Wild Caribou Pizza & NZ Food Culture

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.

caribou pizza with mushroom, onion jam and dill yoghurt

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.

caribou pizza with mushroom, onion jam and dill yoghurt

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!

rare caribou steaks, sliced & grilled on pizza

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
sea salt

250g mushrooms, sliced thickly

2 onions, sliced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar

wholemeal pizza base (use your favourite recipe or use his here)
homemade tomato sauce

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.

15 thoughts

  1. I never would have thought to put dill yogurt on a pizza, but it sounds pretty great (and that rare caribou steak – yum!). Isn’t it sad that eating whole, healthy foods is a “choice” rather than the norm? No matter where you live, it seems… :( I can’t pretend to be ignorant of processed food either, but it is so backwards/frustrating that people have become that far removed from the food that they eat, especially because feeding yourself is literally an essential part of staying alive. It is great seeing the “counter-culture” of local, whole foods catch on in North America, but it still kind of boggles my mind that is is a counter-culture rather than mainstream!

    • Absolutely. And it’s a choice that you have to stand by whole-heartedly in order to not be swayed by the commercialism around processed food. I wonder if it will become mainstream in America as people re-embrace the beauty of real food and catch on to the healthy lifestyles of those countries that eat real food..

  2. Such an interesting post to read! And oh, that pizza looks so delicious! You know, here in France, supermarkets actually sell fresh produce from New Zealand! Like kiwis… although kiwis are grown in France as well. I once even saw a bag of red onions from NZ… what, like we don’t grow onions in France? I buy my red onions directly from a local farmer every single week! And we have NZ lamb in the frozen aisle. Oh well. And obesity, health issues, processed food, etc. are growing here. That’s how we ended up with a scandal just a few days ago: they discovered that the frozen beef lasagna of a certain brand contained between 60 and 100% horse meat. At least 5-6 food companies are involved, and they all claim they had no idea. I wonder if this will get people thinking a bit more about what they are actually buying…

    • Just been reading about the horse meat scandel you speak of! That’s disgusting and yet again enforces my distrust in the commercial food industry. Local, wild meat it will be. Wow France imports from NZ? And that’s why prices for produce and meat are so high in NZ as they sell to locals for the same price they export, which is exorbitant.

  3. Brilliant idea to add wild meat such as caribou or venison to pizza. The only red meat we eat regularly is local venison. Processed meat is a no no for me and the recent horse meat in ‘beef’ lasagne scandal in the UK is no surprise when the supply chain is so long and global. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on NZ food culture

  4. Rare caribou is not an ingredient I was expecting in your blog!! Maybe you will enjoy our pidgeon sandwiches (Jamie Oliver style). They are the best.
    Just sitting with your Mum at the moment at the lake, while the men are out hunting and gathering.
    (I too was very surprised to see you so close to very pink meat, dear daughter!)

    • I admit, I do cook mine longer than Jesse’s (when the pizza goes back in the oven it browns all over) as he does like it very rare but we both just love the flavor. We have stopped buying red meat altogether. Pigeon sandwiches sound worth a try. We’re pretty keen on this wild meat business. Thanks for introducing us to it Elaine!

    • Yes, for sure. Of course, there are no caribou in New Zealand but you can get wild deer meat from certain places. We used to buy venison from the Hamilton Farmers’ Market from locally hunted, wild deer. Of course you could hunt your own rabbits, turkeys and pigeons and eat those too – as we used to do (the eating, not the hunting) :)

  5. Pingback: shaved asparagus & mushroom pizza | De La Casa

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