The Waikato and dairy famously go hand in hand, but travel across the region and you’ll find there is so much more to it than just Hamilton. Raglan, Matamata, Cambridge, Putararu, Te Awamutu and Te Kauwhata are home to farmers, winemakers, brewers, cheesemakers, orchardists, beekeepers and growers, giving this region a foodie reputation beyond just great dairy. There is a passion here for healthy, fresh, seasonal food. This is a region taking the concept of paddock to plate to another level. The self-evident results of a sustainable and organic approach to food is reason enough to visit the region.
Wholly Cow is an independent artisan butchery that is more than just meat. Carrie and Tom Andrews have created a circular, sustainable and independent farming system that incorporates regenerative farming practices – my order of prime rib came with a pot of fragrant tallow skin balm. The meat itself had thin lines of creamy fat running through the aged, maroon flesh. Packed in its box with hand-picked herbs, it just looked sexy even before I cooked it over the coals. whollycow.co.nz
Sue Arthur’s retirement project, Over the Moon, makes cheeses from locally sourced cow, goat, sheep and buffalo milk. The first reaction to eating one of her cheeses is often, “Oh, this is really good,” followed a few moments later by, “Wow, this is beautiful.” The sort of cheeses you want to eat and then eat some more. In keeping with my barbecue mantra, I cook the washed rind in the cooling embers of the wood fire, the smoke lingering on the softened, creamy interior. To go with it, some strawberries, ember-roasted alongside the cheese. overthemoondairy.co.nz
Meyer Cheese is one of New Zealand’s most awarded cheesemakers complete with its own dairy farm. The milk is pumped right from the milking shed into the cheese factory. The vintage Gouda has a crumbly parmesan-like texture and a full-bodied flavour with a sharp bite. A little goes a long way, so I either grate it onto my pasta, serve a sliver with a ripe pear or make a salad with Granny Smith apples and peppery rocket leaves. meyer-cheese.co.nz
They call me the King of Fat, such is my enthusiasm for using butter in my cooking and that was long before I had heard of the Bellefield Butter Company. Since 2017, Cambridge’s Steve and Jan Dolan have been making excellent, award-winning cultured butters, using traditional methods of slow ripening and hand working. As Kelli Brett famously said, “It’s life-changing.” Thickly spread the sea salt variety on some fire-grilled sourdough, or use the seriously good, thoughtfully flavoured butters to enhance the taste of anything they accompany. bellefield.co.nz
True barbecue, using wood and not gas, is all about the simple application of raw heat and smoke to proteins and vegetables. There is little that cannot be improved with good-quality charcoal.
Beef comes down to breed, feed and environment; everything depends on the animal itself so find yourself a really good butcher or supplier as cheap meat will give you a cheap result. Also, nothing adds succulence to a piece of beef like a bone – it’s the magic ingredient that can’t be beaten when it comes to flavour.
Conventional wisdom is to place the meat over the coals of a hot barbecue grill, giving it a baptism of fire, then lower the heat to let it carry on cooking at a more sedate pace. However, I prefer to start over a low heat and finish in a furnace, a method known as ‘reverse sear’.
ALSO LOOK OUT FOR…
Jersey Girl Organics Jersey A2 milk. jerseygirlorganics.co.nz
Dreamview Creamery Milk in reusable glass bottles right to your door (Hamilton area) dreamview.co.nz
Raglan Food Co New Zealand’s first carbon-neutral coconut-yoghurt manufacturer. raglanfoodco.com
Salsa Brava Chimichurri from Argentina via Raglan. salsabrava.co.nz
Soul Food Farm Organic market gardens and Grandad’s Beef. soulfoodfarmraglan.com
Hunt & Gather Bee Co Beekeepers and producers of sustainable, ethical, raw honey. huntandgatherbeeco.com
Sweetree Honey true to the hives’ location and season, a reflection of the Waikato’s flora. sweetreehoney.co.nz
Wild Country Foods Making unique products from the excess produce in the Hamilton Gardens, including Seville orange marmalade. wildcountry.co.nz
Peplers Fine Foods Dressings, sauces, jams, jellies and more from Te Kauwhata; try the black raspberry vinaigrette. peplers.co.nz
Monavale New Zealand’s largest BioGro-certified organic blueberry orchard. monavaleblueberries.co.nz
Kōwhai Creamery Gelato made with milk from their own family farm. kowhaicreamery.co.nz
Good Bugs Fermented pesto, sauerkraut and kimchi handmade in small batches. goodbugs.co.nz