Kohu Road – creamiest dairy-free coconut ice cream  


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If I am going to indulge in a treat, my motto is to go for the best that I can afford. I reckon if I am going to use up my calorie quota on ice cream, it should be an indulgent experience in itself. One of my favourite is Kohu Road, artisan ice cream made locally, in West Auckland.

Kohu Road uses natural ingredients to make their award winning products. You might have come across their Peanut Butter ice cream that was launched earlier in 2017. My favourite is still Dark Chocolate, made with 72% cocoa dark chocolate making it the most decadent ice cream you can buy. I gave up making my own chocolate ice cream when they first launched in 2007.

For the past three years, they have been secretly developing a new range. Finally, launched in July 2017, is their new Dairy Free coconut ice cream.

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“We’ve cut out the dairy to leave our customers feeling lighter, healthier and wanting more.” Charlotte Stein, Marketing Executive of Kohu Road gushed as she passed me the new 500ml packs.

Made with coconut cream, the ice creams are creamy and smooth. Look at that shine! Far superior than any other dairy-free desserts I have ever tried. After tasting these, I would in fact choose these over the normal range. Ice cream identical in both taste and texture, yet with less calories, sugar and fat. Why wouldn’t you?

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This is one of the only products in the world to use monk fruit as a sweetener. Monk fruit is 200 times sweeter than sugar, meaning a lot less is required to sweeten the ice cream.

The ice creams are also 100% pure, containing no additives, preservatives or stabilisers – only natural ingredients.

So what did we think after tasting them?
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Vanilla

These are so light and smooth – they picked up a gold medal at the New Zealand Ice Cream Awards: ‘Dairy-Free’ category with judges commenting “clean and refreshing, with a good texture”. Very coconuty and made with vanilla extract and seeds, this is a very nice palette-cleansing ice cream.

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Chocolate

At first taste, the deep cocoa aroma fills your senses. Next the creamy coconut glides smoothly around your tongue. All the same smooth sensation of the Dark Chocolate dairy ice cream, but without the heaviness. Earlier in the year they hosted a sensory experiment with food bloggers and journalists and the majority were unable to tell that this flavour was dairy-free.

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Strawberry

The burst of freshness and lightness surprised me – this flavour is our family’s firm favourite. Judges at the New Zealand Ice Cream Awards commented “creamy texture and well-balanced strawberry and coconut flavours”. This was a gold award winner and ‘Best in Category’ in the ‘Dairy-free’ category. With 22% strawberries in each tub, it reminded me of the strawberry ice creams at berry farms. Super fresh tasting and I would not have believed it to be a dairy-free dessert.

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Green tea

The distinctive flavour of Japanese matcha green tea sings out, just like their dairy range. I love matcha and am very happy that I now have more ways to consume matcha.

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Where to find:
Exclusive in Farro Fresh for the month of August and will be in select Countdown and New World from October 2017.

I dare say Kohu Road makes one of the best ice creams in the world. Now I have even more choices for the ‘light’ dessert days!

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Dr Feelgood: Humble beginnings


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Have you ever wondered how the ice pop brand “Dr Feelgood” came to be?  We certainly have. Imagine our excitement when we were invited to tour their workplace and see the operations of the humble ice pop brand that launched into the food scene two and a half years ago.
Lomo. Tree lined path. Treehouse.

As we drove down the leafy path of their long driveway, passing sheep and horses roaming leisurely around, we wondered how in the middle of the rural countryside, could there be a magical ice pop factory?

We were greeted by some Arapawa sheep with twin, 3-day-old baby lambs (now go by the name of Thelma and Louise) and a nudge from Louie, the friendly dog of none other than Dr FeelGood himself, or Jacks.

Meeting Fred.

With much excitement and curiosity, we geared up for the tour. Not even the downpour could dampen our visit as Jacks spiritedly told their story.

It all started with an attempt to make probiotic drinks, mid 2014. They couldn’t keep the drinks stable enough and it was all looking like a destined fail. They were ready to move on, until Mel, his partner, made pops from the drinks for the kids and their new product was born.

