Words DENISE IRVINE | Images ALEX SPODYNEIKO
I made a dish of soba noodles and stir-fried vegetables the other night and finished it off with a goodly glug of Sesame Rayu (Japanese chilli oil). As the label promised, it provided fire, flavour and a little bit of crunch, and my dinner bowl was delicious.
The Sesame Rayu was from the Cambridge Picklery stall at Cambridge Farmers Market, and while I was on the job, I got their fruit cheese Plumbrillo, a play on the Spanish membrillo (quince paste), and a fragrant Maharani chutney.
I’m also enjoying oyster mushroom-seasoned sea salt from Mushrooms by the Sea, and a lively green Zesta Fermented Pesto from GoodBugs. These two beauties were bought at Hamilton Farmers Market and they are respectively cranking up meals at my place. When I asked Emily Edlin, from the oyster mushroom stall, about the best way to use her salt she said she “sprinkles it on everything”.
I’m pretty much doing the same thing; it’s deeply savoury and works particularly well with tray-baked winter root vegetables. With GoodBugs fermented pesto, I’m stirring it through pasta, using it in toasted sandwiches, with everything, too, and loving its depth of flavour.
I’ve been on the track of ‘added value’ products at Waikato Farmers Market, the innovative extras that go into my weekend basket along with fresh produce, meats, eggs, fish, and more. The extras are the locally made artisan items that market administrator Kathryn Hunter says increase the range of goods available to market customers.
Kathryn’s own Quarter Acre Kitchen stall is a case in point: it offers chutney and jam made with fruit and vegetables from her Ohaupo garden or bought from other market stallholders.
Cambridge Picklery couple Paul and Jane Menneer grow all the produce for their condiments. They estimate they have about 23 producing plants—fruit and vegetables—on their property and these are the foundations of their colourful jars. Paul and Jane both have day jobs, they’re at the Cambridge market on the last Saturday of each month, and their mantra is “small batch, bold flavour”.
They make sweet and spicy orange and chilli marmalade, a red pepper jam, tomato kasundi, Indian lime pickle, and chutneys such as beetroot and orange, tamarind and date, mango, ploughman’s, and the wonderful maharani (their best-seller), brimming with spicy Indian flavours. And more.
Jane’s recently developed a seasonal feijoa and strawberry sauce; she says it has tropical flavours and it may be an alternative to plum sauce. Friday is her designated cooking day, and by the end of it there could be 25kg–30kg of condiments to show for her work.
She and Paul always share tips with customers on how to use their products. Paul says Cambridge Picklery largely focuses on condiments that work well with platter food. “Anything that goes with a glass of wine.”
Marea Verry, from the GoodBugs stall, is likewise generous with her knowledge and advice. She makes healthful fermented products and there is frequently a knot of customers around her stall, shopping and talking. And some will be lining up for her tasty Good Bangers, a Volare bun packed with sauerkraut and a frankfurter. Marea first ate sauerkraut in a similar hotdog in Washington DC many years back. She’s passing on that pleasure: “I want to show people how to eat sauerkraut.”
She’s been interested in fermentation and nutrient-dense foods for the past 20 years and her market range includes sauerkraut, kimchi, sauerkraut juice and pesto. She and husband Daniel have four kids, a large home garden, and her handcrafted gut-friendly products are now available online and at specialty stores as well as at Hamilton and Cambridge Farmers Markets. Last year, two of her kimchis—Ginger Ninja and the hot vegan Kiss Me Kimchi—won awards at the New Zealand Outstanding Food Producer Awards.
Marea shops local for vegetables, and suppliers include fellow market stallholders Pirongia Mountain Vegetables and Suncakes Gardens at Whatawhata. She collaborates on her stall with Kim Endres, who makes a selection of organic kombucha under her Gutsy label, a perfect fit with GoodBugs.
“We’ve grown with the market,” Marea says. “We’ve built a lot of good customer relationships and we’ve had a lot of support.”
For a sweet ending to the added value story, I head for the stalls of Maisie’s Kitchen and Just Dough, who are side by side on this Sunday at the Hamilton market.
Just Dough was developed by Ariki Thomson, who makes and sells frozen cookie dough and crumble toppings. He’s following a family tradition: “Mum always had frozen dough,” he says. “It’s ten minutes in the oven and you’ve got fresh cookies for visitors.” He creates a special cookie flavour each month and looks out for local ingredients he can use. Hamilton-made Donovan’s Chocolate is among these.
Ariki’s top selling doughs (for kids) are chocolate chip and cookies and cream, and for adults it’s caramel coffee. “It’s a family oriented product.” He jokes: “If I’m not making it, I’m eating it.”
Maisie’s Kitchen showcases the work of Shelley McSwiney, known at the markets for her melt-in-the-mouth raw vegan treats. They are dairy free, gluten free and refined sugar free, and they are bursting with lovely flavours and textures.
Shelley has always been a baker and caterer and for this latest venture she makes super-fudgy brownies including walnut, dark chocolate, and raspberry dark chocolate. There are other treats as well, among them a peanut butter and jelly slice, a chocolate caramel confection, and the gorgeous tiramisu slice that I pop in my bag. It is the perfect Sunday night ‘extra’, the finishing touch to a market dinner of snapper from Raglan Fish, fresh vegetables dusted with mushroom salt, and a spoonful of GoodBugs pesto on the side.
There are plenty more added-value stallholders at Waikato Farmers Markets. See details at waikatofarmersmarkets.co.nz