Michael Matsis and his sister Meropi grew up in Whanganui surrounded by the river and the sea. Their parents immigrated to NZ from Cyprus and bought with them a love for fresh dairy products, hard work and a vibrant family culture. The hillside on which the Matsis’ grew up had three houses on it, all filled with family from the same Greek island which formed a culture within a culture. Meropi remembers growing up amidst kiwi treats at school and in town but at home, her mother Lefki would make halloumi and ricotta from scratch (she still does) along with a host of other Cypriot favourites. Michael and Meropi’s father ran a local fish restaurant serving up some of the best fish and chips in town, again with a passion and commitment to completely fresh ingredients. This was the everyday experience for Michael and Meropi growing up; fresh foods made from scratch, no skimping on ingredients or quality, and a slow integration (the children spoke Greek first, English later) into an NZ lifestyle.
It’s no wonder then that some years after their university degree’s (Michael in Food Tech with honours and Meropi in Science), the siblings decided to make food their vocation (the word in Latin - vocatio -means ‘calling’). Michael had been researching cheese making techniques around the country and noticed that halloumi wasn’t even on the NZ radar at the time. In 2000 then and placing a VAT machine on Meropi’s Wellington property, he decided to start producing what he loved growing up, along with feta, which got the attention of local restaurants and cafes. There were a growing number of quality cheeses becoming available during this period but getting halloumi and feta this rich and dare I say, perfect, was something out of the ordinary. Another thing that was out of the ordinary was the company name - Zany Zeus - which came about during a family brain storming session. Being close as a family has contributed this, and many other things to the company along the way including recipes, quality assurance and of course, mum’s watchful eye as she still shows up to work at the factory when needed.
Moving forward in 2003 Zany Zeus added an HTST Pasteurisation System, homogeniser, separator and bottling plant to the growing company. Sourcing a wonderfully rich organic milk from the central North Island (which isn’t to say it’s as good as South Island organic jersey milk, but they can be forgiven for this:-) Michael, Meropi and crew extended their range of products, which I have to say, are extraordinary. For instance, the greek yoghurt is hands down the best you’ll find in the country. With no stabilisers, gelatines or sweeteners added, this super thick yoghurt is the result of a patient process, that when scooped out of the container and given a little stir becomes a heavenly experience. I’ve added the creamy stuff to cereal with quince, to pulled lamb tacos, green apple crumbles... where it both stands up for itself and nicely compliments at the same time. You seriously have to try this yoghurt to see what I’m taking about. It is of course, more expensive than the typical offerings but if you want yoghurt this pure, this creamy and thick and this, dare I say, perfect, then it’s easily worth it. Especially if you’re going for quality over quantity which I think is one of the best things about today's slow food movement.
Moving on to other products, Zany has a range of feta’s (classic, creamy, chilli and fresh mint - keeping things just a bit Greek), creams (sour and fraiche), creamed cheese and mascarpone and now a wonderful Indian style paneer and a slovik style brinza with a difference (an intense, Manuka smoked cow cheese) which they smoke to a tasty effect. The paneer has a lovely texture, ready to soak up whatever masala or tikka or tomato soup you’re keen to add it to. The halloumi comes out of the packet beautifully flavoured and ready to eat straight up at room temperature with melons, or as part of an antipasto platter. Of course if you’re like me, you’re going to fry it up with some foraged mushrooms (field and birch bolete’s tonight) and add that to the tomato soup from the glasshouse’s last effort. But if you really want some super authentic recipes to use these restaurant class products, you’ll need to go to Zany Zeus’ web site where they have a deliciously diverse list of ideas ready for you to dive into.
Having tried some of Michael and Meropi’s (and of course, mum’s) creations, it makes sense that these products went straight into some of the best restaurants in the Wellington region. The complete focus on quality, fresh ingredients and the lack of additives has created a long line of best in class cheeses, creams and if you’re lucky enough to be near their cafe, ice cream’s (and a cake which Scarlett Johanson recently reported as being the best she’s every tasted). The products are special, like your grandma would have made which actually tasted like dairy, and result in the kind of ingredients you may want to add to a special family meal, or to treat yourself to each morning. Like the people who every now and then would show up at the Zany Zeus factory door and ask for some retail sized products, we’re pretty glad at Raeward Fresh that we too can now get a bit of that Matsis family culture in our own chillers.
If you’ve ever been to India and had the chance to stay in a friends home, where their mother or grandmother was in the kitchen, then you’ll know something about how years - even centuries - of tradition, skill and love go into the array of dishes being served. Even the smallest dish on the table, a chutney, would have layers of storied ingredients and techniques producing a deeply flavoured kiss to whatever it’s combined with. Back in NZ, you might pick up a jar of chutney from the supermarket hoping to find that same compliment to your rice dish or cheese toastie. What you’d typical be met with however is an overly sweet, gooey approximation of just one level of what you experienced in India, say with mango flavours or chili. Super disappointing. What’s needed is someone’s mother, grandmother, and their aunt to have placed all that skill and love into a jar full of the same complexity and beauty you tasted in Goa.