During early testing, the pops were made in Zoku moulds. Today, they are made on a much larger scale. Master pop maker Jane, who has been with the company from the beginning, showed us how the Chocolate Jelly Tip was made. Jane is meticulous about quality control – sticks were checked for smoothness, and ensured they were lined upright to avoid wastage.

Dr Feelgood factory tour. Ice pop making.Dr Feelgood factory tour. Ice pop making.

We were given the task of inserting wooden sticks to the holders before they were fastened to the ice pop moulds. This was then placed in a large industrial freezer at -30C.

“The faster they freeze, the smaller the ice-crystals. That’s what makes it creamy and delicious.” Jacks told us.

Dr Feelgood factory tour. Ice pop making.Once done, the pops are released from the mould carefully. The sound of that was music to my ears!

Dr Feelgood factory tour. Ice pop making.

There were other flavours when the brand started, slowly replaced by the current flavours, always trying for the perfect pop.

After careful market research and advice from key influencers like Lewis Road Creamery’s Peter Cullinane who can always find just the right Winston Churchill quote, in this case “When going through hell… keep going.”

“It’s been a steep learning curve and at times a bumpy journey but a lot of fun, getting the good Dr to the world.”

The first thing that catches your eyes is their colourful design and witty tag lines.  I think it’s pure creative genius at work. Both Mel and Jacks have 25 years each in advertising working on brands for others. It was time to try something on their own. Jacks credits the award winning design to his partner Mel Bridge, who has a day job as an award winning commercial director. Together they are building a brand that is gaining popularity with each passing week.

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When you pick up the pop, there is a certain nostalgic feeling evoked from their brown paper boxes. Something about it brings me back to happy memories of the olden days and some degree of familiarity.

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The boxes are made in a local factory, just 3.5km from Dr Feelgood’s factory, with eco-sourced materials that are tracked through the PEFC system (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, the international non-government organization dedicated to promoting Sustainable Forest Management), making it sustainable and trackable. They are also compostable.

These artisan, handmade frozen treats of delight came at a time when people were becoming more aware of food ingredients and eschewing foods with refined sugar.

“We value eating good honest food and feeding our kids things that haven’t got weird stuff in it, and like it to be fun.”

New Zealand ingredients are used as much as possible.

Organic milk from Lewis Road Creamery, the premium dairy company that has grown a cult following is used for all dairy pops. The creaminess is just beyond exceptional.

You will not find refined sugar, artificial flavourings or colourings in the frozen pops. Instead, natural sweeteners such as coconut sugar and brown rice syrup are used. Beetroot powder is used for colour. Everything is kept as close to nature as possible. Just like the natural, rural setting we found ourselves in.

Dr Feelgood frozen pops
This premium product is stocked far and wide: Farro Fresh, Moore Wilsons, an ever growing number of New World and Countdowns, select stores in the South Island and some Four Squares. They are also in places like the Waitakere Arataki Visitor Center and Shot Over Jet, Queenstown.

Jacks’ passion and creativity is infectious. It is obvious to us on our short visit that he loves his product and is proud to have created a sweet treat that doesn’t invoke guilt.

In fact, I am no longer surprised by the rural nature of their creative space; it is precisely that which is the source of inspiration for the all natural, “no weird stuff” pops.

“Dr Feelgood isn’t just a name, it should also be the outcome of everything we do.” – Dr Feelgood

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Now the only thing to do is to choose which flavour to lick first.

The Auckland Food Show 2017 experience


Every year from the beginning of July, I countdown to THE foodie event of the year in Auckland: the Food Show. It’s a time to see my favourite brands, check out new products and ogle at the increasingly high standards of design and artwork on products. This year was no different, if not better. I went on the first day of the four-day event, which is the preview day with less crowds. I use this as my ‘discovery’ day, where I spend much more time talking to stall holders who are often the farmers and producers behind the actual products. Some of the stories are touching with rich histories; everyone I met were super passionate with the product they have.

Here are some of the highlights of my day.

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Barilla Australia hands-on cooking class began with chef Andrea Tranchero, Executive Chef at Barilla Australia telling us the history behind Barilla. I now have a fond visualization of Casa Barilla thanks to his Italian accent and warm introduction.

