Toa the Hunter Gatherer to judge at the Whakatāne Local Wild Food Challenge

Owen Boynton, star of the popular television series Toa the Hunter Gatherer, has been named as a judge for the Whakatāne Local Wild Food Challenge.

Mr Boynton grew up in Waimana and Whanganui a Tara but also calls Gisborne home, and his television show follows him as he explores the unique attributes of regional New Zealand and their historical approaches to hunting and fishing. So far the series has seen him visit locations from Tarawera to the Chatham Islands, but he is looking forward to getting back to Whakatāne for the Local Wild Food Challenge.

 

 

Toa the Hunter Gatherer to judge at Local Wild Food Challenge

 

“From a very young age I found adventure in our wild country, always wanting to hunt and fish and learn of the kai we could pursue and gather in our big wilderness backyard.”

“I have a strong link to Whakatāne,” he says, “with my family who still live there and the small settlement of Waimana where I spent the first years of my life. From a very young age I found adventure in our wild country, always wanting to hunt and fish and learn of the kai we could pursue and gather in our big wilderness backyard.”

Mr Boynton is an established maker of hunting bows, with clients across the globe, but he is just as interested in the preparation of wild game as he is in catching it. “As a hunter I have had a fascination of not only hunting for kai but learning the many ways we can prepare it for the table,” he says. “I was inspired by a friend of mine Carlos Martinez, a Mexican Chef and hunter too. He opened my eyes to the diverse flavours and colourful creations one could create with wild food. The thing I like about wild food is well, just that: its wild! I put a lot of thought into the animals I hunt, the foods I gather and keeping a balance and respect to what’s harvested, and I feel putting the extra effort in to creating awesome tasting food gives us an added appreciation for our organic kai.”

As a judge Mr Boynton says he will be looking for presentation that compliments the kai harvested, “but also flavours that allow the original wild taste to still come through. “The bounty of wild Aotearoa is at our fingertips, it just takes a few skills and know-how and anyone can enjoy the adventure and fulfilling feeling of hunting and gathering wild kai. To those that enter, well done that’s a win in itself – well it is for me anyway as I get to taste your creation!”

“The bounty of wild Aotearoa is at our fingertips, it just takes a few skills and know-how and anyone can enjoy the adventure and fulfilling feeling of hunting and gathering wild kai.”

The Whakatāne Local Wild Food Challenge is held at Mataatua in summer, with food demonstrations, kids events and live music.

As any Kiwi hunter will tell you, nothing beats wild venison, and Owen Boynton’s favourite way to serve it is as aged eye fillet with a rocket, spinach and watercress salad topped with a sweet onion dressing. Owen has kindly shared his family recipe with us.

Wild venison with sweet onion dressingSweet Onion Dressing

  • 1 cup Water
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  •  6 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion flakes
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons Honey Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh onion, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sweet smokey paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions

  1. In a medium-sized sauce pan, whisk all the ingredients.
  2. Place on the stove set to medium-high heat. Whisk continuously until it comes to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to a simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat.
  5. Let it cool then and refrigerate- place into jars etc.

Chronicles of a (failed) Whitebaiter

Having grown up and lived in a big city most of my life, my hunting and gathering skills have been limited to driving to grocery stores and navigating the aisles (I am really good at this I might add). When I moved to Whakatane four years ago, I became acutely aware of my limitations in the hunting and foraging department. So a while back I decided to do something about it. I tried my hand at whitebaiting and taking advantage of the bounty our beautiful district has to offer.

I did what any self-respecting and well-prepared city girl does and researched everything I could about whitebaiting on Encyclopedia Google (side note: Googling “how to whitebait” the night before you go whitebaiting for the first time is a relatively futile exercise).  I got up at an obscenely early hour (no seriously, anyone that knows me knows to approach me only after my second coffee has kicked in), tagged along with four other amateur whitebaiters with almost as much experience in whitebaiting as me, and walked to the river with a whitebait net and a strange contraption of white pvc tube and empty milk container that’s supposed to help spot the whitebait.

After 3 hours of standing barefoot, knee deep in ice cold water, we came away with 6 whitebait. That is right ladies and gentlemen – SIX. Not 6 pounds, but 6 (I suspect one of them was already in the net from the last use). I will not be quitting my day job anytime soon, folks. Turns out that by the time we headed out to the river, most serious whitebaiters were already done eating whitebait fritters for breakfast with a side of plain white bread loaded with butter and a slice of lemon. With a dollop of butter. Did I mention butter? YUM! Let’s move on to what I can actually do – which is cook. Even though my merry band of amateur whitebaiters didn’t catch anything, we did manage to score a respectable amount by winning a raffle. We went with a classic whitebait fritter recipe, quite a bit like an omelet – eggs, whitebait, salt and pepper and plenty of butter!

