Gather and Graze

Easter = good food, so we’ve got some inspo on that front. Plus a pie to celebrate Pasifika festival, and a wee look at importance of taste and smell… and what happens when they’re affected by Covid.

Gathering friends and family for an Easter feast is a solid tradition. In Europe, Easter comes at the start of spring, as the snow begins to melt and new life unfurls from beneath it. There, Easter feasting celebrates rebirth, new life, youth. Easter in the Antipodes coincides with harvest time, a time of bounty and the crossing over from summer produce to that of autumn and winter. Here in the South Pacific, Easter is a wonderful time to pause and feel thankful for the summer we’ve enjoyed, for the many and varied farmers, growers, and gatherers who bring food to our tables, and for the land and sea that provide. 

With Easter falling at the start of April this year, late summer produce is still looking mighty fine. With that, and a big slab of pork shoulder, as inspiration, we have in mind an Easter feast that calls on Latin American flavours with a touch of Spain in the mix. 

Snacks

If you can get your hands on plantain (sometimes sold fresh at markets, or from the freezer section of specialist food stores), try your hand at making spice-dusted plantain crisps and use them to scoop up creamy guacamole.

The Centrepiece

Puerto Rican pernil – when it comes to special occasion dishes, pork shoulder is big across much of Latin America and the Caribbean… Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Puerto Rico each put their own twist on it. In Puerto Rico, it’s all about the adobo – the spice rub. 

Look for a Latin-style adobo spice blend in specialist stores or make your own by blending garlic powder, black pepper, ground coriander, oregano, cumin, paprika, and turmeric. Combine adobo with juice of an orange, a touch of white vinegar, salt to taste, and rub all over the pork shoulder. 

Make slits in the flesh and poke in peeled and halved cloves of garlic. Transfer to a large ziplock plastic bag and marinate overnight in the fridge. Cook in the oven, in a lidded barbecue, or in a slow cooker– if cooking in a slow cooker you may like to remove the skin to cook it separately, to crackling stage, in the oven. Cook low and slow (4 hours + in the oven or barbie) with a heat blast at the end, until tender enough to pull the flesh apart with forks – serve pulled pork tossed in its cooking juice, with cracking to the side. 

Sides

Pernil is traditionally served with arroz con gandules – rice cooked with pigeon peas, onion, garlic, celery and spices in bacon or pork belly fat (the bacon or pork can be diced up to go in the rice, too). 

Spanish crisp potatoes – toss sliced, par-boiled Agria potatoes in plenty of olive oil and paprika (combine smoked and sweet for a flavour bomb) and roast till crisp and golden. 

Green beans with chorizo – blanch green beans, give them a quick saute in a hot oiled pan with slices of our Smoked Pork Chorizo, then toss with a little olive oil, sherry vinegar and toasted almonds.

A medley of summer squashes (think green, yellow, and striped zucchini, scallopini) – sliced, rubbed in olive oil, whacked on a smoking hot grill, and served drizzled with zesty chimichurri. 

Salad of shaved fennel, blood orange, red onion, coriander, and a lime, honey and cumin seed dressing. 

Sweet endings

Cap it off with a couple of classic Latin and Spanish desserts - flan (aka creme caramel) – beloved across all Spanish speaking countries, and check out Uruguayan chaja, a sponge cake layered with rum-spiked peach pureé and meringue. 

Pair a hard sheep’s cheese like Manchego with the Paraguayan speciality dulce de guayaba – guavas cooked and set into a sliceable paste – try making it with local red guavas, in season around March-April. 

If you like the idea of experimenting with Latin American flavours, check out Grace Ramirez’ La Latina (Penguin Random House NZ) for plenty more colourful inspiration. 


Sunshine Pie

Traditionally a March event but this year pushed back a little to April to work around Covid alert levels, Pasifika is a behemoth of a celebration of Auckland’s many and varied Pacific communities – one that’s been going strong for a whopping 28 years! It’s a riot of colour, song, music… and you guessed it, seriously good nosh. From Maori hāngī and Samoan sapa sui (chop suey) to desserts like Hawaii’s banana poke and Tonga’s moresish keke ‘isite donuts… an empty stomach is your best accessory for starting out the day. 

If you can’t be there, why not use the occasion as an excuse to try your hand at some Pasifika-inspired baking at home? We love the appeal of Samoan pineapple pie (pai apa or pai fala – most Pacific countries have a version of this).. the silky wobble of the pineapple custard which rests atop a rich pastry, and is finished off with either whipped cream or fluffy meringue. Turns out it’s not so easy to find a recipe – ask around and see if any friends can share their family’s version! But we do like this endearing recipe vid by Veni Vlogs... how amazing does that pineapple custard look! We could do with a big slice of that right now, thanks. 

Pasifika Festival, April 10-11, Mt Smart Stadium, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, free entry. 