Chef first demonstrated the perfect way of cooking pasta before we dived in with the cooking ourselves.

He shared three top tips with us:

  1. Never add oil to the water.
  2. Don’t rinse pasta after cooking.
  3. Take pasta out 3 mins before cooking finish and place in sauce to finish cooking for perfect al dente bite.

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The Barilla team tasted it and I now have a measure of what the true ‘al dente’ stage is for Italians – kiwis generally cook it for far too long. However, if you want it softer, by all means!

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Jersey Girl Organics – they recently won in the Outstanding Producer Dairy Primary category in the Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards. Their milk is full of Omega 3 and A2 Protein, is fully certified organic that comes direct from their farm in Matamata. When tasting, the milk is full-bodied and creamy. Pure deliciousness. Liz, a director of the fourth-generation family business, was brimming with excitement when she told me her family’s story, producing first class milk. Check out the video on their website of their cool milk vending machine!

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Aunt Jean – all the way from beautiful Nelson, Hannah and Tom Raine brought their farms’ milk to the Auckland folk. I love the bottles! Their milk is creamy and fresh tasting. No permeates and not homogenised. I’m in love with these beautiful milk. Perfect in hot chocolate and baking. Can’t wait for Miss 8 to try.

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Eddy’s french dressing is phenomenal – fell in love with it straight away after trying – it will go with my shredded poached chicken, crunchy cucumber and noodles dish. Yum! $20 for 2 bottles. 

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Wild Fennel Co’s range of gourmet seasonings for meat and fish, are different to the traditional seasonings. In a good, “what’s this spice I can taste in here? It works!!” Totally eyebrow-raising at first, when I tasted the dish as I cook, but in the end my family loved the steak/venison/lamb/chicken/duck/fish/pork so I’m winning.  Dan, the creator behind the seasonings, was formerly a fine dining chef and naturally is inspired by traditional flavour pairings from different cuisines around the world. Jo, his wife, is the illustrator and designer for the brand and gave the products a beautiful classic look. Together, they’ve created a product that is easy to use and dishes taste amazing. Tip: don’t let the type of seasoning stop you from mixing it up. I tried the venison seasoning on the beef and it was next level.

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No Shortcuts – Gourmet Chutney – I discovered their Sambal Ulek and have thrown away my malaysia-made jars of sambal. These NZ made ones are so good and addictive. There are no preservatives nor additives, and tastes great with dumplings, noodles, roasts and chicken. At the show this year they launched a new product, the sweet pickles ($7). They will be perfect in a vietnamese pho I think! I tried the Feijoa and Ginger Jam and am itching to make a cake out of it. The chutneys are 3 for $25 or 1 for $10.

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The Vegery – Discovered a very interesting healthy snack – dried carrots with cumin! These will be perfect with hummus and dips (such as the No Shortcuts Chutney) , and there are 65g of carrots per wrap. Tasty too!

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Fresh As – They are renouned for their freeze dried fruit powers, used by bakers and executive chefs worldwide. Launched at the Food Show is their Panna Cotta powder – they’ve done the work for you! Just add milk and follow the recipe. Each packet makes 2-4 servings. There are two flavours – Doris Plum and Raspberry. Personally I think both tasted delicious and will sell out before Sunday. $10 for 4 packs.

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Fix and Fog – At $10 for 2 jars, I said to them “you better have enough stock. This lot might only last you till Saturday”. Don’t worry, they have more stock being sent up so everyone can stop panicking.

Their peanut butters are handmade from start to finish in a factory in Wellington. There are five flavours in the range, with the latest being the honey peanut butter, a collaboration with J.Friend&Co. All of their existing range of peanut butters have been either awarded medals or were finalists in various industry awards.

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Home St – I tried their sprouted good seed pizza bases and was blown away by how yum it was. Pizza has never tasted better than this. Sprouted refers to the seeds and grains that have been soaked and sprouted, therefore activated. Enzymes and minerals in the seed are unlocked for the body. Doesn’t that sound good?

