Saturday, January 31, 2009

plump things with a navel

The long hot days and nights are starting to deliver the summer goods, the cherry season Is about to finish, Marlborough sweet corn will be on the tables soon (you can already buy corn in the supermarkets but  the best corn tastes truly great when it has been pickled less that 24 hours prior to eating), juicy peaches, nectarines and plums are now at their best and there is a abundance of which means better prices as we can pick our own or buy them in bulk for preserves.

 Genetic evidence shows that  the history of  tomatoes were herbaceous green plants with small green fruit with a centre of diversity in the highlands of Peru and while this may not be true for NZ tomatoes (except for winter time) they are now grown all around the world.   The first domesticated tomato was a little yellow fruit, ancestor of L. cerasiforme, grown by the Aztecs in Mexico, who called it xitomatl (pronounced shi-to-ma-tlh), meaning "plump thing with a navel", it is otherwise know as the s "wolf-peach or  "wolf-apple", as they are a major food of wild canids in South America.  While we know them simply as red tomatoes there  are hundreds of varieties around the world that grow in all shapes, sizes and colours from black in Russia to Rainbow in Europe.  China is the largest produce of tomatoes in the world, easily tripling the production of its founders in America

My Favourite way of eating tomatoes, simply sliced and served on toast with marmite, Marlborough flaky salt and freshly ground black pepper, my two year old likes them raw, al natural , and the 6 year old likes them processed into sauce and spread onto everything – my wife enjoys tomatoes  slow roasted and turned into a soup or braise, who said that kiwis were not world leaders in gastronomy with tastebuds like these

Tomato Relish



1 kg tomatoes, chopped

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 kg onions, chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder

1 1/2 tablespoons salt

2 teaspoons mustard powder

2 cups vinegar

2 tablespoons cornflour



Place all ingredients except for cornflour into a saucepan and boil for 30 minutes. Mix cornflour to a paste with a little water and add to the tomatoes, stir to combine and allow to cook for a further 5 minutes. 

Friday, January 16, 2009

The truth under Garlic

Every wondered  why Garlic bread does not taste the same as it used to?

I take my hat off to the good folks in the Marlborough Garlic industry, they have been through the wringer and back yet they still manage to have a smile on their faces, this extends through to the new season garlic now arriving in my kitchen door  - who would have thought the  largest garlic producing region in NZ would be bought to its knees by the importation of a product that is only a fraction of the quality ?

Marlborough garlic is available January until November every year with Pukekohe garlic being the first  of the new season product available in December and it will keep you happy until New Year when the new Marlborough crop becomes available. The vast majority of New Zealand garlic is grown in the Marlborough region as it is the combination of a hard winter followed by a long dry summer which suits garlic growing perfectly resulting in quality which is second to none. New Zealand garlic is distinctively fresh and juicy with a wonderful pungency contained within clean white bulbs with roots extending.

  Chinese  or imported garlic while a fraction of the price will have the roots cut out and have no flavour or smell to it (that’s what has happened to our garlic breads)  – you have to use 3-4 times as much to try and get the garlic flavour out which still does not compare to the pungent Marlborough produce.  The chefs way is to use salt and the back of a cooks knife to smash the skin off and then grind it with the salt until a paste forms, rich oil aromas will come  to the surface and give your food the garlic flavour that it needs.  Too strong you I hear you say, then why use garlic if you are not looking for the real flavour? – it is like most  other industrialised food products where the real taste is missing because we force them to grow too fast so that they can get to the market quickly and sit on a shelf for longer – go on I dare you and you will never go back to that Chinese taste again

In the kichen we roll in a little grape seed oil, wrap in tinfoil and then baked for 45-60 mins in a oven at 170 degrees or until soft and then use as our DIY garlic bread with local salt, local parsley, and Marlborough bagautte


Garlic Aioli Recipe

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 large egg

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 turns freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup Grape Seed Oill


