Two Black Dogs Olive Oil

With the romantic notion of escaping the city at weekends and one day relocating permanently, Nicky and Graham went looking for a bare block of land not far from where Graham grew up.  What they hadn’t anticipated was a canny real estate agency showing them an established, 15-year-old olive grove in Mangawhai.

The grove at Mangawhai

The grove at Mangawhai

Knee-high grass shrouded the trunks and the overgrown trees needed a good prune, but the pull of the land – Graham’s a farm boy at heart – decided their fate.  Buying the property in late 2014, the first Two Black Dogs E.V.O.O. (extra virgin olive oil) release – named after their loveable black labradors, Joey and Jett – was in May 2015.  The learning curve was fast and steep – the original owner was on hand for advice – and they’ve been winning Olives NZ awards since 2015.

The Two Black Dogs - Joey and Jett

The Two Black Dogs - Joey and Jett

During the week they both hold down day jobs, and while Graham oversees the olive grove and production, and Nicky focuses on sales and marketing, at weekends you’ll find them up at the property sharing the mowing – Nicky bought her first pair of gumboots and had to learn to drive the tractor – and maintenance duties.

Graham looks pretty happy with the harvest

Graham looks pretty happy with the harvest

Nicky has her hands full at harvest time

Nicky has her hands full at harvest time

With their 10 acre grove now home to around 800 trees, it’s fortunate that Two Black Dogs’ five varieties of olive trees – Leccino, Ascolano, Koroneiki, Frantoio and Pendolino – all with very distinct flavours, don’t all fruit every year.  With a sloping property it’s quite a challenge to manoeuvre machinery, including the infamous ‘tree shaker’ around.  The biennial pick and pack takes place – for two or three of the varieties each year – in early autumn.  The olives are harvested when blush in colour to get maximum flavour; as olives ripen from green to purple the flavour slowly decreases.

It takes around 7kgs of olives to make one litre of oil

It takes around 7kgs of olives to make one litre of oil

The press house is only 30 minutes from the property and it’s processed into oil within hours of the harvest.  The oil is stored in stainless steel for six weeks to allow the sediment to separate and sink to the bottom.  The oil is then bottled, before sending to Australia for certification.

Creating an award-winning artisan product is truly a labour of love.  Given it takes around 7kgs of olives to make one litre of oil, it makes sense that extra virgin olive oil is priced at a premium.  But don’t save extra virgin olive oil for a special occasion – the fresher the oil, the better the taste – just think about what you’re cooking and the method so that you can savour the flavour.

Nicky and Graham plan to extend their range of oils and vinaigrettes and are keen to press their own oil in the future.  One day they might even realise their dream of building a house and living at the property too; a 20 foot caravan and workman’s shed are the perfect interim solution.

Two Black Dogs award-winning certified extra virgin olive oils are available online – twoblackdogsnz.com or follow them on Facebook or Instagram to find out which local markets you’ll find them at next.

Two Black Dogs 2018 release is available from 22 July 2018.

Enjoy!

Michelle

Photos: All images supplied by Two Black Dogs E.V.O.O.

Avocado Abundance

“Fill the boot!”  Heading back after a long weekend staying with friends at Tea Tree Orchard, Rangiuru the car boot was laden with avocados and other produce.  Family, friends and fellow foodies were lucky recipients of fallen bounty – little did we know the avocado famine would be over so quickly!

Fallen bounty ready to fill the boot

Fallen bounty ready to fill the boot

Wintry weather played havoc with this year’s avocado harvest.  Fallen fruit littered orchard floors with the picking season still a few weeks away (mid-late August onwards). Orchardists waited patiently for moisture tests to confirm their crop was ready to be picked, and prayed the weather would be kinder too.

Avocados litter the orchard floor

Avocados litter the orchard floor

Friends at Tea Tree Orchard, Rangiuru last week handpicked their first crop since purchasing the seven acre property in late 2015.  Trays and trays, 2600kgs of bright green shiny avocados – that’s a whopping 13,000 (approx) avocados – were delivered to the wholesale distributor.  Graded and combined with crops from other small producers into a pool, growers receive a percentage of the take, based on the volume supplied. The avocados are then on-sold and distributed to retailers, ready for consumers to purchase.