Jennifer Viegas grew up between homes in Goa and Mombai enjoying the food her mother, aunt and grandmother prepared. The Portuguese history of the South (1500’s to 1960) paired with the Mughal influences from the North gave Jennifer a diverse and tasty palate to enjoy. Access to fresh shellfish, Portuguese spices like smoked paprika, piri piri (from the African coast), cinnamon and bay leaves, and, the fruit of the south were all part of a larger pantry to work with. A combination of Indian and Portuguese pickling techniques also allowed the family to store abundant crops of mango or aubergine which would later become family favourites as Jen then raised her own kids on this unique cuisine. After travelling to Doha and living there for a long while, Jen and her family moved to Christchurch for the boys education.
Back then, one would struggle to find ingredients in a New Zealand store that enabled you to make a proper mango chutney, let alone a delicious carfreal (a pungent herbed chicken dish). Today however, you can get coriander, haldi, jeera and tamarind but what’s still missing are those mothers, grandmothers and aunts putting it together because if their last name is Wattie, it ain’t gonna taste like Goan cuisine. So, after the boys had moved out Jen finally got to build the kitchen of her dreams to run cooking classes passing on the techniques of her family traditions.
As people enjoyed the rich complexity Jen was creating in the class, they asked if they could buy even more. This encouraged Jen to take some of her favourite Prawn Balchão and Mixed Veg chutney’s to the local Mount Pleasant Farmers Market where the developing Kiwi palate was ready to understand and enjoy what Jen grew up with. From there to Jen started selling to stores like Raeward Fresh and now we can get the benefit of her storied, rich history and that of Goa in a jar. Well, kinda, because of course there’s so much more to those places… you know what I mean.
Anyway, I got the chance to try Jen’s range and I must say, it’s like being back in the south of India where I lived for a short while. Those same complex notes, hints of a thousand things going on, combinations of pungent, sweet, spicy, meaty, fresh…, it’s all there. I absolutely loved the prawn foundation of her Balchão while the red chilis and vinegar (also a gift from the Portuguese, well, I mean they brought it with, having conquered and all so not a gift, but now that they’re gone, it’s kinda a gift… Anyway) create this spark of acidity to round out the flavours. Great on sourdough toast ruined with raw garlic. My other favourite was Jen’s Lemon Chutney which was brilliant on cheese toasties. Took them to a whole nother level. The mango or aubergine or mixed veg chutney’s were solid examples of condiments that would go so well with white fish, a sandwich wrap or of course, a delicious Lamb Sarapatel and roti.
Jen is now moving on to create spice blends, also passed down through the ages to give us a taste of a Goan Masala or a killer curry powder. All of which allow newbies like me to add a small touch of Jen;s familial history and depth to my own cooking. From all of Raeward Fresh, we say thanks to Jen’s and her entire family’s Cozinha (Kitchen)!
I opened my first bottle of Abel Methode Cider today, over lunch, with quesadillas of all things. I wanted something salty and rich to pair alongside the Nelson made cider to see how it would hold up with my memories in London and the heady pot pie & cider pub meals I’ve had. The elegant bottle delivered an effervescent stream of gold into my even golder hospice shop tumbler. You know the ones, made in the ‘70s of all shapes and sizes… The champaign-like bubbles I was delighted to see are the result of the ‘methode traditionelle’ or 'methode champenoise’ style where the maker prepares the cider (lovingly and painstakingly) in the bottle itself under high pressure mixing in the carbon dioxide most fermentation process allow to escape. When done right, this ‘methode’ allows the yeast and bubbles to remain just long enough to both properly flavour and sex up the cider giving it that very pleasing pour.
On first taste and without a bite to eat just yet, I found the cider dry, punchy and complex - none of which are some of my favourite things. I appreciate that a great cider is neither candy-sweet nor bursting with "raspberry overtones", but on their own I find a proper cider to be too much work. After a couple of bites of the hard cheddar & mince chutney quesadilla however the Abel completely came into it’s own. The pear and apple mix of the cider’s flavours caught ahold of the tart saltiness of the cheese and the deeper sweet notes in the chutney and the dance began. Over the course of the meal, I found the cider both mellowed in contrast to the food but kept holding it’s own in terms of delivering the compliments. The bubbles rocked on throughout the lunch.
Making this kind of cider is no cake walk. Mark and Sophie McGill have mastered a very old and very complex technique here. The French sounding name ‘methode’ actually harks back to a traditional English method of tightly bottling ciders with their heavier coal-fired glass making techniques which the French adopted some time later and used for their champagnes. Having both grown up with and worked in the wine industry, the McGills learned about these techniques first hand. Sophie grew up in West Auckland and then moved to Marlborough with her dad working the vineyards there while Mark grew up in the Wairarapa with his dad working the grapes as well. Sophie studied psychology to get away from it all and spent time in Melbourne working in hospitality. Mark was in the first batch of students at Lincoln University’s wine making program and went on an OE working vintages in the U.S., Australia and NZ. He also ended up in Melbourne where the two got married and started a family.
