Sometimes I like to feign innocence regarding processed food, poor eating habits and certain negative aspects of North American food culture. Sometimes I imply that NZ has none of this. I have a blank look when friends mention Pop Tarts, Kraft Dinner and instant mash. I inquire into the process and ingredients of a birthday cake forgetting that of course, it came from a box.
To some people, it may appear that we are from the land of real food. From the impression we tend to give, Canadians could think that in New Zealand we all buy local, we import nothing. We don’t know what confectionery, or candy, is. New Zealand food standards don’t allow harmful food additives and colourings. The freezer-meal aisle is an insignificant part of the supermarket. Cream has no carageenan, and doesn’t have a Cool Whip alternative. Portion control is like that in Europe and there is no obesity.
Although this is how Jesse and I choose to live, and what we think it should be like in New Zealand, it’s not. We have been lying. There may be no Cool Whip, there may indeed be an abundance of beef and lamb from animals that actually live outdoors and eat grass. But there are definitely many food and health issues.
New Zealand has obesity and some appalling health statistics. New Zealanders like their fast food (fush and chups, so we say, with a good squirt of Watties). Processed, prepackaged meals are becoming more and more popular in New Zealand supermarkets as kiwis buy into this instant-gratification phase (I say phase because I hugely believe it won’t last long once we see the detriments). New Zealand struggles with food regulation as numerous food additives banned in other countries are still allowed in NZ. NZ consumers demand out-of-season produce, hence the ill-tasting, unripe, imported fruit and vegetables that grace the supermarket shelves all the way from South America.
But the great part is that before a unhealthy culture has even established itself in New Zealand, many issues are being targeted. Farmers markets are becoming hugely popular. Local meat is available everywhere, and many consumers are choosing 100% New Zealand when it comes to pork and lamb.
Even fast food in New Zealand is revamping itself. Which segues nicely into today’s recipe.
Our favourite cookbook at the moment is The Food Truck Cookbook by kiwi chef Michael Van de Elzen, posted over to us by some wonderful friends. It’s a collation of recipes from his recent TV show where he went up against some of the most unhealthy food trucks (selling greasy burgers and fries) and instead sold, or tried to sell, real food, using real ingredients, portion control and balanced nutrition. His mission: to convince kiwis that the fast food they loved could be healthy, fresh and taste great.
The recipe for venison pizza with mushrooms, onion jam and salsa verde took our attention. With a freezer full of local caribou (our extra sustainable, free range, northern version of venison) and a shared love for our weekly homemade pizza night, we bookmarked this one right away. In our adaption, the caribou is marinated overnight in peppercorns, rosemary and cumin before being seared over high heat. It is sliced thinly and placed atop quick onion jam, a fresh tomato sauce and roasted mushrooms on board a super thin wholewheat base, before being zapped in a piping hot oven for no more than 10 minutes. A pizza stone here makes all the difference!
Wild Caribou Pizza with Mushrooms, Onion Jam and Dill Yogurt
Adapted from The Food Truck Cookbook
Makes 4 small (single serve) pizzas
2 small caribou steaks
1 tablespoon peppercorns
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon ground cumin
250g mushrooms, sliced thickly
2 onions, sliced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup natural yoghurt
2 tablespoons fresh dill
half garlic clove, crushed
Sprinkle sea salt, cumin, rosemary and peppercorns over the caribou steaks. Cover and place in refrigerator overnight. When ready to cook, gently wash the spices off the meat. Heat olive oil over high heat. Lay steaks in pan and seal until dark on outside but rare within. Roll in plastic wrap to set shape and cool.
Heat a large pan with a dash of oil. Add sliced onions and cook slowly until transparent. Add red wine vinegar and sugar and cook until all liquid has dissolved.
Heat oven to high (450˚F). Roast mushrooms until tender.
Roll pizza dough out into four small rounds. Spread with tomato sauce, top with onion jam and mushrooms. Slice caribou thinly and lay the slices atop. If you like your meat rare, add the slices of steaks only for the last 2 minutes of cooking time in the oven as they will cook through as the pizza browns. Place pizza on preheated stone and bake for 10 minutes or until pizza crust has dark edges.
Mix yogurt with dill and garlic and drizzle over pizza just before serving. These pizzas are great alongside some homemade kumara fries.