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Top 7 things to do on a chilly Auckland Winter's Day 

Posted by on July 04, 2018

Top 7 things to do on a chilly Auckland Winter's Day

 

It's that time of the year, it's rainy and it's cold and you would rather stay at home (and feel miserable) ... and we don't blame you. But we at the Big Foody Food Tours have come up with our favourite 7 ways to cheer you up on a chilly Auckland Winter's Day and bring a smile back to your face.

 

Book yourself a night away at the Vineyard Cottages nestled between the vines in North West Auckland. You will be able to set yourself up in front of your own private fireplace, home-baked cookies and warm welcome drink on arrival. They've even got some Winter Escapes up on their website at the moment including super indulgent pampering sessions at Spa Di Vine and Trust the Chef dining options at the Hunting Lodge. With the north west region having so much to offer, the Vineyard Cottages is the perfect accommodation choice.


 

While you're in the beautiful North West region and enjoying a night away at The Vineyard Cottages, check out the award winning Tasting Shed. Not far from the Vineyard Cottages at all and we can arrange transportation if needed. A dinner at the Tasting Shed is an absolute delight! Delicious ‘sharing’ plates that may take you outside your comfort zone, with different combinations and varieties, but always amazing! Always fresh and seasonal produce, amazing service and a great international wine list. Definitely one to add to your dining Bucket List.

 

Make a complete weekend of it with an indulgent His and Hers massage at Spa Di Vine before returning to your Vineyard Cottages luxury accommodation. Spa Di Vine has been running since 2002 and offers a wide variety of beauty and spa treatments. Check out Vineyard Cottages special as part of the Winter Escape’s Ultimate Spa and Gastronomy Stay . Get your pampering in and then head to the Vineyard Cottages and relax with in front of your private fireplace - the perfect winter getaway in this chilly weather and sure to put a spring back into your step.

 

Citrus, Citrus, Citrus!! There is a reason that citrus is in season at this time of the year. We think that the brights of oranges, lemons and limes definitely brighten up our days, who can’t resist bright colours and tastes of something summery. There is nothing better than fresh mandarins, lemons or grapefruit straight off a tree, whether it’s your own, your neighbours or even pick-your own - google it they do exist! But at this time of the year, they also do us good with those boosts of Vitamin C. Check out our recipe for our favourite Lemon and Honey toddy and more citrus recipes on the blog.


Go for a drive through North West Auckland. It is the perfect destination for a weekend drive, with so many different options. Whether your looking to get back to nature, looking to dine in some fantastic restaurants or something more adventurous. Our favourites include Muriwai and the Gannet Colony and lunch at the Tasting Shed (Fri - Sun) or Halleratau. The options are endless with horse riding on Muriwai Beach, 4WD or Mountain biking in Woodhill Forest, Skydiving, Tree Adventures… the list goes on. And if you’ve exhausted yourself and want to spend the night, don’t forget us at the Vineyard Cottages.


Make yourself some winter comfort-food. We know this probably won’t get you out of the house, but your warm, satisfied belly will definitely make you feel happy and content. We have included some of The Big Food’s favourite recipes below (and on the blog). Roast lamb, soups, crockpot recipes and warm satisfying desserts!!




Join us on a Big Foody Food Tour! With winter here we’ve got hot coffees to enjoy and taste, satisfying bakery items  and lots of other warming goodies. Our guests may be bundled up with jackets and beanies but there is still heaps to taste and sample and learn about Auckland. Our tours are vibrant and exciting and you will learn all about Auckland, the city surrounded by water, volcanoes, vineyards and beaches. As the gateway to the rest of the country Auckland is the first port of call for many visitors coming to New Zealand and our tours are designed to give you the very best introduction to our gorgeous city and country. See you soon.

Butterflied Lamb Roast

Posted by on July 04, 2018

Butterflied Lamb Roast with Rosemary, Garlic and Red Onion

This is a great recipe for this time of the year, it is super easy and a hearty winter meal with lots of garlic to boost your immunity! Butterflied Lamb is an easy alternative and doesn't take too long in the oven as opposed to anything on the bone.