Comparing both life notes and tasting notes - mostly bad ones - of the ciders available to them at the time, the two decided to put their business nous (both had great small business bosses they learned heaps from) to work making a truly great product. Mark had seen how the traditional wine making process could be applied to cider and decided to buck the rather average cider trends and put some history to work. The two moved to Nelson where they could source some outstanding heritage apple and pear varieties in the Upper Moutere and set up shop.
I’m not sure what it is that inspires two kiwi’s like these, who come from such a relatively young country with very little history in these methods, to so quickly produce a traditionelle cider that can hold up to any in the world. Maybe it’s that down to earth upbringing that makes sense of leaving apples to ripen on the tree giving them just the right brix reading, or crushing the whole fruit and then letting the heavy glass bottle do the magical part. Maybe it's their passion for the product itself and their heritage coming through that draws out the very best of NZ fruits. Whatever it is, we’re stoked at Raeward Fresh that we get to have their elegant results on our shelves, celebrating their ingenuity and their love of good things. Cheers Mark & Sophie!
Exceptional foods usually have an exceptional personality behind them. What I usually find encapsulated in a unique bite of chocolate say, is a combination of ingredients, experiences and ethos that come together in that product. It’s like the flavours, mouth feel and endorphin reactors are all responding to the creators history, discoveries, craft and whimsy all at once. I think this is true in experiencing the first sip of a perfect latte as it is in a spoonful of homemade ice cream or the first bite of a perfectly aged steak. But there’s something special about the first bite of chocolate made by Marie-Loic Monmont that seemed to speak of a larger story that I wanted to understand. Perhaps it was the spunky fruitiness of the cupuaçu she incorporates. Or maybe that her cacao source, blend and process was masterful - which it is. Or maybe there was something compelling about Marie herself that was coming through the chocolate? What I found is that it was all of the above…
Marie grew up in Lyon, France and knew very early on in life that she wanted to be a chef. So early in fact that she left school at the age of 14 and went through a rigorous French culinary education which lasted for six years. After focusing on chocolates and patisserie in Europe she went on to work with the Ritz Carlton hotel in their kitchens in Los Angeles, Fukuoka, Cape Town, Windhook, Lyon, Budapest, Prague, Kiev and New York. This international experience also led Marie to work in Australia and eventually in NZ at the Intercontinental in Wellington where she fell in love with the kiwi way of life in what was to her, an accessible and family oriented city. Her and her husband settled down, had children, founded and ran La Patisserie in the windy city and when baby No. 3 was conceived, they decided to get Marie out of the kitchen and allow her some space to focus on the children.
For Marie though - an adventurer having been around the world - this was not going to be retirement in the suburbs. It wasn’t long in fact, before a friend over for dinner one night got her international self inspired once again as he told them stories of Brazil and the forests growing organic cacao and it’s cousin tree the cupuaçu, known locally as the ‘pharmacy of the forest’. So inspired was Marie that she sent her husband - brave soul - on a recce to the jungles to suss it all out. He phoned back a few weeks later that it was fabulous indeed, so she packed up the kids, flew down and spent a few months among the villages of the Amazon river basin and Bahia, exploring, tasting and scheming.
It’s at this juncture in her life, I believe, that all starts to come together in my first impression of her “Wildness Chocolates”. As Marie dives into the local culture, her years of cooking experiences draw out ingredients and methods which she shares with the local farmers. She runs workshops and trains growers (who have never actually made chocolate) in the production of bars using the amazing ingredients available to them. One such ingredient was the combination of the cupuaçu (pronounced - Ku-poo-ah-soo) which like the cacao bean, has a white fruity flesh that is usually dried off in the production of cocoa but Marie found a way, through much trial and error, to produce a dried fruit version of the cupuaçu flesh which she then creatively added to the beans found on the same farms.
Along side of the explorer / discoverer side of Marie is the quality focused chef that she is. Having gone around the region sourcing the best Forastero, Criollo, and Trinitario cacao beans she could find, she began the deft process of blending at the Barry Callebaut factory in Brazil and processing these beans in combinations that drew out a particular depth of dark chocolate flavour, rounded with just the right level of sweetness which meant sourcing a wider range of beans from Indonesia. This is one of the things your mouth will immediately tell you about Wildness Chocolate. She completely nails the smooth mouth feel, the rich dark chocolate experience without being too dark (there is such a thing) and a surprising fruity finish with the added cupuaçu.
Coming back to NZ to create the new company, you see the community side of Marie come forward in the company's ethos and methods. Just like in the villages in the Amazon, she quickly struck up a relationships with key people, this time though, with the local correctional facilities in Wellington. Marie started working with incarcerated women whom she pays a higher than normal salary to help her package and distribute her chocolate (along with a fair amount of story telling and encouragement being thrown into the relationships). Now, of course, when I first tasted Wildness Dark Chocolate, the Sesame and the Coconut versions, I did not know all of these details, but I knew something exceptional was going on. Having met Marie, it all makes sense and I’ve just scratched the surface of her story. I’m now really looking forward to seeing what else comes from her life, her story, and of course, her kitchen. It’s a privilege to share her story now through our shelves at Raeward Fresh and we hope you fully engage with it.
