Before I start this I want to state for the record that I live in the most wonderful part of the world and am truly lucky to be here and be made so welcome. It all sounds like I’m about to say something detrimental about New Zealand and in some way be an ungrateful Pom. That’s not the idea but like anywhere in the world we can always learn from others if we are prepared to open our eyes.

In New Zealand we seem to be following the American/British model for food purchases and fast food, that being large corporates dictating what and where we buy. It doesn’t have to be this way, it should be part of our culture to buy local and support local, to eat and cook in season, but it isn’t. We should know where our food is coming from by right and not just when a marketing department thinks it would be useful to them.

We produce some of the most extraordinary raw materials and have the capabilities to do even better but our food is now some of the most expensive in the western world and frankly the quality is in decline.

Now obviously we can make food choices if we have the money and shop in some of the more exclusive food stores where the choice and quality is hugely enhanced, There’s Farro Fresh and Nosh in Auckland, Moore Wilson in Wellington, Belmondo and the Good Food Trading Company in my home town of Tauranga to name just a few. These wonderful people are flying the passionate flag for good food and local produce and are, along with our ever growing band of Farmers Markets, trying to recapture our food supply from the faceless conglomerates that have hijacked it for profit.

So how do we change the system, well what I wanted to show you was some pictures from the market in St Jean de Luz in the Basque region of Southern France. This market is open 6 days a week with the outside being used on the Saturday, the choice is staggering but more importantly notice the people who are shopping. There is no split on socio-economic lines, everyone shops for their food here and only uses the supermarket for other essentials like toilet roll and kitchen cleaner.

When you look at these photos, I hoe that you agree with me that you’d rather be shopping like this.

This lady didn't seem too impressed to be part of a photo-shootSt Jean De Luz is only a small fishing town

not sure about the heads being left on though

and finally even the fast food rocks

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Wow what a weekend, we have just returned from a wonderful weekend in St Jean de Luz in the Basque region on the boarder of France and Spain. We’re here to immerse ourselves in the wonderful Basque food culture ably guided by Nicki and Jim Jamieson, a Kiwi family that moved here a few years ago from the Bay.

The region is one of contrasts, a place where the mountains and the sea coexist producing a wonderfully diverse culture. The Basque people are one of Europe’s anomalies, with a language totally unrelated to any other in Europe. Their maritime history stretches way back to a time when the rest of the continent was barely able to get out of sight of land, and these glorious, fiercely independent people were crossing oceans undoubtedly beating Columbus to America by a few hundred years.

So it’s in this ancient and secretive culture that we find our selves catching up with great Kiwi friends, who’s family OE has now stretched to 3 years. First order of business is to visit the Fete De Bayonne in the nearby city, the tradition is to dress all in white with a red neck scarf and hit the streets to eat, drink and run with the bulls. I know it sounded a bit like a wind up to me too but we went along with it and were completely blown away to arrive to a scene of over 400,000 packing this ancient city all in white and red with only the occasional tourist desperately trying to buy anything white. Ten hours later we are on the train back to the coast having all had an awesome day with nearly half a million new friends. All I can say the Basque people know how to party, with young and old joining together in celebration of all that is good in life.

Now to this weeks recipe this is a Basque version of a Paella which you find in all the markets and was just superb, I’ve changed it to Pipis but frankly could be made with mussels just as well. As you can see from the photo street food rocks when people are passionate about it.

Arroz con almejas (clams and rice)


Fish stock (I use salmon, but snapper would be great)

Three carrots and a leek, julienned

An onion,  chopped

Fresh Pipi’s(soaked in water to remove sand)

a clove or two of garlic, chopped

a cup of short grain rice

saffron and paprika.

Sweat the onion, carrot and leek and garlic in olive oil, in a cazuela or heavy pan until softened. 
Add the rice, saffron, paprika and stock (add additional water if needed) to just cover and simmer till soft. 
Add the clams and raise heat till clams open, discard any that do not. 
This recipe is adapted from Pedro Subijana’s Akelarre”.

Fish Stock

2kg soaked and washed fish bones

50g fresh herbs

3 litres cold water

12 white peppercorns

2 medium onions

2 bay leaves

2 white leeks

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 sticks celery

600ml white wine


Sweat the vegetables and herbs with the olive oil until soft but without colouring them.  Add the fish bones and stir to coat.  Add water and wine to cover and bring to the boil.  Skim and simmer for 20 minutes.  Allow to cool (about 3 to 4 hours), sieve and store in the fridge or freezer.

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As the regular readers are aware I’m writing this from England, or to be more exact a small fishing village in North Yorkshire. Staithes is the sort of village that has been clinging to the cliffs for the last thousand years and like a living museum hasn’t changed for generations. As you wander through the alleyways that crisscross the higgledy piggledy mass of cute stone cottages you can almost feel the ghosts of the past brush past you like a barely heard whisper. Captain James Cook worked as a seventeen year old in the shop on the seafront more than 250 years ago and to be honest looking at the raging storm that’s crashing over the piers at the moment I’m amazed that this was the start of his maritime journey.

One thing that this area does well is to preserve its traditions and for me that means the food. In this age of globalisation it really is nice to see local traditions carried on and in some cases thriving. Fortunes Kippers have been smoked in the same old sandstone building for hundreds of years by the same family and the local cheeses are as identifiable as the valleys they come from, the famous Wensleydale but also Eskdale and Commondale.