It is fancy enough to serve up at a dinner party but easy enough for a weekly dinner also (it was last nights dinner in our family - a Tuesday night!)

 

INGREDIENTS

Butterflied Lamb 

Several twigs of Rosemary

1 x Red Onion chopped finely

3 x cloves of garlic chopped finely

Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to season

Cooking twine

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Lay down the butterflied lamb as flat as you can and sprinkle over the chopped red onion, chopped garlic and rosemary.

Roll the butterflied lamb together as tightly as possible and use the cooking twine to hold it together.

Season with salt and pepper.

Drizzle with olive oil.

Place into the oven at 170 degrees for 1 and a half hours.

 

Serve with fresh seasonal vegetables (like broccoli) and roasted veggies of potatoes, pumpkin and kumara or sliced on top of herby steamed couscous tossed with orange zest, olives, parsley, coriander and lots of lemon juice and olive oil.

 

If there is any left over, we love shepherds pie or a hearty Middle Eastern soup made with tomatoes, paprika, cumin, chilli and beans - we'll add the recipe. 

 

 

A little known fruit the Persimmon

Posted by on May 17, 2018

A little known fruit - the Persimmon.

 

As we arrived at the Pick Your Own Orchard, a group of Chinese tourists were just leaving with their boot of their car packed to the brim with bags of Persimmons. “$300 worth of Persimmons they just purchased” explained the Ross, the owner of the Shiziyuan Persimmon Orchard.

The kids and I watched as they drove off and we too grabbed our plastic bags to start picking, but I explained carefully, we will not be picking $300’s worth, just half a bag full for now shall do.

For us, it certainly is a fruit not so familiar to our fruit bowl, and many have not heard nor tasted a Persimmon before.

It is not a surprise however, that the Persimmon is very highly regarded in the Asian culture with a near religious following, being Japan’s national fruit and originating from China. Being bright reddish in colour and shaped like a round Chinese lantern, they symbolise luck and often used for festive decorations and they are often given as lucky presents to newlyweds to symbolise eternal love. They are also often planted in temples as it is said four virtues - long life, sheltering birds, giving shade and freedom from insects and pests.

 

In the western world however, the persimmon has remained more of a home gardener sort of fruit. But why not change that? Persimmons are such a versatile fruit and easy to grow. They are really reliable croppers and mostly disease free. And provide a beautiful backdrop with their leaves turning spectacular shades of fiery red and burst of orange after their harvests in late autumn - even in the mildest climates. And did you know that Persimmons are technically considered a berry?!! Maybe a Persimmon tree in your backyard is not a bad idea? When slightly unripe, they have an apple-like crunch with a sweet and slight nutty flavour and when fully ripe they become a juicy, sweet, syrupy basket of goodness and this is what our Japanese and Chinese friends are obsessed with.

 

There are two main types of Persimmon, astringent and non-astringent. Historically all Persimmon were astringent and not edible until they were completely ripe. Because of their astringent nature, they could also not be transported or kept very well, until in the 1960’s when Israeli plant breeders developed (often believed by accident) the first non-astringent Persimmon. It meant that Persimmon could be eaten while still firm and shipped practically anywhere in the world (and stored for months). Today non- astringent Persimmons are the norm and grown worldwide, the most common type of non-astringent Persimmon in the Fruyu.

 

Persimmon tea leaves are also said to have superb health benefits. They are high in fibre and high in tannins which can help digestion. They also have properties that can help prevent high blood pressure. In parts of Japan, the leaves are used to wrap sushi as they have antiseptic properties.

 

A trip out to the Persimmon Farm is definitely worth the trip out not, not just for a foodie adventure but to have a good old chat to Ross, who as it turns out, grew up on a big farm, not far from our base here at the Vineyard Cottages, he has a huge wealth of local knowledge, he worked at the historical dairy farm in Helensville and he can tell you many stories of local happenings and of course is super passionate about anything Persimmons! Ross has been on this property for over 20 years now and has opened his orchard to the public for the last 20 years. This ANZAC Day was his busiest day yet! Find him at 152 Rimmer Road, Helensville open for Pick Your Own from ANZAC Day till June (if the birds don’t get to the Persimmons first).

