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.
“…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.”
- 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
- Dice butter into microwave-proof bowl, wrap with cling wrap, and set aside.
- Put all other ingredients into food processor.
- 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).
- 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).
- With the food processor still going slowly add all the butter fat.
- Once the butter fat is added the hollandaise should be thick.
- 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.