these categories. Also awards are bestowed for the best in sustainability, best new product, best new business, and an award for the ever growing area of “Free From” to recognise products which cater to dietary issues and special allergies.

Champions for 2020 were Ahia’s freshly smoked kahawai with manuka honey (Water), Pure Ice Cream’s boysenberry ice cream (Dairy), Fix & Fogg’s Everything Butter (Earth), Forage & Ferment’s wild kefir with ginger root (Drink), and Bostocks chicken (Earth.) Additional winners were Clevedon Herbs and Produce, Raglan Food Co, Blue Frog porridge, Zaroa smoked beef brisket, Foundry Chocolate. The public voted Otago Farmers Market as the most popular market and Fernglen’s pure sheep milk as the outstanding food producer.

As we venture out and about shopping for delicious food it will be well worth looking for all the products displaying gold, silver and bronze medals. These outstanding products need our support in the worrying times ahead. Some are not easy to find but many can also be purchased online. For a full list of winners and many amazing products go to the Outstanding NZ Food Producers website.
Visit the Outstanding Food Producer site for details.

21 April 2020


Love in the Time of Cholera was a fantastic book. Every time I think of that I imagine writing a new book, Food in the Time of Corona. But there are too many interesting novels out there, hundreds of great cookery books and what’s more important most of the publishing houses wouldn’t bet on me, and sadly won’t be accepting any new work for a while.

We have all learned a lot about ourselves in the Time of Corona, and even more about many folk we know. I don’t want to dwell on the dark side (mostly occurs on Twitter or facebook.) I would rather celebrate the amazing generosity that everyone has shown in our little country at the far end of the world. Especially in the food world. Folks in foodbanks have been overworked but keep on feeding and worrying about the hungry, and it’s been easy, locked safely away to donate online to help them out.

Personally I have been sent some special tasty treats, had neighbours offer to do shopping, had a tasty lamb dinner left at the door, flowers and herbs have arrived and there’s been a steady of lovely phone calls from foodie friends and family. At times it’s overwhelming.

When I have been cooking something nice, I make sure there’s enough to slip a little plate to my next door neighbour who lives alone and has no-one in her bubble. Food is comfort, food people are without exception generous and there’s so much pleasure in every bite of lovely baking, in tasty savoury food and in fresh food cooked with love.

This week the lovely people at Cloudy Bay clams generously sent me a box of their clams. Like many other small producers they mostly supply the hospitality industry so their business must be suffering. One of the generous things we can all do is to support the small artisans and growers like them and where we can buy from them directly online.

The dinner I made with those clams was truly delicious. I chopped a carrot, an onion and a courgette into fine dice and cooked them until soft in some good olive oil. I then added a can of chopped tomatoes and let that bubble away with fresh herbs. At the same time I boiled a handful of linguine in salty water, and placed some green beans in a steamer over the top.

Once the tomato sauce was thick and scented, I added the washed clams in their shells and immediately they opened I added the drained pasta and beans and tossed everything well. Served up with extra parsley and some black pepper it was perfect. Enjoy!

16 April 2020


I have always scoffed at the idea that folk don’t cook because they haven’t enough time. Maybe I was wrong, as cooking in the pandemic has proven to be a huge success. Time is the new ingredient and everyone has plenty of it.

Previously Instagram feeds were filled with restaurant food – it was a sort of “look at my meal,” “am I not lucky to be eating this amazing food” and “omg, the chef is my hero!” Now the very same people, who if you asked them what they were making for dinner would probably have replied “a reservation” are posting pics of their proudly made sourdough bread, homemade hot cross buns, cakes and focaccia. No wonder our supermarkets are out of flour.

Despite what everyone else is doing, I certainly haven’t spent any extra time in the kitchen, I honestly have not pulled out a single cookbook, nor have I trolled google for ideas for dinner. What is new to me however is cooking from the freezer. I am on record as saying the only things in my freezer are frozen peas (Murray’s favourite vegetable), ice cubes for my gin and tonic, and ice-cream. With this lockdown in a rural setting, our freezer was filled.

