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Archive for the ‘New Product’ Category

A Good Oil

I’ve just discovered a new olive oil and unusually for me it’s from Greece. For years I’ve been in the habit of buying Italian oil by the litre for cooking and local New Zealand for the table – a different one every time.

My new oil, from Vassilakis Estate was recommended to me by Frederic, the manager of  Le Marché Français in Wellington. The idea that a French delicatessen should not only stock a Greek olive oil but give it a prominent display, centre stage, intrigued me.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen an estate bottled Greek olive oil on the shelf in this country, let alone bought one, so I read up on it. I discovered that Greek producers have been slow to follow the boutique trend, and not because their oils lack quality. Greece boasts the highest percentage of extra virgin olive oil in the world (up to 80% of their total production). Despite that, most of the exported oil is shipped out unbranded to countries who use it to raise the quality of their own bulk blends. Boutique brands are in the minority but if the international awards are anything to go by, their numbers are increasing.

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Vassilakis Estate EV Olive oil

This one made it to Wellington thanks to businessman Paul Robinson.  He discovered it while on holiday in Crete and was so impressed  by the oil and the Vassilakas family who produce it that he rashly imported two pallets and had it delivered to Le Marché Français at the Woolstore, his building on Thorndon Quay.

The Vassilakis family has been producing oil from their estate since 1865. The current generation is proud of their heritage but they are also investing heavily in the future with modern extraction technology and contemporary branding. Given the current Greek crisis, that’s as brave as it is smart and I imagine it was part of what appealed to Paul when he put in his order. He told me he likes the idea that his own family business, the Woolstore, is supporting another family business in Crete.

I’m a sucker for a story like that so I paid $10.90 for 200ml of the best in the range and I tasted it neat, sipped off a warm spoon. (I’ve always thought it a strange way to taste a product that is otherwise never consumed like this but it is the fairest way to evaluate and compare olive oils.) Like most Greek olive oil this one is made from koroneiki olives which produce a very low acid, fruity flavoured oil. balanced with a pleasant bitterness (think raddicchio). I also found it nicely buttery with a silky mouth feel, a grassy aroma and a peppery finish that lingers like a warm evening in Crete.

I’ve been sloshing it about quite liberally. Its slight bitterness is perfect on a green salad – it’s like adding a few dandelion leaves to the mix – and it’s very good drizzled on my (mostly) homegrown tomatoes with mozzarella, sea salt and basil. 

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The Boxed Set

Who else remembers magazines with recipe pages designed four to a page and formated on both sides so you could cut them out and collect them as recipe cards? Food pic on one side and recipe on the other, they were a good idea but the boxed set never really challenged the traditional way of filing recipes in ringbinders and scrapbooks. Well now they’re back – not as magazine cutouts but as fully formed sets of cards neatly stacked in boxes that look good on the bench. Penguin the publisher has its version and so has Ripe the delicatessen.

Ripe: The Boxed Set

Ripe: The Boxed Set

I love the Ripe version. It arrived just before Christmas in a flat pack with assembly instructions that make the building process quite simple – no nails required. Whoever thought this system through is a genius. The laminated cards stack up neatly between colour-coded dividers in a smart plywood box that has a metal lid which doubles as an angled card holder – no more using the pepper mill to keep the right page open on the bench.

The indexed dividers are smart too, arranging the recipes in a way Ripe devotees like to cook. There are sections for Salads, Nibbles and Dips, Dressings and Rubs, Soups & Starters, Lunch & Dinner, etc. and a handy secton for measurements, tips and conversions. My box came with two sets of themed cards: Summertime and Festive Celebrations. I’m told more sets will be published on an ongoing basis and there are also a few blanks for recipes that come from elsewhere. I’ve already started stuffing my box full of extras and I’ve also tried out a few of the original recipes. These are fresh and flavoursome with Ripe’s signature emphasis on clever salads and decadent baking.

Given the retro nature of the boxed set idea I was particularly drawn to a recipe that reinterprets a dish from the 70s. Back then, when I was little, dining out with my parents was a huge treat. I loved being able to choose three courses from a menu. I like to think I was pretty adventurous but when it came to the entrée I always chose the avocado. In those days it was an ‘avocado pear’ and it came either halved and filled with vinaigrette – how I loved scooping out the flesh and dunking it into the oily pond – or it was stuffed full of shrimps coated in Thousand Island Dressing. I liked them either way but now I’m a grownup I much prefer Ripe’s Asian-inspired avocado boats filled with spicy prawns. Recipe below.