One of the coolest traits surrounding Kiwi ingenuity isn’t just the No.-8-wire-ability to fix or recreate something, but to do so in such a manner that it becomes a world-class solution. You can see this “couldn’t find it so I made it” mentality across the board from the brilliant Williams Warne mini brewery to the stunning America's Cup racing yachts. And now, thanks to the minds and hearts of the Kiwi-American collaboration between Parnell native Anthony Burt and Kenya, Singapore, South Korea and Boston native Kevin Law-Smith. You can add the world's best tonic waters right up there alongside Richard Pearce's (flying machines) and Bruce McLaren's (racing machines) gear. Hyperbole you say? I say you’ll have to try these tonics to see for yourself.
Perhaps the struggle to equate a tonic water with something as flash as a Formula One machine is that most tonics are boring as. Or, that they’re so much pop, fizz and sugar that they’re easily dismissed as inconsequential. This however would not have been the case upon their invention, when the jungles of Southeast Asia could kill a man via mosquito and quinine became an essential “tonic” or treatment against the disease. The invention that came next, namely, gin & tonic, became an essential way to cope with the bitterness of the cinchona tree bark from which quinine is derived, as well as coping with other life issues ever since. In fact, if you look closely at the original tonic accompanying those early gin mixes, you would find something quite extraordinary in both it’s history and affect.
In terms of kiwi invention, I think what Anthony and Kevin have recaptured here is the affect of gin and tonic. A lot of people have tried to create mixers that would blend well with an average gin, and have succeeded in making something equally average if not overly carbonated and sugared. What the boys from Auckland have managed instead, is to tap back into the original idea, recipes, ingredients and uniqueness of the historical G&T. How they’ve done this is really the backbone of their story.
As artisan gin’s started making a comeback in the last 10 years, Kevin and Anthony noted that there wan’t a proper tonic available which didn’t wipe out the distinct flavours - sometimes herbaceous, sometimes spirited - of these outstanding varieties. On noting the lack, Kevin was reminded that his great grandfather had a recipe dating back to Kenya circa 1903 which described the making of the tonic of his day. This core recipe became the basis of trial and error until the fellas settled on two heirloom quinine sources in Asia, artesian water from Nelson and a few other authentic ingredients to make up the range of tonics they perfected. The other aspect of their invention is a nod to the original by calling the company East Imperial, an homage to both the origin of the drink’s ingredients and a reminder that the word imperial, back in the day, referred to something exceptional, or the best you could find. What they’ve managed, I think, is a striking combination of both an exceptional - even imperial - product and a brand / communication which could not have been displayed in a better fashion. A reminder of something beautiful, almost forgotten, restored for the rest of us.
These two facts have not been lost on the bartenders of the world who by nature are nomadic and tend to share their secrets with the top five or six establishments they may work at around the show over a two to three year period. As a result, this little Kiwi company touting a historic comeback is now in over 32 countries and being poured at some of the worlds finest establishments from the iconic 28 Hong Kong Street in Singapore to the ancient Savoy in London. Places where the subtle juniper of Tanqueray or the botanicals of even our local Broken Heart Gin want to shine through, being well supported by a lightly carbonated, beautifully crafted tonic. East Imperial have not stopped at the first gate however and have gone on to create a line of tonics that are fabulous in a range of drinks. Having some friends over this weekend (South by 42below and Bombay Saphire from across the world) along with a few people to share, we took the range for a spin and were so delightfully surprised at the restraint, subtle invention and sometimes gobsmackingly bright (that would be the grapefruit tonic) that we reigned down praise on each other for our good taste in both gin and mixer, and of course, ultimately each other. We tip our hats to these guys, their wives, their friends and who have all joined in the bringing back of something special in the world, something almost lost to the habits of large manufacturers and thus the habits formed in us. Here’s to the reforming of our taste buds and of our celebrations.
I love finding out where great products come from, who makes them and why. Every time I walk by something new at Raeward Fresh I wonder how it came to be and what went on in the lives of its producers which made its way into that box or this jar. On top of this, the often outstanding packaging (usually made from renewables) and super nice graphic design tells me a lot about the consideration and care these makers embody. Once I get the newbie food item home and have a sample, I’m even more curious about why someone would go to this much trouble to make, for instance, a wide range of perfectly fermented living food sauerkrauts in a place so far away from Germany, or even the U.S. Midwest or Seoul (the other capitols of sour…)? So when I found out that the creators of all these super nice fermented foods met on the solar eclipse trail in China, things started to come together.
Peter Kearns grew up in Karori where his father owned the Gipps Street Butchery. He grew up working in the food industry and eventually made his way to another foodie mecca on the other side of the world in East London. Fiona grew up near London where she worked in energy efficiency and sustainability. After meeting in China, the couple lived in London for a while longer but became disillusioned with their jobs and decided to move back to NZ. They wanted to start something completely new but weren’t exactly sure what that might be until health issues forced them to look for fermented foods as part of the healing regime for pancreatitis.
