One of the great things about demonstrating food is the chance to meet some truly passionate people. This was definitely the case last Saturday, we were in the middle of a two day book signing tour of all the Paper Plus bookstores in the Bay of Plenty, which are a slightly strange experience where some people are genuinely interested in our book and some just want to buy stamps. Toby from Paper Plus Tauranga wanted us to do a signing and cooking demonstration at the Tauranga Farmers Market, an opportunity to good to miss!

Toby and Anne

The idea was to do a cooking demo to anyone who happened by, of course the type of person who goes to a farmers market is already a food lover so getting an audience wasn’t a problem.

So what to cook, well the whole point of a farmers market is that you get what’s in season. So having taken a spin around the market I decide to do a simple risotto with some of Franks Sausages and some of the fantastic herbs and veggies from various growers. for olive oil we borrowed a bit from Bert at Viridis grove. What could be better.

What I realised while demonstrating was that my search for food heroes was over, they were all here, not just the wonderfully passionate growers and producers but also the people who were choosing to do their food shopping in that school playground early on a Saturday morning. Food is all about choices and the first one we need to make is the choice to care about our food supply. So if you care then search out your nearest farmers market and start making a difference. I’ll be at the Rotorua Night Market on Thursday 18th November, demonstrating three dishes from 5pm.

Ok thats me off my soap box, I promised you some recipes. Since the risotto was made up on the day I thought I’d give you the standard recipe with some variations.

Easy Risotto

The main point to remember when making risotto is that any liquid which you use, whether it is stock, wine or cream, should be boiling hot before you add it to the rice.  This will stop your risotto from “clumping”.

For 2 – 3 main servings:

1 cup Ferron risotto rice

2½ cups stock, boiling

½ onion or 2 shallots, chopped

1 – 2 cloves garlic, chopped

Extra virgin olive oil

100 ml white wine

Salt and pepper

Parmesan, grated

Extra hot stock, olive oil or butter


Heat the wine gently (and saffron, if using.)  In another large pan, heat a little olive oil and sweat the “soffrito” slowly – garlic, onion and any other root vegetable being used (e.g. carrot, leek).  Add the rice and heat through for 1 – 2 minutes (called toasting).  Add wine and allow to reduce.  Add the boiling stock all at once, bring back to the boil and add seasoning.  Cover and simmer for 15 – 18 minutes.

Add flavourings, rest for a few minutes and then stir through parmesan, a little extra stock,  gently heated cream, extra virgin olive oil or butter – the amount depends on how ‘allonde,’ or creamy, you like your risotto.

Suggested additions:

  • Porcini: Soak 15g Gigante porcini in 250ml warm water for at least 20 minutes.  Strain and use some of the stock in risotto.  Add sliced porcini at half way point.  Add heated cream at the end, along with parmigiano and chopped Italian parsley.  Drizzle with Ceruti Truffle oil.
  • Smoked Mushrooms: As above, but use Aromatics Smoked Mushrooms instead of porcini.
  • Smoked Salmon : Add chopped leek to the initial ‘soffrito’.  Before adding parmesan, add chopped, cooked Aoraki Smoked Salmon.
  • Chorizo & Saffron : Add a pinch of crushed saffron to the wine/stock and, before you add the parmesan at the end, fold through 2 cooked, chopped chorizo sausages.
  • Pumpkin: Cook cubed pumpkin slowly in EVO with garlic and some red wine and add with the parmesan.
  • Lamb, Feta & Capers: Add 1 – 2 seared lamb fillets, marinated in Giusti Balsamic Vinegar and Olivo Infused Olive Oil (Lemon or Porcini) plus 2 tablespoon salted capers, soaked and rinsed and 100g cubed Zany Zeus Creamy Feta.

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So last week we launched the FRESH on the world, what a great night. Anne and I are so honoured with the support that we have received with our journey into the publishing world. We gathered at Books a Plenty, a perfect independent book store in Tauranga, enjoyed some beautiful wine from Steve Bird and a bit of food from yours truly.

Obviously I had to say a few words and dragged Anne and Simon Young, our photographer, along for the ride. Simon is very much more comfortable behind the camera but this night was as much about his amazing work as it was ours. Thankfully everyone was very kind and listened without too much heckling and then bought a few books. Thank you all for that.