 

Quick and Super Easy Persimmon Sorbet

Posted by on May 17, 2018

Quick and Super Easy Persimmon Sorbet

 

Persimmons are a super versatile fruit, simply eat them like an apple while still firm, add into salads, use them in cookies and cakes, puddings, curries or make chutneys and relishes or even fruit leather.

One of The Big Foody Food Tours favourite ways to enjoy a Persimmon is this sweet quick and super easy Persimmon sorbet.

 

  1. Choose some beautifully coloured orange Persimmons, slightly on the ripe side.
  2. Cut the tops off the Persimmons.
  3. Gently cut some criss-cross lines into the top of the Persimmons.
  4. Put the Persimmons into the freezer.
  5. About half an hour prior before planning to devour this delicious treat, take the Persimmons of of the freezer and let defrost.
  6. When the Persimmons have defrosted enough to easily scoop out its contents with a spoon, simply sit down and ENJOY!


Check out the rest of our Persimmon recipes on our blog to freshen up, lighten up and add some up colour to your Autumn meals.

 

Persimmon and Feta Salad

Posted by on May 16, 2018

Persimmon and Feta Salad

This salad is perfect for this  Autumn weather. With the last of our late summer produce now gone, adding Persimmons to your dishes, especially salads, its a great way to keep that freshness going for a little while longer and adds a beautiful burst of colour to your meals at this time of the year.

 

Salad Ingredients

1 firm Persimmon

Couple of handfuls of mixed salad greens eg. rocket mesclun etc

150g Feta

 

Dressing Ingredients

Juice of half a lemon

1/4 tsp dry mustard powder, 1/4 tsp sugar

Dash of salt and pepper

1 tablespoon good quality olive oil

2 tablespoons sunflower or other mild oil.

 

Arrange your mixed greens in a shallow salad bowl.

Slice the Persimmon into thin slices and place on top of the salad greens.

Gently crumble the feta over the top. 

Just prior to serving drizzle the dressing over the salad.

 

You can adapt this salad easily by adding cucumber into it as well.

Roasted Almonds or walnuts would also add a nice touch.

If you don't have any feta, why not try a beautiful blue cheese (we at the Big Foody Food Tours love the Kapiti Baby Kikorangi) or Brie or Camembert.

 

 

 

The Big Foody's Top 6 Favourite Autumn Adventures in Auckland

Posted by on April 13, 2018

The temperatures are starting to cool down but we are still experiencing beautiful sunny days.
The beautiful crisp autumn air is perfect for adventure in Auckland at this time of the year. The Big Foody's top picks are:

 

BRICK BAY one of the most exquisite places for relaxed dining, beautiful wine, delicious fresh and local food in their glass house cantilevered over a peaceful pond. The service is impeccable, the wine beautiful and the surroundings just magical. Not only the food and wine is worth the visit, but the Sculpture trail and gardens positioned in their grounds is a an opportunity not to be missed. Enjoy the 2km walk around the trail admiring the contemporary artworks (which are also for sale) by leading New Zealand artists and then finish the day off with delicious platters, cheeseboards and some sweet treats with a glass of their own Brick Bay wine or locally roasted coffee.

 

 

 

CLEVEDON FARMERS MARKET is the perfect place to spend a relaxed Sunday morning. Run every Sunday (except for Easter and Christmas) between 8:30am and 1pm at the Clevedon Showgrounds it will tempt you with the best seasonal and local offerings of fruit & vegies, freshly baked pastries and bread, great espresso coffee, meat, fish, cheese's, sauces, eggs, confectionary, wine, fresh flowers and the list goes on. And even better yet, every Sunday is slightly different!

You can sample the freshest produce and then fill your baskets or bags with what your taste buds so desire, you will surely come away with a colourful and interesting assortment of goodies to enjoy.

But be sure to be there early, as the best of the best will sell out by mid morning!

Running since 2005, the Clevedon Farmers Market now offers at least 50 stalls to its Sunday morning visitors with an array of top quality and fresh produce from local producers and growers.