This is where Peter’s food background came back into play. He knew what he needed health wise, which was a living prebiotic and probiotic food which he could enjoy every day as a way of rebuilding his gut health. Even more importantly though, Peter knew how to combine traditional and innovative approaches to fermenting ingredients which would stand out not only for himself, but a growing group of food and health enthusiasts around New Zealand. And thus, Living Goodness was born. For instance, his deft use of juniper berry and caraway seeds in their Sassy Sauerkraut is brilliant.
Now, it may be true that aside from a few Maori dishes, Kiwi’s aren't typical fermented food eaters (beer not included). But what is true is that we do like to try new things and make even more new things from what we’ve learned. For instance, when you look at Fiona’s suggestions for using their broad range of foods in your everyday eating, you can see fermented foods making a lot of delicious sense:
Living Goodness Sassy Sauerkraut
• Sprinkle on your salad or a simple avocado and toast open sandwich with olive oil and seeds
ª Mix through some boiled potatoes with just a little bit of butter just before serving
• Layer in a pulled pork warp or add to a veggie burger
• Make a hazelnut, salami, gruyere cheese and sauerkraut toastie
Sum Yum Kimchi
• Have it as a condiment to a Tofu and exotic mushroom bibimap
• Put some spice in your rice by adding Sum Yum Kimchi before you serve
• Mix through brown rice, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, chopped tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, your favourite herbs, olive oil & lemon juice
• Have as a side to grilled fish with garlic, lemon
I’ve done some taste tests of my own with some good old Southland Desiree red potatoes and Raeward Fresh Queenstown's Pork and Apple Sausages and came up with this for lunch:
Lovely depth, caraway comes through nicely. Blends beautifully with apple pork sausage. You know it when you strike a juniper berry though. Fiona recommends leaving them aside as they are there to flavour the mix.
Quick draw slaw
A punchy balance of celeriac, carrot and chili comes through. Again, mellows with sausage and creates a nice foil to the meatiness
Seaweed comes through immediately with the kale and cabbage complimenting. Spun my sausage towards a Korean direction, like it would have gone great in a gimbap or as a condiment with bulgogi
Super fresh and crunchy with a pert salty flavour. Perfect with sausage, especially warmed up like the Ze Germans would do. Warming up your Living Goodness Sauerkraut will kill off the bacteria but take the flavours in another nice direction.
Really interesting with the deeper red cabbage notes coming through softened by the sweet/earthy beetroot. With sausage, mellows to a red cabbage slaw which would pair well with venison.
I had this with dinner and having grown up with Kimchi in California, found it to be a bright, solid version of this ancient condiment.
There’s a growing awareness that fermented foods eaten daily have heaps of gut health benefits. What I learned recently from Fiona however, is that for probiotics to work, they need to feed off prebiotics in order to flourish and do their job. Living Goodness therefore use a prebiotic chicory root in their foods as part of the living system. Which I guess makes sense coming from a couple who met following solar eclipses around the world. Which is not to say that they’re hippies, which they might be, but that they are both visionary and deep in their understanding and appreciation of the world. You can see this in the ingredients and process behind each of their foods and we’re grateful at Raeward Fresh that their journey has become part of ours.
It’s pretty wonderful when, every now and then, you discover a great new food, or even better, something new or special that you can do with what you already have. After meeting nutritionist and Vigour and Vitality founder Hayden Booker, I found both of these things in one day! Hayden makes nut and seed butters from an astoundingly wide range of ingredients. Some brand new to me (Activated Watermelon Seed Spread) and some new to NZ (Hemp Seed Butter) which is cool enough. But after chatting with Hayden recently, he made my day with a new use for some of his other great products (the Activated Pecan Butter or the Brazil Nut Butter being my favourites) which not only effect my every day practice (read: drinking fantastic coffee), but perhaps the entire cafe scene in NZ. I’ll explain…
On a recent road trip around the South Island, Hayden was out and about sharing his nut butters with a number of stores and cafes when at one he suggested they solve their alternative mylk issues by using his nut butters. Huh? Seems soy milk has done it’s dash at most cafes as the growing concern about health and soy become more prominent while at the same time discerning Kiwi’s want broader and tastier milk alternatives. But getting fresh almond, cashew or brazil nut mylks are prohibitively expensive or they have shelf life issues. No worries declares Rotorua native Hayden; just take a tablespoon of his activated Almond butter and steam it with a cup of water, and presto, a creamy-as almond mylk latte that has none of the chem after taste of most commercial nut mylks. Brilliant I say and so proceed to my espresso machine to try the same. I’ve got a cashew nut butter, pecan (my fave) and an almond (as a standard to test against other nut butter makers). Let the tests begin.
First off, as a coffee snob and trained barista I gotta say that my standards are very high. I’ve only been to a few places around the world that have actually got nut mylks right in a latte or whatever. Anyway, I took a tablespoon of Vigour and Vitality’s Activated Almond Butter and stirred it into some warm water from the espresso machine. While running my shot using Wanaka Roaster Venus’ Cuban blend - I steamed the almond mylk and made the latte. It was wonderful. Super creamy and just the right amount of nut flavour you’d want in a coffee. What I noticed immediately was that it didn’t have any of those bitter notes, or strange flavours from commercial nut mylks - probably due to all the additives… What I also noticed was how smooth and rich the almond (and later pecan) flavours came through. I think this is partially due to the fact that the nuts had been activated (a soaking process that kicks in the nuts nutrient base ready for sprouting - read up on this, it’s pretty amazing) but also that Hayden stone grinds his products to such a fine degree that there was no fibre in the latte or in the cup afterwards. Super nice!