So to this week’s recipe, I thought I’d go down the Gluten Free route, we tend to think that gluten free is a modern phenomena closely related to food processing’s massive over reliance on flour and flour products. To some extent this is true, flour is being added less on what it can do and more as a packer because it’s cheap. After all who would check to see the flour content of icing sugar, it shouldn’t be there but sometimes it is.

This cake uses Polenta instead of wheat flour, which gives it a wonderful almost nutty flavour and a delicious lemony zing. Eat it as is or with some natural yoghurt, or if you can find it some New Zealand Buffalo Milk Yoghurt, remember its all about the taste.

Next week we’re heading to London and then on to France, but before then I’m going to get you the most traditional Pork Pie recipe that I can find. This is a tasting mission that might not be good for my waistline but will be fun.

Polenta, Almond and Lemon Cake

450g unsalted Butter

450g caster sugar

450g ground almonds

2 teaspoons vanilla essence

6 eggs

grated zest of 5 lemons

juice of 2 lemons

225g polenta flour

1.5 teaspoons baking powder

0.25 teaspoon salt


Preheat the oven to 160˚ c

Butter and flour a 30 cm cake tin

Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and light, stir in the ground almonds then beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Gently fold in all the other ingredients and spoon into cake tins.

Bake in the preheated oven for 60 – 90 minutes, or until set. The cake will be a deep brown on top.

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My mission for traditional foods in Europe continues and having taste tested the butchers’ shops and bakeries around North Yorkshire I think I’ve found the best recipe for the traditional pork pie or more to the point one that can be made in the New Zealand kitchen. The best that I’ve tasted was a rare breeds pie from a wonderful bakery that has been in the Port of Whitby for more than 200 years and is still owned by the same family. For those of you that ever visit Whitby make a beeline for Bothams and enjoy.

The trick with a good pork pie is to use a combination of lean shoulder meat and introduce the fat content with belly pork. The pie that this recipe is based on uses rare breed pork, but why not try wild pork if you have a pig hunter in the family. Pigs were first introduced to New Zealand by the French explorer de Surville in 1769, but the fate of these early pigs is not known. Today’s wild pigs are descendants of those gifted by Captain Cook to Maori known as ‘razor back’ pigs or ‘Captain Cookers’.

Wild pigs differ from domestic pigs in that they are a short and lean-backed pig (hence the name ‘razor back’.) With an aggressive nature ensuring its survival, this pig has flourished in native bush conditions. A large boar (male) grows to about 100 kilos or more with tusks up to 8 to 10 centimetres. Interbreeding over the last two hundred years with domestic breeds has resulted in a variety of colours besides the traditional black. Wild pork can be used in many of the same ways that farmed pork is used. It has darker flesh and a distinctly stronger, more ‘gamey’ flavour.

For those of you that want to follow the full traditional route then make the jelly stock with hocks and trotters gently simmered for about 6 hours, a long process that can be shortened by using a good stock and gelatine.

Wild Pig and Sage Pie

Originally, the pastry of raised pies was made just to protect the meat terrine and discarded before eating. But these days, we can protect the meat by refrigeration, so why not enjoy the whole experience?

Makes 1 x 20cm pie or 6 individual smaller pies

Hot Water Crust Pastry

600gg plain flour

1/2 tbsp flaky salt

225g lard or dripping

300ml milk or water


1/2 onion, thinly sliced

500g shoulder of wild pig, diced

125g minced belly pork (if wild belly isn’t fatty enough, replace with standard belly pork)

1 tsp fresh sage or 1/2 tsp dried sage

1/4 tsp mixed spice

salt and pepper

Beaten egg for glazing

300ml ham stock (or chicken stock if no ham stock available)

3 gelatine sheets

  1. Pan fry the onions until caramelised.
  2. Cut the shoulder meat into small pieces, removing any sinews or fat.
  3. Mix together the shoulder meat, minced belly and onions. Season with lots of salt, a little pepper, mixed spice and sage and refrigerate until needed.
  4. Sift flour and salt into a warm bowl and make a well in the centre.
  5. Heat the lard/dripping and milk/water until boiling.
  6. Add hot mixture to the flour, mixing well with a wooden spoon until the pastry is cool enough to touch and knead thoroughly with the hands.
  7. Line a 20cm round pie mould/cake tin or 6 smaller moulds with three quarters of the pastry, keeping the pastry about 5mm thick.
  8. Roll out the remainder of the pastry and cut lids bigger than the top of the pie, making holes in the centre(s).
  9. Divide filling between the prepared pie case/s and brush the edge of the pastry with beaten egg to seal the lid down.
  10. Put on the lids and trim to size. Take pie out of mould/cake tin and place on an oven tray. Rest in refrigerator for 20 minutes.
  11. Preheat oven to 230°C.
  12. Brush pies with beaten egg.
  13. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 180°C and continue baking for 50 minutes (or 40 minutes if smaller pies).
  14. Brush the top and sides of the pastry with the egg and continue baking for 20 minutes more.
  15. When cooked, remove from the oven place on cooling racks.
  16. Soak gelatine sheets in water until soft and rubbery (approximately 2 minutes).
  17. Warm the stock in a saucepan to a gentle simmer. Take off the heat and stir in gelatine.
  18. Using a small ladle, carefully pour the stock through the hole in the lid until the pies are full.
  19. Leave to cool, repeating with a ladle of stock two more times.
  20. Chill until set and serve cold.

For me Pork Pies are classic Pub food and should be served with Beer. In the Bay we have a great brewery in Kawerau making Mata Beers. The Mata Manuka has glorious honey tones that compliment the pork to perfection.

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