Wild food enthusiasts planning their dishes for next month’s Local Wild Food Challenge can take inspiration and a few tips from the esteemed 2019 judging panel. Hailing from Wellington, Rotorua and Whakatāne, this year’s judges bring wide-ranging experience in the food sector and a passion for the abundant wild food in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.
Original and current residence? Spent most of my life in Mourea in Rotorua, Ngati Pikiao turf. Grew up with whanau, cousins and friends who taught me how to harvest food from the area. Food like trout, eels, kewai, pikopiko, puha, watercress, mushrooms, berries, nuts, fruit from the neighbours trees, wild pigs, deer, ducks, turkeys and the list goes on!! No one starves in our village!
Wild Food Judge Credentials – what is your connection with food? As a qualified Chef, I found cooking various foods to taste delicious is what I've always enjoyed. It tastes even sweeter when you gather the kai. From harvest to preparing to cooking the meal and finally watching people eating your kai is what keeps me connected to the food, the land and to the people.
Your favourite part of Whakatāne?
Diving for seafood around the Whakatāne heads. There's always a surprise for the keen diver lurking beneath those waters. Various kaimoana that all start with the letter "K" Kina, Koura and Kuku need I say more!
The most under rated ingredient is… The humble Kahawai should be respected a lot more by anglers. A fish that's easy to target, very versatile, delicious as smoke fish, tasty as raw fish and my favourite simple boiled kahawai steaks with just salt, onion and butter. There's even a secret to boiling believe it or not, DON'T BOIL TOO HARD!, allow to simmer gently for a softer result.
Favourite wild food? Bbq venison steak entree (LARGE) with a wild pork and puha boil up for main. That smell of wild pork singed with puha or watercress simmering is such a draw card for my nose which leads to me salivating at the mouth. The smell is as good as a freshly baked rewana bread or banana cake!
What is the biggest mistake/s in an aspiring Local Wild Food Challenge cook can make? Please challengers keep it simple and make sure we can taste the main ingredient. That's it from me and remember I'm always hungry so don't be shy!