Combine the garlic, egg, lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender and puree. Add the oil in a slow stream and continue to process until the mixture has formed a thick emulsion. Finish with 1 T of boiling water to set



The New organics on the block

The new locals are back in town

In a  time and age of I want more,  there is a time for justification, why is the world in such a state of political unrest?   Why are billions of dollars being given to leading worldwide organisations to prop up the market place and yet we struggle to pay the  weekly grocery and utility bills, how can big business trade with unsecured funds in such a unsustainable manner (sustainable being easy to say and hard to do) with other peoples money and how is going to affect me and my family.  While we think that we are far away from all of the unrest and stirrings it will affect us but how it affects us is up to our communities and the strength of them (the community of NZ)

Consumers need to and want to be assured that they are purchasing safe food – food that has been grown and produced ethically and without the over use of chemicals and sprays – food that has been handled and raised in a humane way, that has been produced in a sustainable way that allows all in the food chain to understand and be part of the process that it has taken to get it to the dinner table.  While we are all price conscious and watching what we are spending we are more than ever becoming aware of its journey  - from paddock to plate and beyond the farm gate.  

As the world gets smaller in terms of our access to what is going on around us thanks to TV and Internet we are looking for the more simpler things that we can grasp and take control of – while other nations have food riots and shortages over rice, NZ is economic food bowl that is the land of milk and Honey that is growing up in a real world where not everything is as it appears to be but it can be whatever we want it to be if we just do it

What is conventional anymore, who says that this must be the right way to produce more from less land for more people, that we must  regulate to ensure that we meat the minimum standard.   What every happened to raising the bar and not excepting just because it is put in front of us - What every happened to Local and why did we stray so far from it  

In these times of uncertainty what ever happened to Strawberry soup and why did it not become the next best thing since sliced bread?

Local Strawberry Soup with Bee Pollen and Yoghurt


2 cups fresh or Frozen Strawberries (only use the ones that are marked or a bit squshy and save the best ones for garnish and eating with cream)

1 cup orange juice

1 T icing Sugar

1 Pinch Ground Ginger

1 Cup of Yoghurt Natural Sweetened

1 T Bee Pollen to Garnish (available from Bush’s Honey, Old Renwick road )

Strawberries to garnish


In a blender, combine the Strawberries, yogurt, orange juice, icing sugar, and ginger. Puree until well mixed, you can add extra juice or a little water to correct the consistency.   Serve chilled and garnish with sliced strawberries and dollops of yoghurt sprinkled with bee pollen.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What Recession? Not in our Garden

It has been a very interesting couple of weeks, I have been lucky enough to travel the length of NZ and talk and network with food producers from every industry, blueberry growers  in the north, watermelon producers in the south, picklers and preservers in the west and orange and citrus growers from the western bay of plenty

If you were to tell me there was a recession on I would not believe you - garden centres are reporting record sales of plants and seedlings , farmers' markets have more customers and producers buying and selling at them and I have not heard a single negative comment about the downturn in community building and networking as people are looking inwards instead of outwards for there holidays and leisure activities.  In fact  I think that the worlds media has got it mixed up, there is no economic downturn and doom in gloom in the backyard  garden, the is no share markets slide in neighbours trading fruit over the bank fence and there is a increase in the number of lemonade business being set in front of suburban houses around the country as our young enterprisers' or tomorrow set up shop and learn new business skills.

We hear all about the increase in grocery prices but all I hear is  the value for money  that people get when they buy directly from the source, we see piles of value added food products in front of us at the dinner table in jars and unsustainable plastic packaging  and we complain about the price or our grocery bills but all is I see is a successful marketing plan to get us to buy stuff that we don't really need or want when it is all really available from the garden or vegetable section or from thy neighbour

'The future is not a place to which we are going; it is a place we are creating. The paths to the future are not found, but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.'

John Schaar

Honey-spiced apricots

Serve these with dollops of yoghurt for breakfast or dinner, or add a crumble topping and bake in the oven for a quick and easy dessert. If all else fails, just eat them straight from the jar.