Ripe: The Box comes with two sets of recipe cards and some blank cards. RRP $60  Order online

Link to NZ Life & Leisure on Facebook for the chance to win one of two Ripe recipe boxes

                         ANGIE’S AVOCADO & SPICED PRAWN BOATS

SallyGreer_RipeRecipeBox_417A6559_web

400g FRESH PRAWNS, tail on

1 or 2 CHILLIES, finely diced

zest and juice of 1 LEMON

1 tbsp COCONUT SUGAR

2 KAFFIR LIME LEAVES, finely chopped

¼ cup SESAME SEEDS

1 SPRING ONION, finely sliced

½ cup CORIANDER, roughly chopped

½ YELLOW CAPSICUM, finely diced

½ GREEN CAPSICUM, finely diced

¼ cup THAI BASIL LEAVES

1 tbsp COCONUT OIL or RICE BRAN OIL

5 RIPE AVOCADOS

SALT & freshly ground BLACK PEPPER

2 LIMES cut into wedges to serve

To marinate the prawns: in a bowl, place the prawns, chillies, lemon zest & juice, sugar, lime leaves & sesame seeds. Toss to coat the prawns in the marinade.

Place in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes. In another bowl, mix the spring onions, coriander, capsicums & Thai basil leaves together.

Place a frying pan over a high heat; once the pan is smoking hot add the coconut oil.

Then add the prawns & the marinade, fry for a few minutes or until the prawns are caramelised & golden.

Remove from the heat & transfer the prawns with any remaining marinade in the pan, into the bowl with the spring onions & capsicums. Season to taste with salt & freshly ground black pepper.

Cut the avocados in half, remove the stone but leave the skin on.

Place the avocados on a serving platter. Top each avocado with a big spoonful of the prawn mix. Serve with wedges of lime on the side. Serves 10 as an entrée.

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Salmon is fast becoming the new chicken. Once an occasional treat, salmon is now a regular item on restaurant menus, a favourite at dinner parties and a necessary part of the canapé platter. Its popularity is partly due to the fact New Zealand farmed salmon is a high quality product, so much better than the flabby farmed salmon I’ve encountered in Europe and, I think, better than the Atlantic salmon from Tasmania.

In NZ we farm the chinook or king salmon. It was introduced in the early 1900’s and has thrived in an environment that’s free of the parasites specific to the species. That means we don’t have to dose our farmed salmon with antibiotics. We are also lucky in that we have an extensive coastline with deep sheltered waterways and good tidal flows – perfect conditions for aquaculture.

New Zealand has also pioneered the raising of salmon in fresh-water hydro canals. Our alpine salmon is superb, apparently because the fish are constantly exercising their muscles by swimming against the fast flowing glacial currents in the canals. There is nothing flabby about these fish. 

Alpine king salmon is the fish used by Sealord in its new range of hot smoked salmon. Unlike cold-smoking, hot-smoking cooks and smokes the fish at the same time. Sealord, despite being the second biggest seafood company in the country, is using a traditional smokehouse with manuka wood chips to create a more artisinal product that is very good. Its Manuka Smoked Salmon took out the Supreme Award at the NZ Food Awards 2014. I’ve used Sealord’s Peri Peri Hot Smoked Salmon in the following recipe for kedgeree, its mild chilli flavour goes well with the spices that flavour this Anglo/Indian dish. If you want more  of a kick, add more cayenne.

Salmon Kedgeree

Salmon Kedgeree

Hot Smoked Salmon Kedgeree

200g (1 cup) basmati rice

375ml (1 ½ cups) water

2 free range eggs

2 tablespoons neutral oil

½ onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon grated ginger

½ teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon ground coriander

pinch cayenne

25g butter

1 x155g pack Sealord Peri Peri Hot Smoked Salmon, skinned and flaked

½ cup cream

salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander and a few leaves for garnish

Rinse the rice and place in a pot with the water. Bring to a boil then immediately lower heat to a slow simmer. Cover the pot with a lid and allow rice to cook for 12 minutes without removing the lid. Remove from heat and keep covered for a further 10 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed.