“After 3 hours of standing barefoot, knee deep in ice cold water, we came away with 6 whitebait. That is right ladies and gentlemen – SIX. Not 6 pounds”

Whitebait Fritter

The Classic Whitebaite Fritter, photo by tastechronicles.com

Classic Whitebait Fritters

Yield – 10 – 12 Fritters
Total Time – 15 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 7 Large Eggs
  • 200 grams Whitebait
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly cracked Pepper, to taste
  • Lemon wedges, to serve

Method

  1. Whip up eggs in a large mixing bowl
  2. Season with salt and pepper
  3. Add whitebait
  4. Heat up a pan and add half a tablespoon of butter
  5. Add ¼ cup of the mix and let cook for 2 – 3 minutes.
  6. Flip it over and cook for another minute.
  7. Serve with a lemon wedge and buttered bread

For the original post and for more international culinary adventures, visit Taste Chronicles www.tastechronicles.com

Find out about whitebait regulations and the whitebaiting season for all of New Zealand except the West Coast, and learn more about whitebait.

Introducing Jono Marr, chef extraordinaire and owner of Whakatāne’s Soulsa restaurant

After a highly successful inaugural event, the Whakatāne Local Wild Food Festival returns to Mataatua on 10 December with more prizes, more kids events and even more wild food. Jono Marr, chef extraordinaire and owner of Whakatāne’s Soulsa restaurant, is one of this year’s judges and he is also no stranger to incorporating ingredients plucked from the environment into his menu.

 

Jono Marr, chef extraordinaire

 

“…when you are getting something locally you know it is fresh and you know where it has come from.”

“What I love most about using wild ingredients is the freshness,” he says. “I grew up on wild venison as my father was a mad hunter – it was really him who taught me to cook – and when you are getting something locally you know it is fresh and you know where it has come from. I really love kina and you also just cannot beat fresh whitebait, but there are also quite simple ways to use native flavours in your cooking as seasoning.”

One of Marr’s favourites in this regard is kawakawa, the small but ubiquitous green shrub that can be found growing widely throughout the Bay. It has long been used by Māori in traditional medicine, but for Jono it is a first-class seasoning, which is not surprising as the plant is related to black pepper vine. “I just love kawakawa, it’s so versatile and it has a fantastic flavour. And for me flavour is what it’s all about and that’s what I’ll be looking for in the Wild Food Challenge: presentation is important – food should look good – but it’s the flavour that should linger and stay with you. I’m not really and arty-farty kind of chef, what I’m about is solid, memorable flavours, and using native ingredients is a great way to achieve that.”

“I’m not really and arty-farty kind of chef, what I’m about is solid, memorable flavours…”

If you are thinking of entering find out more about the day to see how you can get involved. In the meantime here is one of Jono’s personal kawakawa recipes to get you started.

Kawakawa Hollandaise Recipe

“This goes really well with fresh fish and asparagus,” Jono says, “and as asparagus are in season and the sea is usually calm at this time of year, it’s a great timely recipe.”

Ingredients

  • 300g Butter
  • 1/2 Tbsp Cream
  • 1/2 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
  • 3 Egg Yolks
  • 1 Tbsp White Wine Vinegar
  • 2 kawakawa leaves (use only leaves that have holes in them)
  • Pinch of black pepper

Method

  1. Dice butter into microwave-proof bowl, wrap with cling wrap, and set aside.
  2. Put all other ingredients into food processor.
  3. Turn food processor on and leave it going; while food processor is going heat butter for three minutes (you want all the butter to be melted and boiling).
  4. Take butter from microwave and let it sit for a few seconds till it separates to butter fat and butter milk (the butter milk is white and settles on the bottom).
  5. With the food processor still going slowly add all the butter fat.
  6. Once the butter fat is added the hollandaise should be thick.
  7. Slowly add as much butter milk as you need to get the consistency that you would like (depends on how hot the butter fat is as to how thick your hollandaise will be, sometimes you use all the butter milk and sometimes just a little bit).

Enjoy with some fresh fish, asparagus and baby potatoes.