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The Pie Piper desserts bring pure happiness. The mother-daughter team makes pies from scratch, with a weekly changing menu. You can find them at their K Road shop.

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Meadow mushrooms – the team made delicious mushroom and chicken dumpings at the show and they are yummy! Pick up a recipe and the 3 for $5 deal when you are there.

Dad’s pies – our favourite pies! Their range includes beef, lamb, chicken, bacon, veges and comes in individual servings and family sizes. Miss 8’s favourite is the Prime Beef Steak and Cracked Pepper. It is an easy dinner option – prepare some veges while the pie’s heating in the oven and dinner is in 30 minutes. The pies are full to the top of delicious filling, plenty of tender meat and flavoursome sauce. Not too salty either. It really does feel like you are eating a homemade pie where lots of tender love and care went in. Miss 8 is super excited with the prize pack we won from them!

With over 270 stalls at the show, I cannot possibly list them all here. However the following are my last minute dash stalls that I will have to remember to pick up goodies from on Sunday, when I return with Miss 8:

  • Simon Gault – for the stock and seasonings. I am stocking up on the fish and Beef stock, Morrocan and Indian spice seasonings. 5 for $25. Simon’s new tomato sauce ($7) that is sweetened with only veges launched at the foodshow. However as of Friday afternoon they have sold out! Don’t fret, you will still be able to sample, and they will be stocked in shops and Sous Chef from next week. They are also running a special with Turks chicken, $20 for 2 whole chickens with a seasoning or $20 for 4 bags of 450g skinless boneless chicken. They come with a chill bag too.
  • Lewis Road Creamery – if you have had trouble finding their chocolate liqueur, you can buy at the show for $40.
  • Chia drink – $12 for 4 bottles. I’m going for blackcurrant and passionfruit.
  • Green Meadows Beef – their show special $60 beef box is a bargain – sausages, sirloin, patties, mince all direct from their farm.
  • Perfect Pork – 3 for $25 – their range of grain-fed New Zealand pork includes sirloin and pork belly.
  • House of Dumplings – we love the Nepalese Spiced Lamb and Korean Sesame Beef dumplings. 
  • Dish magazine – I love their stories and food styling! Their subscription deal is pretty amazing with a gigantic goody bag.

Top tips:

  • Register your ticket if you haven’t already done so, and have it within easy reach like in your pocket. Scan them at the stalls you visit and gain an entry in the respective comps.
  • Get there early if you can. 11am to 2pm is the busiest at the show.
  • Keep hydrated and wear light layers as it’s warm in the showgrounds
  • Keep track of time if you have a particular cooking theatre session you want to see. It can be a bit chaotic when you realise you are in hall 3 when the cooking session in Hall 1 is about to start in 5 minutes.
  • Mazda chauffeured shuttles will pick up and drop off at destinated stops around the showgrounds, making it easier to buy more.

Here are some more photos from the show:

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    Countdown – crunchy lebanese cucumber

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    Farmland boys

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    Beer belly jellies

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    Prosciutto di Parma

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    Part of my foodshow haul

    Gluten Free Chocolate Hazelnut Crunch Bar with Cocoa Puffs


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    Finally! A gluten free version of my most requested hazelnut chocolate crunch bar for you all!  Be warned: it is as addictive as the normal version and super easy to make. No baking required.

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    What makes these chocolate bars so irresistible? Two things: the hazelnut taste and the cocoa pops crunch. I tested many different type of gluten free cocoa pops before I was finally satisfied with the taste and texture. I settled on Hubbards’ Thank Goodness Gluten free cocoa puffs. These stayed completely crunchy!

    Regarding the hazelnut-chocolate combination, you can certainly change it to suit your latest cravings. Think peanut butter, salted caramel, macadamia butter, almond cacao and also peppermint to name a few.

    You can dress the bars up with whatever you like: a dusting of cocoa powder; hazelnut; hazelnut praline crunch; fresh-dried berries. Or left naked. Your options are endless which makes this an ideal ‘bring-a-dessert’ that *potentially* satisfies everyone.