One day's pick - 300kgs avocados

One day's pick - 300kgs avocados

Grown all year round, Hass is the main avocado variety produced in New Zealand.  Exported from late August through until the end of March, they are in plentiful supply for the local market over summer too.  Avocados are unique in that while they are harvested mature (9-12 months), they don’t ripen while attached to the tree.  Rarely do you see long stalks on the avocados in retail shops.  Once picked for the domestic market and de-stalked, the avocados take 8- 10 days to ripen, ensuring they are perfect to eat when you purchase them.

Hard to believe this is how a bunch of avocados start out

Hard to believe this is how a bunch of avocados start out

Ready to be picked

Ready to be picked

With their avocado trees needing a significant prune – cut back by a third to half their height – Tracey and Martin have made a call to sacrifice next year’s crop to maximise growth in future seasons, and pruning was underway as soon as the pick was over.

Pink marks where the trees will be pruned

Pink marks where the trees will be pruned

Trees hard pruned back, once avocados were picked

Trees hard pruned back, once avocados were picked

So while last month even die-hard avocado fans struggled to justify the cost of a single avocado; today avocados are back in abundance – even if they do look a little worse for wear.  Enjoy them while you can as next year’s crop will be smaller, with 2018 forecast to be another bumper year.

Michelle

Farmers Markets – what’s the attraction?

Local food and produce markets are a way of life all over the world – often a social ritual where the stallholders know your name, your favourite ingredients and when to tempt you to try something new.  With food and produce markets throughout the country, thousands of us descend upon local farmers markets each week so what’s the real attraction here in New Zealand?

Driven by purchasing the freshest produce, supporting local producers, looking to purchase artisan products or simply escaping for an hour or so, many people are regulars at farmers markets.  On Saturday mornings at Tauranga Farmers Market (and others too) people patiently queue at the entrance waiting for 7:45am to tick over.  Early birds get the ever so popular fresh blueberries and free range eggs; sold out signs greet those who arrive mid-morning, while stallholders sit and chat in the sunshine, patiently waiting for 12 noon packdown to roll around.

Authorised people only before 7:45am

Authorised people only before 7:45am

Join the queue on a Saturday morning at Tauranga School

Join the queue on a Saturday morning at Tauranga School

Friendly vibe at Tauranga Farmers Market

Friendly vibe at Tauranga Farmers Market

For others, even ardent fans of farmers markets it’s a morning out driven by a need for truly fresh produce, a particular ingredient, meeting a coffee for a friend or simply that it’s been too long since the last visit.  Sometimes planned, sometimes impromptu we’re not what could be defined as regular market goers even if we love local farmers markets.

Out of town on holiday it’s the perfect opportunity to sample local artisan products.  A recent long weekend staying on a friends’ avocado orchard near Te Puke, we were spoilt for choice with Te Puke, Tauranga and Mt Mauganui farmers markets all within driving distance.  At Tauranga Farmers Market we were lucky to grab some local award winning cheese, Blue Monkey from Mount Eliza Cheese (Katikati based raw milk cheese makers), Small Batch hazelnut butter and loads of fabulous fresh produce.     

Award winning cheese - Blue Monkey from Mount Eliza

Award winning cheese - Blue Monkey from Mount Eliza

Small Batch Nut Butters

Small Batch Nut Butters

Local avocados of course

Local avocados of course

Peaches galore...

Peaches galore...

Weather dependent (it’s drizzly and grey here on the Coromandel today) we hope to head to Thames Market (facebook) Saturday morning.  For information on just a few of the farmers markets visited by The Foodie Inc click on links below:

If you have a favourite local food and produce market you wish to share, feel free to comment below.

Enjoy your weekend.

