Doing the Hawke's Bay haka

Artisan farmers' market produce is the perfect excuse to nestle in for a night of cooking, among Hawke's Bay's vineyards.

Australia's favourite food blogger, Not Quite Nigella, returns to Hawke's Bay and samples all the sumptuous wares the farmers' market has to offer.

I’m nearing the end of my New Zealand adventure and whilst I do love eating out, I also love the chance to trade in my heels and dresses and stay in wearing nothing but leggings, socks and layered tops sipping on a cup of tea and looking out into the vineyards. So when Krissy and I make our way to the Hawke’s Bay Farmers' Market one Sunday morning, an idea strikes the both of us. The artisan produce here is just tailor made for cooking and since we have a fantastic kitchen all to ourselves and a bottle of the Supernatural wine, then a night in relaxing was just what we needed.

We take a tour of the markets with Jane who runs Food Hawkes Bay which is an organisation that all of the stallholders have to belong to in order to join the markets. In its eleventh year, the market also serves as an incubator for businesses with many starting off here and then move onto wider, national or international distribution. There are about 47 stalls at the market and many stallholders use it as a place for product testing where they can hear back from their customers.

We stop at The Deli where owner Chris Dunn tells us that she makes products without any fillers. Instead of using modern techniques she uses old fashioned techniques and good quality spices to ensure that the product is not extended or watered down.

We try some smoked chorizo which is made using five peppers and oregano and the black pudding is lovely and mild. We buy a packet of the pancetta which we cook up that evening.

"Have some passion in your life!” the gentleman says to me handing me a sample of lovely passionfruit ice cream.

Village Press has single variety olive oils using Barnea, Frantoio and Manzanillo olives, which originated here 10 years ago. They now export their products, a distinct and lovely tasting olive oil which you can sample with bread. They also do avocado oil, infused oils and tapanades.

We try a sample of manuka beer which is delicious – it isn’t made with manuka honey or hops, it is made from the manuka plant.

One of my favourite stands was Origin Earth where provenance and sustainability are important. Sustainability isn’t just a buzzword for owner Jane. She looks after bio soil, waste and water management as well as animal welfare. And it’s important for her to make sure that her products are completely traceable – each product has a pickup number, batch number and can traced back to the individual cow (where they have temperature tests and information taken) based on the number on the back of the product.

The milk is fabulous-full of pasture and flavour and Jane gives us a bottle of take home which I am drinking in a cup of tea. She tells us a well fed cow produces the best milk which is high in protein and lower in fat. Hers are Holsteins. The cheese is also excellent with the camembert producing a rich flavour and quite unlike other camemberts which are more about texture than flavour.

We make a stop at Aromatics where Noel shows us some of the interesting products that he makes including a barrel smoked mushroom – He uses white or brown mushrooms and brines them in a local Chardonnay and the drains them and smokes them over wine barrel chips. The flavour of the mushrooms is intensely smoked and moreish. He also makes a fantastic magical mushroom essence which is like umami in a bottle as well as chili pickled pears.

hawkes bay farmers market

We see Malcolm from Breckenridge Lodge and he recommends that we get some cakes from Entice. There are four cakes that they make gluten free that they haven’t been allowed to take off the menu. These are a coffee and chocolate opera cake, a friand made from coconut rather than almond meal, a triple chocolate brownie and a gluten free cheesecake.

We stop by Hohepa cheese, who apart from having an organic award winning fromagerie also help out developmentally disabled people by teaching them new skills and giving them a place to live. Their Danbo cheese is a creamy cheese, it is a Danish cheese and a crowd-pleaser. Their cumin cheese is so popular we watch one lady take a piece and then stick her toothpick in to collect another six pieces!

hawkes bay farmers market

Orcona have a range of chilli products including a delicious red pepper paste and sauces from a mild "Shark Bite” to a hot and spicy habanero sauce. They also won awards for their Harissa from Cuisine magazine, which is made naturally without any fillers...

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