Meet 2020’s Outstanding NZ Food Producers

I’m a terrible liar (I like to think this is a good thing) but I’m excellent at keeping secrets. Want proof? I’ve known for the last month who the winners of the 2020 Outstanding New Zealand Food Producers Awards are, but I’ve kept it quiet until now. Drumroll… here they are!

Bostock Brothers, the Hawke’s Bay organic chicken producers owned by Ben and George Bostock, is this year’s Supreme Champion. The Bostocks’ Organic Whole Chicken took the top award and was also named the Giesen Wines Paddock Champion. Their Chicken Thighs and Chicken Breasts also won gold medals.

Bostock Organic Chicken

I interviewed Ben and George (without letting on that they were winners – see, I told you I was good) for the upcoming e-edition of NZ Life & Leisure. What top blokes they are! The Bostocks run New Zealand’s only truly organic, free range chicken farm, where the birds get to roam free in a former organic apple orchard by day and snuggle into French-designed chalets by night. As it says on their website, ‘the key to success is nurturing, feeding and raising the chickens well’. The Bostocks’ chicken tastes like ‘real’ chicken should – congratulations to them for putting in the work.

This is my fourth year as a judge at these awards, which are run with extreme precision and absolute attention to detail. Founders Nic McConnell and Kathie Bartley put in endless amounts of effort behind the scenes, not least of which is corraling 25 judges and eight stewards on judging day.

This year I judged the Dairy section, which meant a day of eating ice creams, yoghurts and other miscellaneous milky products. I’m delighted to share the news that Pure NZ Ice Cream’s Boysenberry Ice Cream was named Emerson’s Dairy Champion. My fellow judge and I couldn’t stop eating this one – it has an incredible fruity flavour (thanks to the Nelson-grown boysenberries) and great mouthfeel.

AHIA Freshly Smoked Kahawai (Manuka Honey) from Gisborne’s Ngāti Porou Seafood was awarded Seafood NZ Water Champion. Judges described it as ‘beautifully moist…moreish…a good honest Kiwi fish celebrated and treated with love.’

Closer to home (for me), Wellington’s Fix & Fogg Everything Butter was named Farro Earth Champion. It’s the second big win at these awards for the ambitious nut buttery – their Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter won the Earth category in 2017.

Forage & Ferment Wild Kefir (Ginger root) – a light, crisp drink with more probiotic properties than kombucha – is the Label & Litho Drink Champion. It’s the second Awards success for founder Kelli Walker – her carrot, ginger, turmeric and marigold Wild Kraut received a gold medal in 2018.

Sustainability plays a huge part in the awards – specialist judges assess each entrant on their sustainable practices and initiatives. This year Raglan Food Co. (owned by Mr and Mrs Coconut – Seb Walter and Tesh Randall) is the Outstanding Sustainability Champion. The company also won two silver medals for its Boysenberry Coconut Yoghurt and Organic Blackcurrant & Vanilla Gourmet Yoghurt.

Speaking of yoghurt makes me think of breakfast – if you’re looking to start the day on a winning note then you should try a bowlful of Blue Frog’s Manuka Honey & Hemp Heart Probiotic Porridge. This ‘porridge with attitude’ is the FMCG Business New Product Champion.

If chocolate is more your thing, you’ll be pleased to know that Foundry Chocolate is the Freshco.nz New Business Champion. It’s the second big win for the Mahurangi bean-to-bar business, after it was named Supreme Winner at the NZ Chocolate Awards.

Lastly, Zaroa Pohutakawa Smoked & Sous Vide Cooked Angus Beef Brisket is the Outstanding Free-From Champion. Zaroa is a family-owned business launched last year by Wilhelm Zabern, an Austrian ‘Master of Meat’ who has lived in Aotearoa for 30 years.

While winning awards is nice, all these businesses – and the other medal-winners in this year’s awards (see here for a full list) – need our help to stay viable in these challenging times. If you’ve got the means, do support them in the coming months.

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Chocolate avocado butter (aka woke Nutella)

I’m not particularly proud of myself for this, but I developed a bit of a Nutella habit when we were in France. You know how it goes – warm, crusty baguette, cold, unsalted butter, a dollop of shiny, Wonka-esque Nutella – it’s pretty irresistible.

In my defence, the country basically runs on the stuff (which is why strikes at the factory are always taken so seriously). I know that’s no excuse – France runs on cigarettes too, but I managed to not start smoking – but no one’s perfect. I mean, at least I wasn’t eating foie gras for breakfast, right?

Now we’re back in New Zealand, I wouldn’t dream of buying Nutella, especially not when there are some very good local alternatives (such as the so-good-it-sold-out-in-a-day Kindness Spread from Good Bitches Baking and Fix & Fogg). But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss having chocolate for breakfast. Here’s a rather more woke version of the dreaded Nutella that you can whip up in seconds.