I later compared this to a cashew nut latte I tried using a standard super market brand but it did’t have the same clarity of flavour or the creaminess as some of the larger bits of the nuts were still in the bottom of the pour. Hayden and crew are doing quite a few things really well here. And that’s just for steaming with coffee. The other new products, like the activated watermelon seed, have great uses in salad dressings (see recipe below), hummus or anything else you might use say a tahini for. Same for V & V’s pumpkin seed spread or activated Tahini. Some of these lend towards sweeter uses like the V & V’s Macadamia Nut butter or Hazelnut butter on a warm slice of banana bread while others work in dressings or savoury additions to meals. The super wide (and growing) range of nut and seeds Hayden is using is impressive and creates all kinds of opportunities in the kitchen.
Hayden and crew are now working on a number of other very cool products so watch for this brand at your nearest Raeward Fresh. He’s got a great nutritionists resume and international exposure to back his products but he’s also got that solid kiwi grounding in working with pure ingredients and processes which create fantastic healthy foods. His goal and heart is to provide people with a deep kind of nourishment for both soul and body and I think he’s nailing it. The nut butters and spreads are pure, simple and completely delicious. And I love that Hayden is helping people discover fantastic uses for products that we may have otherwise passed up. My everyday coffee routine just got a little bit healthier and a whole lot more tasty. Thanks Vigour and Vitality!
Check out Vigour & Vitality nut butter and seed spread recipes here:
V&V's Watermelon Seed and Orange dressing
on miners lettuce & calendula buds
We made a salad for some friends last night using Vigour & Vitalities Activated Watermelon Seed Spread. It’s very similar to Tahini in it’s strength so just use a bit and add as needed.
1 tsp Watermelon Seed Spread
4 tbsp Olive oil (I used an outstanding Marlborough extra virgin made by Oriwa)
4 tbsp fresh squeezed orange juice
1 tbsp Mirin (sushi vinegar)
2 tsp ROAR coconut sugar (I find this necessary to balance the bitter notes)
a pinch of salt and pepper
a head of miners lettuce which grows wild here in Otago
a couple of calendula buds for colour
Mix up the ingredients well with a fork to get everything well emulsified, add salt or sugar to taste.
Karen Staples grew up in Auckland amongst a large family of foodies. As a child, she loved hanging around the kitchen reading cookbooks and experimenting with baking recipes which she trialled on her three bothers. Eventually she became the go-to person in the fam when it came to birthday cakes, or any event requiring something special from the kitchen. Some years later, she became the go-to person for people at her local farmers market for decadent Christmas cakes with a modern twist - which then developed into a seasonal business for corporate clients who also wanted festive home made goodies. Over time Karen developed a reputation for outstanding cakes and cookies even though it was a side project for her to raise some extra cash during the holidays. When a friend asked her to produce a breakfast cereal for their new retail store, Karen combined the same playful experimentation with recipes with top shelf ingredients to produce what would later become an award winning market leader in premium granolas. It seems to be her way with things.
By now, you’ve probably seen pure delish products at Raeward Fresh and other stores around the country. Over the last 10 years Karen and team have been cooking up all kinds of special hand made cereals, bars bites and slabs (my favourite being the ginger and walnut slab, extremely moorish), and of course, festive treats which have become known for being as dense in nutrition as they are in flavour and satisfaction. Originally though, I thought they were a bit out of my price bracket until I had a go and brought some home. Reading through the ingredients it’s not hard to see why the cost is there, or reading through pure delish’ web site to see how everything remains hand made and produced which such a high level of quality. But at the end of the day it comes down to flavour, satisfaction and sustenance.
In terms of flavour, pure delish products seem to me to have something of Karen’s original Christmas cake vibe to them. They’re dark and rich and packed with heaps of different textures and tastes that come together super well. As such they’re really satisfying and you don’t need heaps to feel like your breakfast is complete, or an elevenses snack is enough to get through to lunch. The dense nature pure delish’s cereals bar and bites (usually at least 60% nuts seeds and fruit) makes them rich and wonderful. In talking with Karen about her products, I noticed she’s keen on good health for her family and of course her products. It’s apparent in her choice of the best possible ingredients, paleo mixes and her own health choices, but to Karen pure delish seems to be all about creating foods that celebrate the best life has to offer while doing it for and alongside family/community. She’s still baking for the whānau.
The last thing I noticed about pure delish is that their foods are true sustenance. When you’ve had some serious breakfast cereal or snacks which actually cover most of the nutritional ground your body needs you can feel that both during and after the meal. This kind of food is very much worth the cost per gram especially if you eat reasonable amounts and spread out a bag of granola say, over a week or so.