Michelle

 

 

A Smorgasbord of Stalls

Parking in Auckland’s CBD can be touch and go, especially when time is tight.  Taking public transport, when the City Farmers' Market – Britomart is only open until 12:30pm was way too risky.  Delighted to discover $2 in the parking meter goes a whole lot further on a Saturday morning. And even better, a parking spot just around the corner.

Heartmarks in Takutai Square

Heartmarks in Takutai Square

In a grassy square, surrounded by high rise office buildings every Saturday morning you’ll find a smorgasbord of stalls.  From fresh produce: artisan bread from Pukeko Bakery, Blue Frog Breakfast muesli, fresh honey, Clevedon Herbs & Produce, flowers and eggs to meat from The Butcher Provenance and fabulous tea from Storm and India too.

Artisan bread from Pukeko Bakery

Artisan bread from Pukeko Bakery

Blue Frog Muesli - nice to try before you buy

Blue Frog Muesli - nice to try before you buy

Grabbed some herb seedlings from Clevedon herbs and produce

Grabbed some herb seedlings from Clevedon herbs and produce

Morning detox teas being delivered to the Lululemon store

Morning detox teas being delivered to the Lululemon store

The location and the blend of inner city dwellers and tourists see a lot more ‘ready to eat’ food than at a traditional farmers’ market.  And more international flavours from French crepes to Argentinean empanadas, Hungarian bread puffs and Latin American arepas too.  But let’s not forget old fashioned Kiwi mussel fritters, local juices and Aotea organic coffee too.

Arepas from Latin American

Arepas from Latin American

Hungarian bread puffs topped with feta and tomatoes

Hungarian bread puffs topped with feta and tomatoes

The Kiwi mussel fritter sandwich

The Kiwi mussel fritter sandwich

Grab a coffee or a bite to eat and make the most of sitting on the grass in Takutai Square listening to the resident Britomart DJ – it’s quite a contrast to week day mornings, with city workers and shoppers rushing from one place to the next.

Aotea organic coffee

Aotea organic coffee

City Farmers' Market – Britomart - Saturdays: 8am – 12:30pm, Takutai Square, 44 Galway Street, Auckland

Time to get those herb plants into pots.

Michelle

Meat Free Meals

Wrapped up warm, a glass of red wine in hand with eyes glued to the Netball World Cup finals – let’s not dwell on the disappointing result for the Silver Ferns, they played three awesome quarters, the first one their undoing – roasted vegetables fresh from the local farmers’ market make an easy mid-winter meat free dish on Sunday night, with leftovers perfect for Monday lunch.  

So Sunday morning awake very early, I headed for my first visit to Grey Lynn Farmers' Market – compact and noisy in the local community centre, it bustled with locals. The queue for vegetables from ‘George's Garden’ was out the door. The baby carrots still speckled with wet dirt, the greens glistening with moisture were freshly picked. 

Fresh farmers' market produce

Fresh farmers' market produce

Of course Bread & Butter Bakery's sweet brioche rolls and Il Casaro’s award winning handmade Italian style cheeses caught my eye too.

Handmade Italian style cheeses from Il Casaro

Handmade Italian style cheeses from Il Casaro

Off home with a bag stuffed with fresh produce, including some chubby stalks of ruby red rhubarb but more on those another day.

Fresh produce needs little embellishment.  A drizzle of olive oil, stalks of fresh rosemary, a sprinkle of pink salt and freshly cracked black pepper – toss to coat vegetables with the oil and seasoning then into the oven.

Fresh rosemary from the garden

Fresh rosemary from the garden

Lots of colourful winter vegetables

Lots of colourful winter vegetables

Bake for 40 minutes in a hot-ish oven, turning half way through but don’t get distracted with the final quarter of the netball or they will be a little more roasted than usual. Serve warm with crumbled feta, a satisfying Sunday night dish.

A little more roasted than usual...

A little more roasted than usual...

Delicious!

Michelle

Coffee and Ginger Gems

Arriving home from Waiheke Island an unremarkable brown cardboard box sat at the front door.   Inside, a preview tub of The Collective NZ's latest limited edition yoghurt with my name on it!