Chocolate avocado butter

Recently I lunched at Inca, Nic Watt’s new Peruvian-Japanese joint in the fancy new Westfield Newmarket. I’d go again for the sashimi, personally, but they also do a nice line in table theatre by making guacamole in front of you. You could always do the same with this chocolate avocado butter at home, perhaps as part of a Christmas breakfast?

  • 1 generous Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 generous Tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 perfectly ripe avocado
  • Finely grated orange or lemon zest
  • Optional extras: Finely grated dark chocolate, a pinch of cinnamon, a sprinkle of chilli flakes

Beat the cocoa, honey and salt together until well combined. Mash in the avocado and beat until smooth. Stir in the orange or lemon zest. Taste – it may need a touch more salt, or a drop of juice for acidity – and add the optional extras if you fancy. Slather over a piece of sourdough toast. Alternatively, eat from the bowl as if you’re eating Nutella from the jar. Cover any leftovers and store in the fridge for up to a day.

When aïoli dreams come true…

Do you know what happiness tastes like? I do. It’s a silky emulsion of crushed garlic, egg yolk and Provencal olive oil and it’s best tasted in a Mediterranean port town in the golden hours before dusk. At least, that’s my most recent experience.

Quite to my shock and delight, I’ve just won an aïoli-making contest. In Provence, home of aioli. This is akin to an Aucklander going to Westport and winning a prize for catching whitebait (or a Wellingtonian winning a baking prize at the Westport A&P show, but that’s another story).

When they called my name out as the winner I was so gobsmacked I could barely breathe. That might have been the result of 20 minutes of furiously pounding garlic in a wooden mortar and pestle, beneath the fierce scrutiny of women in traditional Provençal costumes who looked like extras from The Handmaid’s Tale, but I think it was the general surprise that did it.

When I told the compere that I was from New Zealand there was an audible gasp among the watching spectators. A local chef, who came second, was definitely not amused. But the old ladies, who had kept such a close eye on me during the making process, were thrilled. And when I went to thank the organisers (the mysterious Confrerie des Chevaliers de l’Aiet’ – a sort of secret society devoted to all things garlic), they asked me if I could come back for a conference in October. Oh, to be able to carve out a new life as a professional aioli-maker in Provence… please, President Macron, can’t I stay?

How to make aïoli
Now, all this hasn’t gone to my head. I know I’m not the aïoli oracle (and, given the debate going on between the bonneted women watching, I’m not sure anyone would be brave enough to claim to be). However, this is how I made it the other night. No recipe, just instinct. If only all life’s tests were this simple.

Peel two plump cloves of garlic. Using a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic to a pulp with a pinch of salt. Don’t rush this step – the garlic must be smooth or you’ll end up with ‘bits’ in the finished aïoli. Add an egg yolk and mix well (keep using the pestle as your main tool here). Decant about 200-225ml of your very best extra virgin olive oil into a bottle where you can keep tight control on its flow. Add the oil, drop by drop, to the garlic and egg mixture, constantly stirring with the pestle. Doing it drop by drop is essential – you can’t rush this part or it won’t work. Once about half the oil is in, you can relax and add about a teaspoonful at a time, making sure it’s all emulsified before adding the next. This might sound painstaking, but it’s worth it. You’ll know it’s done when the aïoli has the texture of proper mayonnaise. It will hold its shape – and, when you tip the mortar upside down, it will stay put rather than sliding out.

If you’re being Provençal, you can now eat it with tiny new potatoes, or raw vegetables, or with grilled fish, or any other way you like. It’s not bad chased by a glass of thirst-quenching local rosé, especially in the soft sea air.

Rhubarb and rose ice cream

As I write this, I’m sweating through another French heatwave. Please note this is a climate phenomenon, not a fancy euphemism for an affliction suffered by women of a certain age. If you’re currently in winter’s grip, you might think a heatwave sounds lovely. Trust me, when the temperatures soar above 40C and it feels like your brain is swelling faster than your ankles, you’ll think differently.

Image of pale creamy ice cream scattered with whole pink rosebuds. Some is scooped into a small crystal bowl.

It’s too hot to eat in this kind of weather and you soon learn that a cold beer only makes you feel hotter (and not in a good way). So I am contenting myself with thoughts of cold, refreshing ice cream. If I had some right now, I’d scoop out a bowlful and bury my face in it. I’d rub a palmful on the back of my neck and let the rest slide down the backs of my knees. But I digress. If you’re lucky enough to be in cooler climes, you can enjoy this fruity ice cream in a more traditional manner. As Weird Al Yankovic once sang, just eat it.