At the end of our conversation I asked Karen what was next for her entrepreneurial self. She mentioned some cool new flavours coming up using ancient grains or making passion fruit granola, but what impressed me was her sticking with the knitting. She’s not looking at going super global, mechanizing the hell out of the operation or doing some line extension bid to create pure delish action figures (although yes, I do like a toy in my cereal box if they’re handing them out). Nope. Karen wants to keep focusing on what she loves. A recent health scare and a deep love for her community has helped refine her attention on those things she wants the most out of life. Creating a meaningful connection with her community, making the best possible foods and sharing life with her family, special events and all. Makes me feel privileged to be on the receiving end of that love, even through a bowl of amazing cereal.
Joe Swatland started his chef training at 16 years old in the UK. Originally from Leicester in the Midlands, he made his way to working at the Savoy in London. He went on from there to work at The Royal Garden, another 5 star restaurant which caters for most of the professional sports teams playing in the city, including the All Blacks. It was at here that Joe got first hand experience in catering for the needs of top athletes. He took note of their nutritional needs, personalities, food philosophies and what they ate day in and day out. Eventually Joe made it to New Zealand working at Queenstown’s Public restaurant where he was further exposed to a region full of athletes and adventurers. Keen to start up his own venture, Joe and his fiancé Leoni started cooking up some ideas.
The couple wanted to create a product that would capitalize on Joe’s love of sport and his connection to athletes while avoiding any of the less than healthy ingredients a lot of nutrition bars contain. They decided to design a food that would be refined sugar free, dairy free, gluten free and contain only those ingredients that had the most nutrient dense properties on the planet. Joe started a nutrient database with 150 ingredients covering 40 entry fields each. He spent a lot of time at the Raeward Fresh getting his head around Camu Camu (Myrciaria dubia) and other superfoods new to Joe’s experience but essential to achieving his goal of delivering a compact nutrition bomb for athletes (and anyone else wanting a snack that probably is as nutritious gram for gram as anything in the world). Thus Nutribombs were born.
Superfoods have been around forever of course, but it’s only recently that people have started to make them available in one form or another. Usually, they’re kind of intense in flavour and you wouldn’t want to just pop a handful of say, goji berries in your mouth. What Joe and Leoni have done is sussed out the highest levels of essential foods for our body’s highest performance and combined them in soft, bite sized balls that are easy to chew (unlike goji berries straight up), delicious and well rounded. For instance, some nutrition bars or snacks will boast a large amount of protein or iron say, but in order to absorb these nutrients, you need complimentary ingredients like vitamin C for iron or b6 for protein. Nutribombs have all this covered as Joe’s taken the database and put it to work in the mix.
Joe and Leoni continue to work with top athletes in the region to develop unique ingredient combinations that focus on performance, endurance, recovery and yoga. For instance, the Performance Nutribomb contains dates, cashews, sun dried apricots, linseed, almond milk, blackcurrant powder, Maca powder and chlorella powder, all specifically aimed at giving you the kick needed to get moving. I gotta say too, that their amazingly satisfying for being such small little bombs. I’ve been building an extension on my house for the last 8 weeks and there’s been a few times where I all I had was a pack of Nutribombs in my pocket, eating one every 10 minutes, which not only kept me going but kept me feeling great.
Rebel Foods is now focusing on other products that will put that database to work, designing specific foods that will meet the needs of Rebel Leaders (athletes and others who are helping to test the products and champion Joe’s cause). Keep your eye out for gels coming soon, and other cool foods from this highly trained chef who’s come to Queenstown offering us his deep love for both sport and nutrition. You can get Nutribombs at Raeward Fresh as well as Camu Camu for your own superfood experiments. You may just run into Joe there planning his next rebellion.
Now that winter is here, or supposed to be in Otago, I’m on the lookout for ingredients that are going to spike my ice creams with fresh fruitiness or flavour my lattes with intrigue or top my chocolate cakes with panache or garnish my huevos rancheros with roasted and fresh herbs… Problem is, it’s winter - or supposed to be - and I can’t get fresh blueberries, raspberries, black doris plums or kaffir leaves for these dishes. Not to worry says my Raeward Fresh pal Nathan at the store in Queenstown, Fresh As has got me sorted. These guys produce freeze dried produce that seals in not only the freshness and nutrition of the fruits and herbs they sell, but a fantastic twist to the original product that makes my ice cream for instance, a whimsical magical thing. I’ll explain.
Tommy Roff is a perfectionist who has been in the produce business for over 25 years. In his experience, when winter came around chefs and home cooks alike wanted access to fresh herbs and fruits but struggled to find them. Tommy decided then to freeze dry certain foods that would tap into the imagination of chefs developing new cuisines flourishing around the world (Fresh As now sells to chefs and retails stores in seven countries). Freeze drying food is a process that combines super cold temps and vacuum technology. It freezes the food, however instead of producing liquid the moisture turns to ice and is then vacuumed from the food leaving a distinct crispy texture. This means the Fresh As dried blueberries I use for my sweetened condensed milk ice cream reconstitute just a bit in the process of making the ice cream (see recipe below) but also maintain a chewy gooeyness that makes the ice cream amazing! Same is true for my Black Doris latte using Tommy’s plum powder in the steamed milk - AMAZING!