My neighbour gave me a load of of free-range chicken before she headed back to the city (thanks Tracey!) and I stocked up on fish, salmon, steak and some whitebait (keeping that for my birthday on the auspicious date of 22 April when we may move to Level 3.) So our meals have been familiar and simple ways with those items, supplemented by fresh produce from the farm-stands around here.

The big breakthrough has been that Murray has been really happy to eat meals composed of any leftovers, and now actually asks me before even a chicken bone goes in the bin (no, keep it and any other good scraps for stock.)

If we’re eating rice with a meal I cook one cup of basmati rice, and find that covers two meals. So here's an easy idea for you to do.

Fried rice can be anything you want and the best lunch to date was rice cooked in oil and butter until crunchy, with a 2 egg omelette cut into strips, a handful of fresh beans (frozen peas would do) and a diced tomato. Season well with salt or soy sauce, freshly ground black pepper and some chopped herbs. We topped it with some lovely sardines, but feel free to add your own favourite touches. Enjoy!

11 April 2020


Each of the past eighteen years, our Easter has been spent at our bach. We have always tried to leave our city house early to get ahead of the massive traffic build-up of holiday traffic heading North to grab the last of the summer. This year we have enjoyed an endless summer and so we’ve only spent 25 nights of the last 110 in the city. All that usual frantic getaway was avoided as we’re now living in lockdown near the beach.

It’s weird as most of the nearby homes are tightly closed and there’s never more than about 20 folk walking on the beach at one time. Our rural community is a great place to be as it is filled with small farmers and growers who have honesty stalls at their gate, artisan producers who will drop off their fabulous seasonal produce and products, and an exceptionally well stocked independent superette which is being managed with respect and care.

Like the rest of New Zealand I am cooking, secure in the knowledge that there’s plenty of healthy food on our table every night. I plan my meals around what’s in the fridge and freezer, or on the local farmstands but am steering away from baking as there are only two of us, plus a lovely neighbour who is on her own, to eat up the goodies. I am determined we do not eat more than we need.

Having written about food for more than 30 years, trying really hard to get people into the kitchen, I never envisaged that it would take a pandemic for Kiwis to learn cooking skills and take pride in making dinner from scratch. I bet there are a ton of us who are now googling recipes daily and making delicious food nightly. I only wish all those folk had bought my cookbooks, or clipped lots of recipes from my Listener columns!

In the first of my Easter columns, exactly nine years ago, I shared my recipe for guava jelly. As I wrote back in 2011, “All over New Zealand wind-fallen cherry guavas (and feijoas) are nestling into the grass of our back lawns. Sometimes they’re jokingly called ‘lawnmower fruit’ as the smaller fruits are often left to be gobbled up when the lawn is cut. It’s such a pity that these late season fruit are abandoned like this, as both are so fragrant.”

It’s serendipitous that we had to make a quick trip home this week (for the medically- advised- by-no-less-than-the-wonderful-Dr Ashley Bloomfield 'flu shot) so I quickly gathered ripe guavas from the lawn and right now the bach is fragrant with the scent of guavas as they simmered away. It is so easy to make.

Sterilise your jars. Wash the guavas and slowly bring them to a simmer in a large pan. When they’re soft let them cool, tip them into a jelly bag (or some cloth gathered at the top) and leave the juices to drip into a large bowl overnight. Don’t squeeze the bag. Place the juice in a clean pan with an equal amount of sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice. Bring to the boil for about 15 minutes until it starts to thicken and wrinkle when a teaspoonful dropped onto a cold plate. Pour into hot jars. Enjoy!

4 April 2020


Big shoes to fill, they were. The food writers who preceded me on the NZ Listener pages were my heroes. Lois Daish and Martin Bosley. Both were chefs first and developed into clever writers who informed and entertained and hopefully lured Kiwis into the kitchen. I can still recall with absolute clarity food I ate in their respective Wellington restaurants.