Soft-boil the eggs for 6 minutes and set aside to cool before peeling off shells.

Heat the oil in a high sided frying pan and cook onion, garlic and ginger over med-low heat until softened but not browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in  turmeric, coriander and cayenne and cook for a further minute. Add butter and when melted, add cooked rice, flaked salmon and cream. Stir to combine and heat through. Add fresh coriander and season to taste.

Serve topped with a soft boiled egg and a scattering of coriander leaves.

Makes 2 main servings or 4 small plates (as pictured).

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Thanks to Lewis Road Creamery I am awash with milk. I received my sample bottles on Tuesday and I’ve been guzzling it ever since. I’m a huge fan of this company’s cultured butter so I knew its milk would be good – it has a clean, fresh creamy taste that somehow seems better than standard milk – the question is why? What does this artisan company do that’s different?

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Firstly, Lewis Road milk is organic. I do think that makes a difference – Zany Zeus’ organic milk also tastes great.

Lewis Road milk comes from grass-grazing cows that haven’t been fed any waste  products from the palm oil industry. The arguments against this are mostly to do with environmental issues, but that aside – and I don’t know if affects the taste of the milk – I do think it’s wrong to feed cows dusty-looking stuff that comes from the fruit of a tropical palm tree. Cows are meant to eat grass.

Lewis Road produces 100% jersey milk. Jersey milk has a high percentage of milk fat so it does taste creamier.  Milk from standard brands is not separated by breed – it’s a mixture of milks. Currently about 80% of the national herd is either holstein-fresian (the black and white ones) or holstein-fresian/jersey cross. Jersey cows (small and brown) account for only 12%. Jerseys produce milk with higher percentages of milk fat but holstein-fresians beat them on volume – hence the work that has gone into creating the crossbreed which appears to be a good compromise for farmers who are paid on the total quantity of milk solids.

Lewis Road milk claims to be more natural and less processed. In particular it makes a deal out of not adding permeate to its milk. This is where it gets a bit controversial and quite tricky because permeate is a natural component of milk. It is essentially lactose and water and it’s a byproduct of ultra filtration. Large dairy companies like Fonterra use this process to remove proteins which are then used in high-protein, higher-value products. The permeate, which is also separated off, is then added back in various amounts, allowing the final protein levels of the milk to be standardised, thus overcoming any seasonal variability. You can’t really call permeate an additive because it was in the milk in the first place but it is a bit sneaky because the way it’s re-introduced enables factories to adjust, or water down, the milk to the lower end of the minimum allowable protein content. In short, big companies like Fonterra are using all the technology at their disposal to extract the best value out of every litre of milk. You can’t blame the farmer-owned co-operative for doing the best by its farmers and there’s certainly nothing wrong with its milk but the permeate practice is a bit of an eye-opener for those of us who imagined milk was not quite so highly processed. Lewis Road milk is processed too: it’s pasteurised and mostly homogenised; the fat levels are adjusted according to type and the calcium-enriched product must have either been added to or adjusted in some way. It is not milk straight out of the cow, but the processing is minimal and Lewis Road milk does taste like milk used to taste. In this, I’m sure my taste buds are influenced by the charmingly retro (recyclable) bottles. The company’s artisan values are wrapped up in some very smart packaging.

Finally, Lewis Road organic cream: it’s fantastic. I’m sure this is the ‘jersey effect’ – jersey milk being naturally richer – but it’s also because the milk fat levels have been kept higher than the minimum standard of 35%. Lewis Road cream is 39% and its double cream is 48%. Yes, double cream. This is a first for New Zealand. The UK has single (18% min), whipping (35% min) and double (48%) but we have only ever had one type of pouring cream. I had always assumed it was equivalent to double but I was wrong about that. In this leading dairy country of ours, the cream has only ever been as rich as UK whipping cream. I find this just as astounding as the fact our big dairy companies have failed to provide us with cultured butter. It’s all very well to be producing products for export (Fonterra and Westland both make cultured butter for customers offshore) but we haven’t been well served at home. Thank goodness for artisan producers like Lewis Road Creamery. Now we have flavoursome butter, good tasting milk and deliciously rich double cream.