Tommy and the crew at Fresh As have created heaps of great recipes which you can see on their site but I wanted to highlight a few of my own creations, made with Fresh As goodness, to encourage you along the road of freeze dried discoveries in your own kitchen. I started out by getting a huge range of Fresh As gear, from herbs (kaffir and sage powder to tarragon and thyme) and spices, to some fruit powders (mango and black doris for instance) and then dried fruits (like lychee, blueberry, strawberries, whole cherries and plum slices) and started experimenting. Of course, the fruits are fantastic just popping them in your mouth (they melt revealing all their original freshness), but I’ve tried a few other recipes I’ll pass on here.
Fresh As Blueberry and Sweetened Condensed Milk Ice Cream
This recipe is a staple at my place which allows you to make any kind of ice cream you want without the fuss of an ice cream maker or the constance stir, freeze, stir… process. And now with Fresh As dried fruits, it's all gone up a few notches!
250 ml fresh cream (or Lewis Road thickened cream if you want to go hard)
200 ml sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla paste or essence
half a pack of Fresh As freeze dried blueberries
Simple As method:
whip the cream until thick
whip in the condensed milk and vanilla
stir in the blueberries
That’s it folks. Put it in the freezer and 12 hours later you have the most amazing ice cream. The texture is smooth and perfect and the blueberries become a chewy candy like thing which makes the whole affair fantastic. I’ve added some pomegranate syrup over the top in the pic below just to add a little kick to the dessert.
Fresh As Black Doris Latte
In the U.S. you’ll often find flavored latte’s on offer at interesting cafes. I’ve had Hawaiian Black Sea Salt Latte’s, Lavender Latte’s and of course, dark chocolate and chili… so when I saw the Black Doris plum powder from Fresh As, I thought the rich flavour would go well with a long black straight up or steamed in the latte milk. Both worked a treat. Have a go for your self and see what you think.
Fresh As Mandarin Chocolate Cake
We’ve been working on an extension at home and decided to treat the builders to this amazing coffee cake treat. Smiles all around especially with the candy crunch of the punchy mandarin slices.
1 & 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup coconut sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
1 & 3/4 cups buttermilk
2 generous tablespoons rice bran oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp Blue Frog Zesty Orange syrup
100 ml fresh cream
100 grams chopped dark chocolate
a pack of Fresh As Mandarin slices
Preheat your oven 160˚ C and line a lot tin with baking paper.
Mix all the dry ingredients well and then add the wet ingredients one by one stirring with a wooden spoon until well combined.
Pour into the lined loaf tin and back at 160˚ for 40 minutes or until your knife come out clean from poking into the middle of the cake. Allow 1 hour to cool
For the icing, finely chop the 100 grams of dark chocolate and set in a glass bowl. In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, bring the cream to a boil and pour over the chocolate. Allow it to sit for 4 minutes and then stir to create the ganache. Allow to cool for another 10 minutes stirring occasionally and then pour over the cake.
Add scrunched up bits of the mandarin to the top of the iced cake and then artfully place the rest of the whole pieces. Serve warm with coffee. Yum!
I’ve been adding the coriander power to my quesadillas (see below), sage to my split pea and ham hock soups, kaffir to my salad dressings, and the list goes on. Fresh As herbs and spices really do take the flavour up a notch and the fruits have got me thinking anew about many of my old recipes. Have a go for your self at a Raeward Fresh near you and see what you can create.
Who we are
This blog is written by Patrick Dodson and is a collaborative effort from the entire Raeward Fresh team of purchasers, chefs, nutritionists, butchers, grocers, baristas and other food creatives.
Crystal Gardens Lettuce
Chef Dave Miller
Retro Organics Milk
Basil & Parsley
Jenny Lamond Cakes
Canter Valley Turkey
Wanaka Organics Eggs
Chef Anne Halson
Chef Jonathan Rogers
Off Our Tree Cherries
Goodies On The Gorge
The Raeward Fresh Queenstown Kitchen
Kim Malcolm on Coconuts
Cairnmuir Olive Oil
Provisions Jane Shaw
Fix & Fogg Peanut Butter
Make It Raw
Kokako drinking chocolate
Inch Valley Preserves
White Rabbit Cacao
The People' Bread
Weka Olive Oil
White Heart Hazelnuts
Karamaya Black Garlic
Muesli & Co
Soda Press Co
Dr Feelgood Frozen Pops
All Good Drinks
She Universe Chocolates
A Cracker Of A Nut
Raglan Coconut Yoghurt
Pinoli Pine Nuts
Bonnie Goods Oatcakes
Taste of Provence
Tom & Luke Bars
Pure NZ Ice Cream
Clevedon Buffalo Mozzarella
the Kefir company
Pure Wasabi Coppersfolly
Benneto's Drinking Chocolate
Blueskin Bay Honey
Hogarth Craft Chocolate
Something To Crow About
Fresh As dried Foods
Holy Smoke Salmon
Rebel Foods Nutribombs
Vigour & Vitality
East Imperial Tonics
Abel Methode Cider
Wild Fennel Co.
Covet Nut Milks
Tio Pablo Foods
First Light Wagyu
The Chocolate Workshop
For The Better Good