NZ Food Writers (at the time called the NZ Guild of Foodwriters) held a conference in late spring more than 25 years ago in Wellington. Lois Daish cooked the farewell brunch at her restaurant Brooklyn Café and Grill. It was stunning in its simplicity – freshest of fresh seasonal produce; completely unadorned. Asparagus, baby new potatoes, spring butter with bread, followed by rich ruby red strawberries with thick cream. Perfect like her Listener writings.

A few years later, as judge of Cuisine’s Best Restaurant Awards, I ate with Australian food critic and guest judge John Lethlean in Martin Bosley’s, an immaculate simple long dining room where diners at every table could watch the boats bobbing up and down in the shelter of the inner Wellington harbour. He started our meal with one perfect oyster – (he’s still crazy about oysters) – which was spilling out of a tiny kete. There are few chefs in NZ who were imaginative or skilled enough to bring tears to my eyes but this dish did. Genius. That dish alone made Lethlean wonder out loud if he should move to the capital city!

I took over the Listener food nine years ago at Easter. Perhaps it is befitting or merely fate that my last column, an Easter Special, was supposed to be in this weekend’s issue – the one that Bauer in all their wisdom or callous disregard let the axe fall on.

The good news I am still here, I am safe and I am still as passionate as ever about food. Not any food – the really good stuff. To me it must be seasonal, preferably local and always, always fresh and cooked from scratch. I am a champion of our farmers, our food producers and especially the small struggling artisans of the food and beverage industry who have a tough road even in good times.

Right now these people, all of them, are struggling and we are in danger of losing many of them. Farmers’ markets have closed, door sales have stopped and the duopoly of supermarkets means the little guys can’t get a foot in the door. Really fine produce and products are being dumped or ploughed back into the fields and little operators like butchers, greengrocers and specialty retailers are being denied the chance to feed us with what many of us consider “essentials.”

When this is over we are all going to have make a monumental effort to support local, artisan, innovative growers and producers. I love the line from Best Marigold Hotel, “It will be all alright in the end, and if it’s not all alright, it’s not the end.”

To that end, the cake above was supposed to be in your Listener this week if Bauer and the Government had allowed publishing. It’s a stunning seasonal cake with local apples and macadamias. You can find the recipe in the Recipe Section of this blog. Enjoy!!!

pic by Rebekah Robinson

1 April 2020


Times like these bring all sorts of stuff to the surface. I always thought with time on my hands there would be plenty of little things to attend to that had been overlooked or ignored as I raced around at furious pace in my car, playing with grandchildren, keeping fit at the gym, visiting Mother in her rest home, eating out and writing my regular Listener food column. Turns out all those things have gone and yet I am as busy as ever.

I have started on cleaning two cupboards and drawers per day, – amazing how dirty things get even when you scrupulously clean everything before storing it – going for my isolation walk to find an interesting shot to post on Instagram, cooking lunch and dinner with the rather eclectic bunch of ingredients and products I have, and tadaa, reading the NZ Herald online instead of my usual print copy. I am still trying to work out how to do the Code Cracker on screen, as it has been a daily obsession of mine forever.

So today I read Jesse Mulligan’s first Isolation Diary in the NZH Viva. He tells us he made pumpkin soup so he can keep thin! And he used powdered stock! Poor Jesse didn’t have any chicken feet to make real stock.

I have news for you Jesse, I don’t care how good that pumpkin soup tasted, it was surely a far cry from any pumpkin soup made with lovingly slow cooked chicken bones. That ‘herby saltiness’ you savoured was actually pure chemicals, probably produced in some awful offshore factory and I am willing to bet the soup only tasted good because you were hungry. EVERYTHING always tastes better when you’re hungry.

