With the Australia-New Zealand travel bubble so close we can almost taste it, two chefs from either side of the Tasman have joined forces to showcase the best of what each country has to offer when it comes to food.
New Zealand-born Analiese Gregory and Aussie Clayton Wells have collaborated on a new cookbook called Taste Buds that brings together iconic flavours and produce from both countries, while putting the spotlight on the best food regions to check out when trans-Tasman travel finally resumes.
Australians are yet to find out when we can finally travel across the ditch, with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern due to announce a start date for the two-way travel bubble on April 6.
Until then, food lovers can experience some truly great trans-Tasman fare with the 10 recipes Gregory and Wells developed together for the cookbook, which is available to download at the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise website.
Each recipe unites native New Zealand and Australian produce and flavours, such as lightly grilled New Zealand scampi, pomelo, candied ginger and lemon myrtle; Central Otago lamb ribs with a Davidson Plum glaze and Horopito; and Whittaker’s hot chocolate sauce with wattle seed ice-cream.
The book also explains some key ingredients home cooks may have never encountered before, such as finger limes, a tart fruit that’s native to rainforest regions of Queensland and NSW, and Kawakawa leaves, which Maori people have traditionally used for medicinal purposes.
Wells, the head chef and co-owner of Sydney restaurant Automata, said the recipes he developed with Gregory brought together unique flavour combinations that had never been attempted before.
“They’re easy to serve up at home, with ingredients you can find at your local supermarket, deli, fishmonger or butcher,” Wells told news.com.au.
“(They) not only bring our two nations together at a time when we currently can’t be, but also showcase ingredients you may not have thought to use together.
“I think the New Zealand togarashi spiced wallaby skewers will surprise people’s tastebuds the most, as many Aussies don’t think to use wallaby when cooking. The gamey meat is perfectly complemented by the unique New Zealand spices, and I hope home cooks across the
country will gain confidence in using new ingredients they usually wouldn’t think to work with.”
Wells said he was a fan of Kiwi seafood in particular, and flagged New Zealand Greenshell Mussels — which are some of the largest mussels in the world, and can grow up to a whopping 23cm — as a must-try for Australians when we can finally get back to NZ.
“The freshness and quality of the produce is always second to none,” he said.
“When developing Taste Buds with Analiese, I was really excited to use Cloudy Bay diamond shell clams as I just think they’re such a quality ingredient and bring an authentically New Zealand flavour to the dish, plus they hold a special place in my heart as they remind me of my travels over there.”
Gregory, who grew up on her family’s dairy farm on the North Island, said the incredible quality of New Zealand produce came down to the care and craft of local producers.
“In New Zealand, we value what’s known as Kaitiakitanga, the Māori principal of care of people, place and planet, and our role as guardians of the land, now and in the future,” she said.
“This results in incredible flavours and produce across both the North and South Islands.”
A lot of the cookbook showcases New Zealand seafood, which was a no-brainer for Clayton, a diving and fishing enthusiast.
She said when Aussies could get back over the ditch to New Zealand, a culinary road trip was a great way to experience the country’s incredible food offerings.
“When we’re able to freely travel again, my personal must-try recommendation in New Zealand is live clams,” she said.
“One thing I miss most about New Zealand is being able to get live clams easily. In Australia you can still get access to some great New Zealand clams, but if you get the chance to visit New Zealand, I recommend finding somewhere where you get them live – it won’t be hard.”
But she has some favourite Australian ingredients, too.
“I love using native Aussie meats like wallaby and flavours like wattle seed or lemon myrtle as they just elevate the overall flavour of the dish,” she said.
“We’ve included some of these flavours and ingredients in Taste Buds, so definitely give them a go.”
While the cookbook is a harmonious union of the best of Australia and New Zealand, the two countries have butted heads over food before — particularly when it comes to the humble pavlova, lamington and Anzac biscuit, which both claim as their own.
So who does those dishes best?
“I’m going to stay true and say obviously New Zealand … we’re the ones that created them all in the first place,” Gregory said.
“I’m definitely biased, but you can’t go wrong with an Aussie pav,” Wells said.
“In saying that, add some ingredients from Taste Buds, like Zespri Kiwifruit, and shave a little bit of Whittaker’s Chocolate over the top and I think you have the best of both worlds.”