You can tell that Anne and I are new to this as we turned up to our own book launch without a pen.  Of course that problem was immediately solved by Gemma, our wonderful publicist from Hachette. My mother always taught me never to write in books so basically the whole evening felt a bit like vandalism.

Once the formalities were over we all had the chance to enjoy the moment with a room full of the Bay of Plenty’s finest – what could be better? This is the moment that that we can thank a few people however we would be bound to forget so many, that said there are a few notables:

Jane Hingston, Peter Blakeway and Gemma Finlay

Jane Hingston, our wonderful mentor and also the Managing Editor at Hachette NZ, and Gemma Finlay the extraordinary publicist at Hachette NZ

Rick Lowe and Trevor Mitchell

Anne Butcher, Kay Mitchell and Linda Preston

Anne and Rick own the best restaurant in the Bay of Plenty, Somerset Cottage and although technically competitors have also been some of our biggest supporters. What’s more I’ve had endless hours of fun reading Anne’s Blog; I can only hope that I can learn to write with as much passion, wit and intelligence.

As for Trevor and Kay Mitchell and Linda Preston, they in different ways are very much a part of our future in the form of Matahui Lodge, where I’m the executive chef, and Mills Reef Winery, the new home of our cook school.

The team at Moca Web Design, who built all of this interweb thingy and who are trying to teach me how to use it…best of luck!!!

There are so many more people that have supported and helped us on this journey that I can only hope that you know who you are and that we are so grateful.

So the book is now off and running, the website is online (which you already know if you’re reading this) and the cook school at Mills Reef Winery is about to start. So what’s next? Well the idea is that I will update this blog as often as I can with a combination of my thoughts on food and the food industry as well as weekly recipes for you to try in your own kitchen. Please feel free to post a comment or follow on Facebook. Our journey with food is just beginning, join us and meet the people and food along the way…it’ll be a blast.

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That’s going to be the big questions this week as we try to launch the next three big things at once.

On Thursday night we will be launching our first book FRESH, our new website and our new Cook School.

Firstly the website which if you’re reading this you’ve obviously already stumbled across it. Thanks to Moca Web Design this is now your window into our world and hopefully we’ll be able to give you a bit of fun and maybe a little challenge. Look out for the facebook and twitter to follow once I’ve worked out what they are.

Next is the Cook School, which is really cool. From now on our home in the Bay will be the Wine Cellar at Mills Reef Winery. We will be doing a couple of classes before Christmas then settling in to a regular program in the New Year. Watch this space for regular updates.  We are awesomely proud to be able to announce that Fisher and Paykel have decided to join us in this and are in the process of designing and building a state of the art demonstration kitchen on wheels for us to use at Mills Reef and also to take on the road to any venue in New Zealand. Mills Reef Winery has to be the dream venue for a cook school, now you can come and learn then have a meal and a wee drinky at the end, that’s what life should be all about. Again watch this space to enjoy the trials and tribulations of a new cook school.

Finally the book. What more can I say except please go and buy it so that we can start on Book 2.

Join the fun and tell your friends !!!!!

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Wow, its amazing to see our book on the shelves of the bookshops, though it is odd to be in the middle of Jeremy Clarkson and Susan Boyle. Fresh hit the shelves late last week and will be officially launched at Books a Plenty in Grey Street Tauranga on Thursday 4th November. Catch the photos of the launch on this blog next week.

Writing our first book has been an unbelievable experience. For over a year now this has been notes on a whiteboard and ever increasing files on our computer, now to have a real book in our hands is a truly surreal joy.
We’ve had the pleasure of working with the wonderful people at Hachette New Zealand and of course our amazing photographer Simon Young. Simon was determined that Fresh would also be a Fresh take on food photography and boy has he pulled it off.

Of course now the scary bit starts as we see how well everyone likes our work. Hopefully everyone will rush out to their nearest book store and buy lots of copies for themselves and their friends for Christmas.

Meanwhile we will be starting on book 2, the yet to be commissioned yet to be started sequel to the yet to be sold Fresh.

Oh what a crazy world!!!

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