A drive to remind New Zealanders how good the country’s produce is has seen food writer Lauraine Jacobs become a keen supporter of a new set of awards. She tells Rebecca Fox about the New Zealand Food Producer Awards.
New Zealanders need to ”wake up” to the incredible produce in their own backyards, food writer Lauraine Jacobs says.
”I’m obsessed with New Zealand produce and want all New Zealanders to get behind New Zealand produce.”
She sees the newly created New Zealand Food Producer Awards as a way to remind people that buying ”inferior” international produce at supermarkets does not make sense when there is such fantastic produce locally.
”New Zealanders need to wake up to what they’ve got.”
The awards, created by marketing and communications professionals Nicola McConnell, of Dunedin, and Kathie Bartley, of Auckland, aim to raise the profile of producers and recognise the country’s most outstanding food producer.
The overall winner will be chosen from eight section winners in primary produce and value-added produce in the categories earth, water, paddock and dairy.
The awards also include a people’s choice vote for outstanding farmers market, outstanding food region, outstanding product or producer and outstanding supermarket or speciality food store.
Jacobs will head a panel of judges: food editor for NZ Life & Leisure Anna Tait-Jamieson; chef/owner of Paris Butter Nick Honeyman; chef/owner of Pah Homestead Sam Mannering; Delmaine establisher Enzo Bettio; food writer Lucy Corry, Trudi Nelson from Fresh, home economist and food stylist Kathy Paterson; and Emily Dowding-Smith from the Sustainable Business Network.
While there are other awards, the NZ Food Producer Awards are open to producers of all sizes and backgrounds.
”We could chose a really amazing butter or cheese that has been around 20 years or equally a brand-spanking-new product that has taken something to a new level, or it could equally be an amazing piece of meat or fish which doesn’t need any value added.”
As the awards asked producers to also provide information on the product’s background, the judges will be able to look at the story behind each entry and whether it is sustainable.
Sustainable is the ”buzzword” for the decade and it is not going to go away, she says.
To that end they had brought on to the panel Dowding-Smith to advise on the sustainability not just of the food but the business, as well.
”You might have the brightest idea in the world but you have to understand how to market it or you ain’t going to go anywhere,” Jacobs said.
It is unfortunate New Zealanders’ innate modesty and the ”tall poppy syndrome” meant they did not ”shout” about things as much as they should.
”They need to be a bit bolder. There is a wealth of innovation in this country and I hope this creates more interest.”
It is also a way to highlight regionality and drive more business in the regions.
Jacobs is a fervent supporter of farmers markets and a big fan of Dunedin’s market.
”You have an exemplary farmers market.”
She enjoyed shopping there when she visited the city, often making entire meals from what she bought there.
”It’s so easy to put a meal together. If more people do that it would do wonders for seasonal produce and we would not end up with fruit and vegetables from around the world in our supermarkets,” Jacobs said.
Lauraine Jacobs’ summer tart
This tart captures the essence of summer. It is very important to use very high quality fresh produce. Paneton Bakery (Auckland) makes a beautiful buttery pastry that is stocked in good supermarkets.
Fresh mozzarella or bocconcini can be found in most supermarkets: do not use that soap-like yellow industrial mozzarella! And of course the tomatoes and basil are best if picked fresh from the garden at the height of summer.
250g prerolled flaky puff pastry
1 small to medium fennel bulb
2 Tbsp butter
100g tasty cheddar cheese
500g vine-ripened tomatoes
150g fresh mozzarella or bocconcini
1 Tbsp Italian Herb Seasoning (Spice Traders)
Fresh basil leaves for garnish
Cut the prerolled pastry to fit a 30cm x 20cm tart tin. Keep aside so that it rests and will not shrink when it is cooked.
Preheat the oven to 200degC, placing a heavy oven tray in to heat so that when you place the tart in the oven directly on this tray, the pastry will start to cook immediately.
Slice the fennel as thinly as possible, using a mandolin or a super-sharp knife. Melt the butter in a heavy frying pan and add the fennel.
Cook this over gentle heat until it is soft and starting to turn golden. Turn it out on to a plate to cool while you prepare the other ingredients.
Grate the cheddar, cut the tomatoes into halves and slice the mozzarella or bocconcini. You are now ready to prepare the tart for the oven.
Scatter the grated cheddar over the pastry in the tart tin. Spread the fennel fairly evenly over the cheddar. Next, form a layer of the tomatoes and place the mozzarella or bocconcini slices on top.
Finally sprinkle the Italian herb seasoning over everything, and place the prepared tart in the oven directly on the heated tray. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the tart puffs up and top is golden.
Remove from the oven, decorate with sliced fresh basil leaves and serve at once. Serves 6 for lunch with a crisp green salad.