Top Tip: Take your goodies with you on a picnic in the beautiful Hunua Ranges (see below)

 

TAKAPUNA is where you will find a laid back atmosphere, white sandy beach, a fresh water volcanic lake and a whole heap of seaside cafe's serving anything from gourmet international fare to your traditional kiwiana fish and chips! You will find yourself immersed in a haven of restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs and nightclubs with the triangle of Hurstmere Road, Anzac Street and Lake Rd.

The shopping is not bad either with high end specialist stores featuring anything from designer footwear to swimwear to New Zealand wines.

Lake Pupuke is a volcanic fresh water lake that is popular for non-motorised water sports and has many adjacent parks to picnic at. It also features the Pump House where you can watch a show, feed the black swans or enjoy the cafe.

Other top tips from us here at the Big Foody Food tours to enjoy in Takapuna include, paddle boarding or kayaking either on Takapuna Beach or Lake Pupuke, enjoying a walk along Takapuna Beach or visiting the Takapuna Sunday Market.

 

TASTEBUD TOUR Now is the time to book yourself a Big Foody Food Tour. It's Feijoa season and beautiful autumn produce is bountiful. You'll taste some of New Zealand's top cheese's and your tastebuds will have a field day with amazing flavours. The Tastebud tour is a driven tour, so simply sit back and enjoy the ride, while stopping off for some sensational tastings! A highlight of this tour is seeing behind-the-scenes of the Auckland Fish market, we visit anywhere from speciality shops where the chefs shop, chocolatiers, cafes, farmers markets, artisan producers and much much more. Our experienced, passionate and fun guides love to show off our vibrant sights and sound of the city and Auckland region and if there is anything specific that you want to see or taste, make sure that you ask our guide for advice, they are always more than happy to help.

You will also get an introduction to Auckland's history, architecture, culture and quirky stories and characters.

Book a tour now

 

HUNUA RANGES are beautiful at this time of the year. As the temperatures are dropping, now is the time to explore this beautiful native forest and explore the streams, waterfalls, wildlife and vista views less than an hours drive south of Auckland and perfect to combine with a trip to the Clevendon Farmers Market! With perfect picnic spots and great walking tracks, the Hunua ranges will keep you captivated on a sunny Autumn day.

The Hunua ranges is the largest native forest in the Auckland region and is cared for by the Auckland regional council.

The Hunting Lodge

The north west wine region is beautiful at this time of the year. The leaves on trees are turning gorgeous colours of reds, oranges and yellows and starting to fall. Our neighbours at The Hunting Lodge will welcome you into their home for relaxed wining and dining.

Their award winning chef, Des Harris will tempt you with his mediterranean inspired deli style cafe focused on seasonal, locally sourced, high quality ingredients that are carefully matched to complement their wines.

Grab yourself a picnic blanket and basket and enjoy the vineyard surroundings. The kids are welcome too, especially with their kids area or settle down inside for a cosy meal.

ANZAC recipe

Posted by on April 13, 2018

ANZAC Day is celebrated in New Zealand on the 25th of April. ANZAC Day is a national remembrance day in New Zealand and Australia that commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders who have served and died in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations. 
ANZAC biscuits were sent to soldiers abroad by wives and woman's group as the ingredients did not spoil and kept well during the naval transportation.
These delicious sweet, oaty biscuits are still enjoyed today and we have got the recipe for you

 

INGREDIENTS

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup dessicated coconut

1 cup white flour

1 cup white sugar

125 g butter

2 Tbsp golden syrup

1 tsp baking soda

2 Tbsp boiling water

METHOD

Preheat oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a baking tray or line with baking paper.

Combine the oats, coconut, flour, and sugar together in a large bowl.

Melt the butter and golden syrup together. Dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water and add to the butter mixture. Pour the butter mixture into the dry ingredients and mix together.

Roll teaspoons into balls and place on the tray, allowing room for them to spread.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, cooking one tray at a time.