Lewis Road Creamery’s milk and cream products are  available in Auckland and have just been spotted at Moore Wilson in Wellington. Organic Jersey Milk 750ml RRP $3.10. Organic Jersey Cream 300ml RRP $3.99. Double Cream 300ml RRP $4.49

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Better Butter Biscuits

A couple of days ago a box of butter arrived on my doorstep from my dairy farmer in-laws Cathy and Jamie Tait-Jamieson. Cathy and Jamie have a micro dairy factory on their farm where they produce Biofarm yoghurt with milk from their own cows. They are also one of a number of organic farmers whose cream goes into the making of Organic Times butter.

_1TJ6587 The delivery of several kilos of the stuff was a not too subtle reminder that I had promised to come up with a recipe to promote said butter.  I love butter, and I particularly like this butter – it’s organic, fresh tasting, creamy and not too heavily salted. I will happily put it in everything I cook but my brief was to provide a single recipe in which butter was the hero ingredient.

I considered beurre blanc and then butterscotch but finally settled on shortbread. In it’s simplest form, shortbread is 3 parts flour, 2 parts butter and 1 part sugar. There are variations – substituting a bit of rice flour makes the biscuit crisper, cornflour gives it a softer melting texture, and then you can add, chocolate chips, vanilla, lemon, whatever – but a good shortbread biscuit is entirely dependent on the quality of the butter. It’s the difference between shop bought and homemade. So I spent this weekend baking and came up with the following recipe which delivers a melt-in-the mouth biscuit with just enough orange zest to add interest without taking attention away from the butter.

Orange Butter Biscuits

Orange Butter Biscuits

Orange Butter Biscuits

I’ve used unsalted butter and added a small amount of salt to the recipe. This might seem to defeat the purpose but some butters are more salty than others and this way gives more control.

175g good unsalted butter, softened but not melted

85g caster sugar

fine zest of one orange (a microplane gives the best result)

200g plain flour

50g cornflour

¼ teaspoon salt

caster sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 150°C

Line 1 large or 2 small baking trays with baking paper.

Beat butter and sugar together until smooth and creamy. Beat in orange zest. Sift together plain flour, cornflour and salt. Add to butter mixture and combine gently using hands. Form into a disc shape and roll out to 1 cm thickness. Use a cookie cutter to cut out circles or other shapes. Place on baking sheet, prick with a fork and chill in refrigerator for 15-20 minutes before baking (this helps them keep their shape). Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until lightly coloured. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before sprinkling with caster sugar. Transfer to a rack. When cold store in an airtight tin.

Makes 24 if using a 5cm diameter cutter

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Peck of Pickled Pepper

Ronaldo’s Pepper Caviar is a new one on me. Green peppercorns, pickled in brine, have been around for a while – I’m old enough to remember dinner parties where we dressed steaks in a creamy green peppercorn sauce. At the time it was a new take on the old pepper steak where the meat was dredged in so much coarsely crushed black pepper it wouldn’t have mattered what you were eating so long as you had a big jug of water to wash it down.

Ronaldo’s are dry-pickled black peppercorns, grown in Sri Lanka by his friend Pani. Black peppercorns are usually picked under-ripe, naturally fermented then dried in the sun. These ones have been lightly crushed, packed into rock salt then probably aged for some time. In Wellington they are repacked into tiny jars and sold with a cute little spoon.

Ronaldo labels his condiment ‘pepper caviar’ on account of the colour and the saltiness of the soft little corns that don’t so much pop, as crunch pleasantly in your mouth. Not that you’d eat them like caviar, but you get the idea.

Ronaldo says Sri Lankan pepercorns have a 15% higher oil content than those grown elsewhere. I’ve no idea if that’s so but they do have a lovely aromatic flavour that goes well with just about anything. I’ve been dropping them on to late season tomatoes dressed with olive oil and balsamic; they are brilliant with buffalo mozzarella and I’d like to try them with strawberries.

Available at markets and delicatessens or buy direct from Ronaldo. $12.80 for a 20g jar, plus freight. Tel 027 476 7043

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