A tub of yoghurt with my name on it

A tub of yoghurt with my name on it

Perfect with cereal and fruit at breakfast, the coffee yoghurt was a hit.  But sometimes a little baking experimentation is called for.  Ginger gems are quick to throw together when unexpected people turn up.   

Here's a variation on a basic gem recipe - coffee and ginger gems:

  • 60 g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 1/4 c caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp golden syrup
  • 1 c flour
  • 3 tsp ground ginger
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 c coffee yoghurt
  • 1/2 c strong coffee (double strength plunger coffee)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 20 g extra unsalted butter
  1. Heat gem iron in oven at 200 deg C.
  2. Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. 
  3. Add egg and beat until combined, then fold in golden syrup.
  4. Sift flour, ginger and salt into mixture, then fold together using a large metal spoon (mixture might be quite thick at this point).
  5. Add yoghurt to the warm (not hot) coffee and mix together, then add baking soda and quickly whisk.  
  6. Fold into wet mixture until just combined - do not over mix (mixture will now be a batter).
  7. Remove gem iron from oven.  Divide extra butter between gem iron hollows then spoon batter into the sizzling butter. Fill to top with one large spoonful but don't overfill.  
  8. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown.
  9. Serve warm with an extra dollop of yoghurt.
Coffee and ginger gems - hot out of the oven

Coffee and ginger gems - hot out of the oven

 The Collective NZ's  limited edition coffee yoghurt launches week commencing 27 July in stockists nationwide – if you love coffee, you'll love the taste.

Happy baking.

Michelle

The World’s Purest Tea

A few kilometres north of Hamilton the family farm on Gordonton Road holds fond childhood memories; the road still very familiar, despite my grandparents’ farm being sold many years ago.

Heading to the Bay of Plenty last week, on Gordonton Road just before you reach the farm is Zealong, home of the world’s purest tea and New Zealand’s only tea plantation – originally a dairy farm in years gone by. Pulling into the carpark on a Tuesday mid-afternoon, the number of cars was a surprise.  Even more so to find the cafe restaurant full: ladies indulged in a decadent high tea; tourists ate a late lunch and an elderly local couple simply enjoyed a cuppa and the view out over the tea plantation.

Hot water at a constant temperature

Hot water at a constant temperature

Delighted to be offered a window table, the outside terrace was too cold to be pleasant on a brisk winter’s day.  I looked forward to a pot of tea, the choice of: Green, Pure, Aromatic, Dark and Black teas.  Aromatic promised an intense fragrance, subtle flavour and a hint of fruit and flowers; it lived up to expectations. The china tumbler and tea leaf filled strainer, a large pot of gently bubbling water at my side, my waiter assured 8 cups from one serving of leaves with a reminder to only seep for 1-2 minutes each time.

Zealong's Aromatic Tea

Zealong's Aromatic Tea

Warmed by the copious quantity of tea, the walk back to the car overlooked the 100% organic tea plantation.  One imagined the delight of a walk amongst the plantation on a sunny warm day. The tea walk is part of the twice daily (open 7 days excluding most public holidays) Discover Tea Experience including:

  • Tea walk
  • The Zealong story
  • Traditional tea ceremony
  • Zealong tea tasting
  • An opportunity to pose for a photo in traditional tea picking garb
Zealong tea tasting

Zealong tea tasting

For more information and to make a booking click here: Discover Tea Experience - Tours - Zealong

Take time to enjoy the garden – the giant-sized teapots and cups a delight and the copper statues of workers in the plantation add to the picturesque scene. Zealong tea is available to purchase at the shop or nationwide stockists, click here: Zealong - 100% Pure New Zealand Tea

Zealong copper teapots in the gardens

Zealong copper teapots in the gardens

For those of us who love a local collaboration, why not try Whittaker's Waikato Grown Oolong Tea – dark chocolate infused with Aromatic Oolong tea.

If you love tea, you’re in great company too.

Famous tea lovers

Famous tea lovers

Enjoy, Michelle.