But even more importantly, you dissed the tinned salmon your lovely wife Victoria bought. There are many New Zealanders like me who grew up thinking salmon came in tins and we loved it. What’s more, our mothers, who could not easily buy fresh fish, became absolute geniuses making lovely dishes so that we kids could get our Omega 3 and have strong bones. Salmon chowder, salmon kedgeree, salmon fried rice, salmon pie, salmon cakes, salmon sandwiches and so much more.

I have to thank you however, because your column was indeed inspirational. At lunch today I made salmon fritters using a tin of Canadian wild caught pink salmon –I am keeping the red salmon for something special. They were simple and so delicious. One cooked potato, chopped finely or mashed. One small onion, chopped slowly softened in butter. Three eggs beaten with 4 tablespoons flour, lots of chopped parsley and salt and pepper, and of course that tin of salmon, mashed up. Mix everything together and cook large tablespoons of the mixture in a frying pan in oil and butter over gentle heat until each side is golden. Makes 12 and serve with a spicy chutney.

Try them and I am sure you will thank Victoria for having the prescience to stock up with tins of salmon.

22 December 2019


Thinking of heading to Matakana this summer? Only 55 minutes if you get a great run, and so much to do.

EATING – The Top 3

The Farmers Daughter, Omaha Beach Causeway. The best café in the area by a country mile, with fresh, imaginative modern food cooked by no less than Jason van Dorsten. Superb service from a tight team overseen by owner Kate Rose. Gardens, playground, and the best view in the region. Rumours are they may open for dinner, but who knows?

Rothko at The Sculptureum, Omaha Flats Very upmarket fare to match a sensational international wine list, plus Sculptureum’s lovely chardonnay and rich reds. Surrounded by an eclectic collection of sculpture and intricate gardens, this is a family excursion not to miss.

Brick Bay’s Glass House and Sculpture Trail, Arabella Lane, Snell’s Beach A wonderful experience from the carefully curated sculpture trail that winds through vineyard, farm and outstanding native bush, to the stunning Glasshouse for lunch, casual meals, wine tasting, and events by arrangement. Make a booking if it’s lunch you’re after. And don’t miss the annual folly exhibit.

The Sawmill Brewery and Smoko Room, Leigh Rd, Matakana Presently closed due to fire, this friendly casual restaurant and beer tasting bar will hopefully reopen before the end of the summer.


• The farmstands on the Omaha Flats for corn, eggs and fresh vegetables and fruit. In fact, Omaha Flats should be renamed Potato Flats as the spuds are so good. My favourite? Quail Farm and the accompanying curio shop, Collectibles.

• OOB on Jones Rd, Omaha BEach for blueberries and amazing icecreams

• Country Park and Bramble Café to take the kids for miniature train rides, pony riding, Smiths Bar, and The Stables for good old country fare.

• Matakana Village – no other country town has such a classy development as this with its excellent shops, cinema, Ringawera bakery, and Saturday Farmers Market.

• Omaha Beach for swimming between the flags

• Tawharanui for possibly NZ’s best regional beach reserve. Camping by permit.

• Goat Island Reserve, near Leigh for snorkelling and diving

• The Smokehouse (smoked fish) and Green with Envy (Gifts and houseware) on the corner of Sharp and Matakana Rds

• Charlies, Sharp Rd for gelato and fresh strawberries

PIC : Cake at the Farmers Daughter

22 December 2019


Is meat bad? Is plant-based food good? What’s the real story about farming in this country where the economy has traditionally been based on the produce of the agriculture sector for the past 150 years? Can we clean up our act? Are we doing enough to ensure that climate change goals are met while preserving our position in feeding ourselves and still export great food to the world?

Lynda Hallinan-Hinton was the moderator for the second keynote session of Food Writers NZ at our recent annual conference. She’d prepared thoroughly for the topic - Realness in the Farming Sector - having trawled the internet to find the top farming headlines of the past year. With nine out of ten of the stories published in mainstream media taking a negative approach, it appears that Kiwis (the media anyway) have fallen out of love with the rural sector. Our dairy and meat farmers are the current whipping boys rather than the poster boys of Aotearoa’s traditional farm-based economy.

