Moving to the other side of the world, as well as having two young boys, has given us a huge opportunity to share our enthusiasm for growing, buying, preparing, cooking and eating real food. And living here we have no excuse! New Zealand has access to an amazing range of high quality fresh produce and raw materials, from land and sea.

As an island nation, our cuisine is heavily influenced by local ingredients and seasonal variations and so Kiwis have grown up with a natural instinct and respect for flavour. Going round the Farmer’s Markets in Hawkes Bay, Nelson and Matakana there is a strong sense of integrity and great pride in craftsmanship. Yet here we’re not trapped by our traditional Maori and British roots, but embrace foods from other countries and cultures including the Mediterranean, Asia and the Pacific Rim.

In fact an average meal for a Kiwi family is now a fusion of many cultural influences – whose stories can tell us the real and relevant history of New Zealand and its people. For example, did you know that the first lemon trees were planted to help combat scurvy in ship’s crews? Or that our breakfast porridge is a direct result of the Scottish settlers in the 1800’s? Our roast kumara comes from Maori culture, while the roast dinner served with it is of medieval European origin. Our new Asian fusion recipes owe much to more recent immigration patterns.

Ingredients for many ethnic dishes have now become much easier to find in major cities and once exotic ingredients such as extra virgin olive oil, fish sauce and sun dried tomatoes are now used in everyday cooking. And more recently, in true pioneering ‘Number 8 wire’ style we have started to produce our own high quality versions of previously imported ingredients like haloumi, buffalo mozzarella, wasabi, verjuice, chilli sauce and saffron, which sit side by side in many delicatessens and specialty stores with more ‘traditional’ products. Several varieties of apple currently enjoyed across the world, including Pacific Rose and Jazz, were first developed here while kiwifruit, of Chinese origin, are now known worldwide as a New Zealand specialty. Avocado oil was developed by a group of Tauranga growers in 1999 and vanilla pods are now grown here in the Bay of Plenty for the first time.

But travelling around the country has made us realise that the true essence of New Zealand is captured in the friendliness and fierce pride of the many small towns, many of which have gone to quite extraordinary lengths to put themselves on the map with powerful visual statements that signal to passers-by just who they are, including Te Puke’s giant kiwifruit, Ohakune’s nine metre carrot, Riverton’s paua and Taupo’s rainbow trout. Festivals have been another tourist draw card for rural towns – including Hokitika’s internationally recognised Wild Foods Festival and Marlborough’s Wine Festival.

More than just a collection of recipes, ‘Fresh!’ is our culinary journey around New Zealand, finding out more about regional ingredients, both traditional and modern. The book is divided into regional sections and goes on to explore three or four ingredients particular to that area. There are recipes to suit every taste and occasion, including a simple salad using smoked mackerel from the Coromandel, char-grilled Kaikoura crayfish, Canterbury lamb shanks and an amazing Bay of Plenty avocado chocolate truffle tart. Recipes are interspersed with evocative country and coastal images and fabulous food photographs from our great friend, photographer Simon Young. We hope that you enjoy the journey as much as we did.