2 kg whole firm Marlborough  apricots

cinnamon sticks and cloves for each jar

4 cups white wine vinegar

400 g Marlborough honey


With a fork, prick the apricots all over and place them into cold sterilised jars. Place 4 cloves and 1 cinnamon stick in each jar. Bring the vinegar and honey to the boil in a saucepan for 5 minutes until it just starts to thicken, then pour over the apricots. Leave to cool before sealing the jars. To achieve the best flavour, leave for 1 month and use within 12 months.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Bee or the Honey

The honey of the BEE

Chris Fortune Jan 2008


I remember my first bee experience very well, I was saving a lone bee from the torture of my two older brothers, rather chuffed with myself for having risked life and limb for the little fellow, he turned around and stung me  - his savor – getting the fright of my life I then promptly squashed him not realizing that he would pass away soon


My future experiences with bees would be much happier, donning a apiarist suit I would help my future father in law do bee work in the Marlborough sounds and down south – often a long trail of bees tracking us down as we moved hives around – ensuring that they were in the right place at the right time to collect honey and pollen


In my kitchen Honey is a important part of my recipe repertoire – it adds natural flavors and sweetness which cannot be found in Sugars, and it has its own taste characteristics and is a unique and nutritionally important food source.  Honey can be substituted into most recipes and by using different types  of Honey and each will have its own flavors depending on where the hives have been located. I love Clover honey on toast and Manuka or Beech honey drizzled on desserts or fruit.  Bee Pollen is recognized as a super food and contains all the essential minerals and components of life, with  a one teaspoon dose of pollen taking one bee working eight hours a day for one month to gather. Each bee pollen pellet itself, contains over two million flower pollen grains and one teaspoonful contains over 2.5 billion grains of flower pollen.


 Now a interesting fact that never crossed my mind when I was first stung when saving the lone bee is that old Beekeepers seldom suffer from arthritis or rheumatism and bee venom is used directly as a treatment of joint conditions. Ummmm ---  could be onto something here… be continued 

Necterines - Trying to be different

Trying to be different

Chris Fortune Jan 2008

The nectarine is always being overshaded by its big brother the peach and its little sister the plum – it is sweeter and more delicate and will be  ready earlier than the peach , although having  the same smooth skin as a plum,  it is not uncommon to find  nectarines growing on your peach tree

For a fruit that is over 2000 years old we do not give it the due respect that it has in many other cultures, originating in China and  (yes there are some good food stories coming out of China) being cultivated in Persia, Greece and Rome.    The Greeks referred to Nectarine juice as the “drink of gods” or “nectar of gods” and  it has a special place in the preserving cupboard along side bottles peach and pear chutneys.

I understand that we are a country of food  exporting and that we export our own products all around the world, expecting countries to purchase them and support our local food producers which is all very fine and dandy when you are dealing with products that have a long shelf life and are stable but when you try a tree ripened nectarine next to a imported Californian or chilian product there is just no comparison in taste and flavour – we all of a sudden we  remember why we enjoyed them and that while we have to wait for them  it has been well worth it.    Enjoy them now that they are coming into season and get the preserving jars out of the cupboard so that you can enjoy them at other times of the year without having to rely on unripe and flavourless imported produce

Nectarine  chutney  Use summer’s best stone fruits and you’ll be rewarded with a flavoursome and aromatic chutney to serve with both white and red meats. It’s also great with roasted pork and root vegetables, or just by itself with cheese.

1500 g Nectarines

2 medium onions, chopped

1 green capsicum, chopped

500 g brown sugar

2 cups white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

1 clove garlic

2½ teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground gloves

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper


Wash and chop the fruit, and set aside with the onions and capsicum. In a large saucepan, add all the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Add fruit, onion and capsicum, bring to the boil, reduce heat and cook for approximately 1 hour or until thick, stirring frequently. Pour into hot sterilised jars and seal