    Makes one square tray, cut bars sized to your liking. I got 39 (3 rows of 13 bars of  about 1.5 cm by 8cm)

    For the crunchy Bottom layer:

    • 250g milk chocolate (33% cacao), melted
    • 100g roasted hazelnut paste (Nocciola from Equagold)
    • 125g (about half cup) chocolate-hazelnut spread (instead of the hazelnut paste and chocolate-hazelnut spread, you can use the same amount of Forty Thieves’ Cacao Hazelnut butter instead.)
    • 2 cups Hubbards Thank Goodness gluten free cocoa puffs

    For the filling:

    • 300g dark chocolate (70% cacao) broken into small pieces, (I used Solomon’s Gold or Whittakers 72% Ghana will work too)
    • 300ml cream
    • 50g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
    1. For the bottom layer, line a narrow rectangular tray (or shallow slice box) with 2 pieces of baking paper, with the paper hanging over the sides of the tray. (This will help you lift the slab off from the tray effortlessly.)
    2. Melt chocolate over a pot of simmering hot water. Once smooth, add the roasted hazelnut paste and chocolate-hazelnut spread; stir until smooth. 
    3. Fold in the cocoa puffs until the chocolate is combined (It should look like a mess!) Scoop the chocolate mixture to the prepared tray. Press the mixture down into a smooth, even layer. Let it chill in the fridge while you make the filling. 
    4. To make the top layer, place the broken chocolate pieces in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream till it is just simmering and pour over the chocolate.
    5. Shake the bowl a little and let this sit for about 2 minutes, this is so that the chocolate melts smoothly, avoiding any lumps in your final product. 
    6. Add the cubed butter and whisk until ganache is smooth. As you whisk, the cream will magically homogenize with the melted chocolate to form a shiny smooth, pourable ganache.
    7. Pour the ganache over the cocoa puffs and smooth with a spatula. Leave in the fridge to set, about 1 hour. 
    8. Decorate with whole hazelnuts, hazelnut praline crunch, freeze dried fruits or anything you wish! Place in the fridge to set it a further 2 hours. Slice into bars before serving. 

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    Styled by my little chef.

     

    Chinese Roast Pork with crispy crackling


    Roast pork. Bao. Crispy crackling
    Roast pork. Bao. Crispy crackling
    The closest chinese roast meat shop is 30 mins of driving away. To get our roast pork fix, we have to plan ahead and go on weekends. 

    There has to be a better way, I thought to myself. So I decided that I will make my own!

    Ingredients:

    • 2kg pork belly
    • 3 tablespoon five spice powder
    • 1 tablespoon white pepper
    • 3 tablespoon shaoxhing wine
    • 1 cup salt (coarse or table, i used a mixture)

    Method:

    1. Wash and use paper towels to dry the pork belly.
    2. Make some horizontal slits on the skin side of the pork.
    3. Rub the meat side with wine, the five spice and white pepper powder.
    4. Flip meat over and brush skin with some white vinegar.
    5. Leave overnight to dry in fridge. 
    6. Preheat the oven to 350F/180c, arrange a pan on the bottom 1/3 of oven rack and fill with water. Line a roast pan with foil and place the pork belly on a rack that fits this pan.
    7. Layer the top of the pork belly with the salt evenly.
    8. Place the pork belly at the bottom 1/3 of the oven and bake for 1 hour.
    9. Bake until the salt crust forms, the salt should be hardened. Check water in the pan below and add if needed.
    10. Remove the pork belly from the oven, pull off the salt crust and discard.
    11. Raise the heat of oven to 465f/240c, place the pork belly back in and roast for another 30 to 40 minutes.
    12. Remove from oven and let set for 10 minutes. Cut and serve immediately with some chilli sauce and hoisin sauce, or eat as is.

      Roast pork. Bao. Crispy crackling
      You should have left overs for lunch. What I really mean is you should make enough so that there are left overs, afterall you are going to have the oven on for an hour, so might as well make use of all that heat! 

      You can use the roasted pork belly in soup noodles, fried rice and stir fry dishes. I had them with some steamed baos for lunch the other day and they were soooo good. 😋

      Roast pork. Bao. Crispy crackling

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