Stepping up to share their views on the panel were regenerative Taupo Beef farmers Mike and Sarah Barton, and Auckland based Daniel Eb who is a thoroughly modern thinker from a North Auckland farming family. He has set up a farm oriented communications business, Dirt Road. (In a wry twist these panellists were sporting blue checked shirts – is this the Kiwi Rural uniform?) The session promised so much food for thought.

Of course the real story is not as black and white as many journalists would have us believe, and food writers are under pressure to seek the truth while continuing to write columns, books, recipes and blogs to influence and aid people to seek healthy balanced diets. As our panellists told their stories it was revealed that for the large part our farming story is more than the story of our food. It’s about our waterways, the environment, sustainability of our land, animal food production that’s efficient and regenerative and more recently, the meat vs vegetable dilemma.

We learned that vegetables too can often cause pollution of our land and waterways (where are those stories?) The discourse needs to be changed to include all sectors of agriculture and horticulture (and even forestry.) Food has traditionally brought us together so why is it dividing us now?

It would seem we all need a greater understanding of food production. The disruption of our age-old traditional ways and stories is key and truly necessary. There needs to be a system of incentives, not punishment and disdain, to make the changes we need. Now.

City dwellers need to appreciate the good farm stories and changing practices (and there are many.) To that end it’s worth knowing that Eb's Dirt Road is currently setting up a great initiative 'Open Farms.' This grassroots initiative will reconnect rural and urban Kiwis through a nationwide Open Farm Day on Sunday March 1st 2020. As Eb says, “60% of urban Kiwis don’t visit rural New Zealand, farmers are trying to tell their story and too many of us feel separated from our food and the land. Open Farms is about building a place in the middle, where we can all reconnect with a genuine on-farm experience. We need farmers to reach out with us and invite urban New Zealanders back onto the land.”

Put it in your diary!

10 September 2019


We chose to fly into (and out of) Dublin, and planned a ten day trip by rental car that took us to the west coast, around the Ring of Kerry and then up the east coast. Highlights: the seafood everywhere and …..

GALWAY This was really special as we connected with the fabulous Jessie Murphy, a terrific chef who grew up in Wairoa on the north island of NZ and has opened a stunningly simple restaurant, Kai in Galway with her Irish husband. (See the previous blog below.) Be sure to book at Kai!

• Galway Food Tours -A two hour walking food tour visits many of the innovative and delicious businesses in the city with stops for generous tastings of food, coffee and local Irish whiskies and beverages.

• Sheridans Cheesemonger & Wine Bar - Downstairs, a true cheesemonger with a terrific selection of boutique Irish cheeses. Upstairs, a sophisticated wine bar offering wines by the glass and platters of cheese and/or locally made charcuterie.

• Ard Bia at Nimmo’s - Fresh snacks, salads and cakes served by day and a fresh ethically sourced dinner menu in this quaint historic building by the Galway waterfront.

• Tig Neachtain’s - Slap bang in the middle of the main street with small nooks and crannies and a history going back to 1896, the perfect old pub to try a pint or more of creamy Guinness.

THE WEST COAST • Inishmaan Suites on the Aran Islands – a totally remote resort and refuge away from the rest of the world. Bookings for the five rooms open in October for the following year and you can stay two, three or five days. A truly rocky island that’s windswept, lonely and has a harsh climate and one pub. But a true adventurer’s experience and lovely hospitality from owners with superb food (Elemental Eating means a stunning breakfast box delivered to the room for breakfast, a thermos of soup and bread in a backpack for lunch and dinner with the other guests at night. All sourced from the island and surrounds.)

  • Moran's Oyster Cottage only 20 minutes drive south of Galway for a feed of oysters and fish beside the water.

• The Cliffs of Moher – top tourist attraction not to be missed where I guarantee you will be blown sideways

• Kilkee – a small seaside town with a great seafood/pub grub place to eat Naughtons.