Rhubarb and rose ice cream
This will convert any rhubarb haters in your household – the rhubarb cuts through the richness of the cream and the sweetness of the condensed milk.

450g rhubarb, chopped into 2cm pieces
3 Tbsp caster sugar
¼ cup water
600ml cream
1 x 400g tin condensed milk
3 tsp rosewater
Dried rose petals, for garnishing


Put the rhubarb, sugar and water in a small pot set over low heat. Stir well, then cover and cook for about 10 minutes, until the rhubarb is very soft. Remove from the heat and tip the rhubarb into a bowl. Set aside to cool completely (this can be done up to three days in advance and stored in the fridge).
Whip the cream until it just reaches the soft peak stage. Pour in the condensed milk and rosewater and stir until well combined. Fold through the rhubarb and pour into a plastic container or lined loaf tin. Cover and freeze for five to six hours. Remove from the freezer and allow to soften for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with dried rose petals if desired. Makes about 1.25 litres.

Love rhubarb? You might like this rhubarb and raspberry shortcake, this quick curd or this decadent rhubarb fool

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Anglo-French rocky road

For reasons too complicated to explain in detail here, I recently found myself teaching four groups of school children how to make rocky road. In French. Yes, I know. I’m not sure how I get myself into these situations but once the gate clanged shut, there was no getting out. (Literally – French primary schools are like fortresses.)

I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I’d been in similarily challenging teaching environments before (though I wasn’t sure this French primary school would enjoy being compared with a medium-security New Zealand prison, so I kept that to myself). Luckily, I also had help: an ex-nurse and a former army officer whose CVs were packed with far more useful and impressive feats than mine.

Image shows a bowl of rocky road mixture (marshmallows, chocolate, crushed biscuits) being stirred by five children (only their hands are visible)

I don’t want to go telling tales out of school, but trust me when I say that all three of us needed to be on our A-game. Fortunately, French school kids are used to being told off. Unfortunately, they’re like all other children (and adults) in the presence of chocolate. Suffice to say, it was an exhausting morning, much mitigated by a refreshing glass of cider at 11.30am in the staffroom afterwards. 

Should you wish to recreate this experience yourself during the school holidays, invite 10-15 children to come and make the following recipe with you. Make sure you’re in a classroom without aircon, preferably a few days before a record-breaking heatwave. For best results, have very rudimentary cooking equipment, at least two children who will be fighting at any one time, and eyes in the back of your head to stop them running with scissors and licking the bowl before you’ve finished mixing. Bon courage et bonne chance!

Two children stir a bowl of melted chocolate, condensed milk and melted butter. Only their hands are visible.

Rocky road

You can substitute other dried fruit or nuts for the cranberries and peanuts if you like.

100g butter
400g chocolate
1 x tin sweetened condensed milk
200g plain sweet biscuits
200g marshmallows
150g dried cranberries
150g roasted peanuts

Line a tin or plastic container (measuring about 20x25cm) with plastic wrap or baking paper.
Put the butter, chocolate and sweetened condensed milk in a large pot. Set it over low heat and stir until melted. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
Put the biscuits in a freezer bag and crush them gently until they are crumbs. It’s good to leave some bigger pieces to make the rocky road crunchier.
Using scissors, cut the marshmallows in half or into thirds if they are large.
Put the crushed biscuits, marshmallows, cranberries and peanuts into the melted chocolate mixture. Stir well.
Pour into the prepared tin and smooth the top. Leave to set in the fridge for 1 hour. Cut into pieces and store in the fridge.

A boy licks biscuit mixture off a spoon.

‘Chemin Rocailleux’

Vous pouvez remplacer les cachuetes et les canneberges sechees avec des autres noix ou fruits secs.

100g beurre demi-sel
400g chocolat
1 x boite lait concentré sucré
200g biscuits du thé
200g guimauvres
150g canneberges séchées
150g arachides salées

Tapisser un moule ou un Tupperware de 20x25cm avec du film étirable ou du papier sulfurisé. Deposer le beurre, chocolat et lait concentré sucré dans un pot. Chauffer doucement pour les fondre, en agitant souvent. Laisser refroider 10 minutes.
Mettre les biscuits du thé dans un sac de congelation. Utiliser un rouler ou vos mains pour les éraser.
Couper les guimauvres en petit pièces avec les ciseaux.
Ajouter les biscuits écrasés, les guimauvres coupés, les canneberges séchées es et les arachides au chocolat. Melanger bien.
Verser dans le moule. Placer au frigo pendant 1-2 heures. Couper en petits pieces et garder au frigo. Bon appétit!

Need more school holiday baking ideas? Check out these ones.