If you’re in Auckland and keen to get a taste of pineapple pie, as well as a plethora of other baking with a Pacific twist, check out Sweet and Me – owner and clever creator Bertrand Jang calls on inspiration and ingredients from his home country, Fiji, as well as the wider Pacific. 


Memories to savour

“… I carried to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had let soften a bit of madeleine. But at the very instant when the mouthful of tea mixed with cake crumbs touched my palate, I quivered, attentive to the extraordinary thing that was happening inside me.”

Taste can evoke memory… as Marcel Proust famously put down in words in his 1913 tome A la Recherche du Temps Perdu.  So famously that the phenomenon of a sensory experience involving a madeleine cake and a cup of tea triggering a flashback has become known as a ‘Proustian moment’. Not all memories are pleasant, but there’s no doubt that fond moments from childhood and all through one’s life, can be conjured up in an instant thanks to the smell or taste of something. 

Which is one reason why it’s alarming to realise that as many as 1 in 20 Covid-19 patients experience parosmia – a condition in which tastes and smells are distorted, often leading to formally pleasant things becoming repugnant, or lingering awful odours and tastes in the mouth – sulphur, petrol, rotting fish, or as many have described, a ‘sickly sweet taste’...  with no tangible source. Some get over the condition, while others are still suffering from parosmia months after the short-term effects of the virus have vanished. Some researchers believe the virus can affect neurotransmitters, causing these mysterious olfactory hallucinations. As proponents of joyful eating, we very much hope there will be fixes found to help these Long Covid sufferers whose symptoms make eating anything but joyful. So far, smell training – sniffing particular essential oils including lemon and rose for a prescribed time each day, is looking promising.


Pretty as a Picture

Painted eggs are a solid Easter tradition, and each year we get few callers each year wanting to know where white eggs can be purchased. White shells suit painting with watercolours which is a current trend, plus the general thinner shells lend themselves to the ‘prick a hole and blow the contents out’ trick. 

The short answer is the vast majority of commercial layer hens in Aotearoa (mostly brown shavers) produce brown eggs… and those eggs are still good for a paint job! The thicker shells can be tough to pierce with a pin in order to remove the contents, so gently hard-boiling is the best foundation for your crafting session. Paint with non-toxic paints… then peel and enjoy! 

Did you know?

The colour of an egg is determined by the breed of chicken that lays it. 

Brown eggshells get their pigment from the colour of the laying hen’s feathers and earlobes. This pigment goes on as a layer just before the egg is laid, and variables such as time of day, season, age of bird dictate the level of pigment. 

White breeds such as white leghorn and Chinese silkie lay white eggs. 

Blue shells are a little different, the colour stems from a mutation in the genetic history of breeds like araucana.

Crossbreeding between red/brown hens and blue-egg laying hens can result in eggs with a minty green hue. 


5 Good Things

1/ Peanut slabs in plant-based compostable packaging are being trialled in Wellington and Porirua, with Whittaker’s calling on slab fans to leave wrappers in a collection box at the retailer, which then gets taken to an urban farm in Cannon’s Creek for composting – it may seem like a small thing, but all these small things add up. 

2/ Insects as animal feed is being trialled in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in research that aims to help the agricultural sector to sustainable growth, and strengthen food security. The black soldier flies that make feed offer a dual benefit – they effectively recycle biowaste before they become food… a circular solution we are interested to hear more about.  

3/ We’ve lived vicariously through Rachel Roddy’s Roman cucina for years, and this wonderfully simple recipe for pork, bread and bay skewers is the perfect example of why. 

4/ Mixologist Mikey Ball has worked in top hospo sites all round the world, and now that he’s back in Aotearoa he has put his mind to bringing the bars to us, at home. Mikey’s Ballin’ range of batch-made, sustainably produced cocktails strikes a level of sophistication we know we’ll never come within a mile of with our own efforts. Recently we tried the Crystal Ginkgo Gimlet – complex, balanced, pourable straight from the freezer even... and now we feel a calling to sample the rest of the range. 

5/ In Japanese cooking, tamagoyaki (omelette roll) is both a meal on its own and an element of many great dishes. A custom tamagoyaki pan make the job easier – or at least, much prettier to eyeball once it’s done. We love this cute copper version with a wooden handle – a work of art in itself. Not so easy to find tamagoyaki pans in Aotearoa… we’ll keep up the search!


Think of The Omnivore as your monthly love letter from Freedom Farms

We’re a bunch of proud omnivores who love talking about food… from how ingredients are grown or produced right the way thru until it’s on your plate ready to tuck into. We reckon NZ has a food system that we should all be incredibly proud of – it’s not perfect, but there are heaps of people working really really hard to make it better. Over a decade ago we set out to make it easy for you to find pork, bacon, ham, sausages and eggs that you can feel good about buying… from farmers who operate systems that are kinder to farm animals, and take it easier on the environment. Now, we’re stoked to have products in almost 80% of local food stores. Every time you choose to buy Freedom Farms you send a message that knowing where your food comes from – and how it was farmed – matters. We’re really grateful for your support x