• Cahersiveen for an overnight stop on the Ring of Kerry to see the entry point at which the transatlantic cable stretches to America from, and to eat and stay Quinlan & Cooke’s elegant town houses.

• Wharton’s Fish and Chips in Bantry for the best piece of freshly cooked fish in batter I have ever had in my life.

• Inchdoney Island in Clonakilty is a modern resort, a fabulous sandy beach and hot saltwater baths.

• Ballymaloe Cookery School and Ballymaloe House – not to be missed. The school is energetic and fabulous, the House is the place to stay and dine (the dessert trolley is to die for.)

• Dungarvan – stay and eat at The Tannery, and spend a day biking the Waterford Greenway.

• Dublin – Want a change from Irish soda bread? After a walk across St Stephen’s Green and through Trinity College’s hallowed campus, visit Bread 41 for some gorgeous fresh sourdough and coffee. Eat at Michael’s Mount Merrion for seafood and his adjacent Little Mike’s Wine Bar (book for both before you leave home.)

• And it would not be a visit to Ireland without the very touristy Guinness brewery tour. Take the hop on/hop off tourist bus which goes right around the centre of the city, complete with singing drivers and stop for the self-guided tour and an enormous glass of freshly poured Guinness.

15 July 2019


Jessica Murphy must be the current darling of the Irish food media as three of the weekend newspapers we picked up on a recent trip through Ireland carried stories of, or featured recipes, from this extraordinary New Zealand chef who grew up in Wairoa on the North Island’s east coast and moved to Ireland 14 years ago.

With her Irish husband David, Jess established Kai Café, an award winning restaurant in the heart of Galway in 2012 and has since garnered attention and won many awards for her fresh interesting food, her championing of outstanding local producers and for embracing the food community with sympathy, love and a huge heart. She writes a regular column for the Irish Times, sits on various committees related to Irish food, and travels to food events and gatherings all over Europe.

Kai Restaurant sits at the end of a row of joined-up shop fronts. Like almost all quaint ‘high streets’ in Ireland, each property is painted a bright colour and Kai presents a soft green façade to the street. On Sundays the queue for Kai’s brunch marches past the print and design shop, the laundrette and the excellent food emporium Ernie’s, all of which Jess patronises for her business. It’s a very close community, and with limited space in the Kai kitchen, it’s likely that the ice cream and other frozen specialties will be stored in a neighbouring shop.

Customers arriving for coffee, lunch or dinner at Kai, experience a great Irish welcome, albeit with that pronounced Kiwi accent that Jess has never lost in her 14 years in Ireland. “Hāere Mai” proclaims a sigh over the kitchen door, and a large photo of a beautiful wāhine has pride of place on the restaurant wall. It’s a portrait of her great-grandmother Marguerite Lockwood of Ngati Porou, taken in 1895 when she lived in Tolaga Bay.

Earlier this year after working with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, on the 2018 Refugee Food Festival, Jess had agreed to travel to Lebanon and Jordan to meet with refugees to document some of the food heritage that risks being lost after eight years of war. After the Christchurch terrorist attacks she was more determined to go than ever, thinking, “This could happen here too.”

Her experiences there were profound, strengthening her belief that food is the one subject that transforms and transcends borders. After sharing stories, recipes and meals with many exiled people, she’s put a book she was writing of her own recipes on the backburner, and is working hard to collect refugees’ recipes for a fund-raising book and hopes to publish it by Christmas.

We shared dinner with Jess, eating from her delicious menu of fresh, tasty fare including some great Irish fish garnished with tiny local mussels. Kai’s menu changes each day, hand written by Jess herself every evening just before service. Almost all restaurants in Ireland serve soda bread. Kai’s version was the best we had in almost two weeks of touring. The dark, moist chewy bread is really easy to make but is best eaten the same day. It can be made into delicious crunchy toast. And it wouldn’t be Irish unless accompanied by lashings of the sweet, salty butter that is so, so good.

KAI CAFE AND RESTAURANT, Sea Road, Galway, Ireland