Hot Cross Buns

Posted by on March 21, 2018

Hot Cross Buns

Ingredients

4 cups high grade flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp each ground allspice, mixed spice, cinnamon, nutmeg (I like mine quite cinnamony so will add more!)
¼ cup brown sugar
1½ tsp dried yeast
1 cup warm milk
100 grams softened butter
2 eggs
1 cup raisins or chocolate chips or mixed fruit

Cross paste

½ cup flour
1 tblsp butter
¼ tsp baking powder
about ¼ cup milk

Sugar Glaze

2 tblsp sugar

2 tblsp hot milk

Method

Put the flour, salt, spices and brown sugar into a big bowl and mix together.
Stir the yeast and milk together and set aside in a warm place for 15 minutes or until the mixture is frothy.
Beat the eggs and softened butter into the frothy mixture.
Pour the yeast mixture into the flour mixture and mix vigorously to form a soft dough. Mix the mixture for 1 minute. Add the raisins and mix in well. 
Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover with greased gladwrap. Set aside in a warm place for about 1 hour until the dough has doubled in size.
Place the dough onto a lightly floured board and divide into 16 equal portions. Roll into balls and place on a greased baking tray with about 1-cm between each bun.
Cover with a clean tea towel and set aside in a warm place for another 30 minutes until well risen. Brush with milk and pipe thin crosses of Cross Paste (instructions below) on top of the buns.
Bake at 190ºC for about 20-25 minutes. Just before taking out of the oven, spread some sugar glaze over them (instructions below). Cool on a cake rack.


Cross paste
Sift flour and baking powder together. Rub in butter. Stir in enough milk to make a thick batter that can be piped.
Sugar glaze
Dissolve 2 tablespoons sugar in 2 tablespoons hot milk.

Feijoa Jam Recipe

Posted by on March 21, 2018

EASY Feijoa Jam

 

Ingredients

1kg Feijoa’s

1 kg caster sugar

¼ cup water

1-2 vanilla pods

1 stick of cinnamon

Juice of 1 lemon

 

Method

Peel and slice the feijoas and place into a saucepan with the sugar.

Slit the vanilla pod and scrape the seeds into the pan, add the pod.

Add the water, Cinnamon stick and lemon juice.

Bring to a simmer and cook until the fruit is soft, then increase the temperature and boil for 8-10 minutes.

Remove the vanilla pod and cinnamon stick, then pour into sterilised jars and seal.

An Amazing Week

Posted by Elle Armon-Jones on March 20, 2018

Hawkes Bay is one of my favourite places in New Zealand. The colours, the countryside, the people and of course the food lure me back year after year. This year a group of 20 came with me as we discovered the culinary joys of this stunning region and onwards to Wellington.

Our tour started off at the 2017 Cuisine Magazine restaurant of the year Pacifica. Run by couple Jeremy Rameka and the gorgeous Natalie Bulman, Pacifica is a modest but sophisticated restaurant on Marine Parade. Four days before we all sat to dine, Jeremy had competed in and completed the Taupo Iron Man competition. A gruelling task for for a trained athlete let alone a man who spends all day in a kitchen. We were awed by a homemade pasta dish served with a sweetcorn and mozzarella cream that had us all oohing and ahhhhin as we ate it.

New friendships were forged and as we met the following morning, the revolting cyclonic weather that whipped our hair into different directions than it would normally be, could do nothing to dampen the spirits of the group. Our courageous bus driver successfully navigated the gusts to take us up to the Te Mata peak, where group photos had everyone in fits of giggles.

The highlight of the Friday was definitely our trip to Cape Kidnappers. Our trip around the gardens had to be forgone by the winds and rain, but the amazing garden team had gathered some of the native herbs and plants, their heirloom vegetables and salads and little alpine strawberries for us to try. Did you know that growing strawberries in a pine needle mulch will improve their flavour? No nor did we!

Our four course lunch kicked of with a very fresh bluff oyster served on a bd of samphire. I love love love samphire especially slightly pickled. This was delicious!

We went on to be wowed by a kaffir lime broth poured over a piece of mouth watering kingfish and an amazing lamb main course.

Yoghurt panna cotta and rosemary roasted peaches made the perfect dessert and we finished with local cheese the Sleeping Giant sheep cheddar.

The banter between chef, maitre’d and waiters kept us all entertained and we left wishing we could afford the $17,000 / night accommodation! What a treat of a day it was.