So you've grown broccoli, but how do you eat it?  Here's the place to:

  • ask how to prepare your produce using healthy recipes
  • share your healthy recipes or ask how a traditional recipe might be made healthier
  • how to store and preserve your surplus food
  • tips about healthy eating

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Recipe: Simple Fruit Cake -

This makes a good Christmas cake - see photo above.  A cake made from dried fruit is a traditional Christmas treat in New Zealand.  This recipe has no added fat or sugar and is easy to make!


1 kg mixed dried fruit

1 Tbsp sherry/port/flower water or 1 tsp essence of choice (optional)

2 cups of fruit juice or cold tea

2 cups self-raising flour

1 cup chopped nuts (optional)



  1. Soak fruit in the liquid ingredients for at least 2 hrs (overnight is good). 
  2. Preheat oven to 125 degrees C. 
  3. Stir in the flour and nuts (if using), mix well.
  4. Put into large baking tin lined with paper.  (The paper acts as insulation)
  5. Bake for 2 hrs at 120 degrees C on the bottom rung of the oven. 
  6. Remove from tin and leave to cool. 
  7. Wrap in foil and put into a container for 2-3 days before cutting.





Are you eating more veges?

When we grow our own fruit and vegetables we tend to eat more of them, which is good news for our bodies!

The 2008-2009 Adult Nutrition Survey showed that New Zealanders need to eat more vegetables and fruit. Written by the NZ Ministry of Heath, the report stressed that each day we should be eating a least two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables. A serving is about a half cup.

It also showed that more people are overweight or obese compared to the last survey in 1997. Now, almost two thirds of adults are overweight or obese. Also, we are not getting enough of several important minerals.

Why do those results matter? Vegetables and fruits are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other compounds which help keep our immune system healthy. People who eat a lot of vegetables and fruit have less chance of developing cancer, heart disease, and other chronic diseases. So it is a great idea to eat more fruit and vegetables.

Vegetables and fruit are also naturally fat free. So when we eat more fruit and vegetables in place of other high fat foods, we are less likely to get diseases related to obesity, such as heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases.

They also add a welcome crunch to a meal, and they make the meal look so much more appealing. The brightly coloured fruits and vegetables such as orange carrots, red tomatoes, green silverbeet and orange pumpkins are the ones which are the healthiest for us – there are few things that fruits and vegetables can’t do!

The report also named some specific minerals which many of us are not getting enough of: selenium, iodine and zinc. Almost half of all adults and about two thirds of older teens don’t get enough selenium. About three quarters of New Zealanders have mild signs of not getting enough iodine. Some of our selenium and iodine problems are due in part to the fact that New Zealand soils often are naturally low in selenium and iodine.

People who are severely low in iodine or selenium or zinc are more likely to have a variety of health problems, including abnormal brain development, abnormal growth overall, or weakened immune systems. Although fruits and vegetables are not generally the best sources of these minerals, some sources of selenium, iodine and zinc in foods you can grow or gather include:

  • Selenium – mushrooms, asparagus, corn on the cob, buttercup squash. In addition to food from the garden, Brazil nuts have a lot of selenium. One Brazil nut per day is what researchers recommend. We should not eat more than that regularly however, because that can cause health problems too.
  • Iodine – seafood (fish, shellfish and some seaweed), baked potatoes with the skin on, strawberries, lima beans. Of course, the best sources of iodine are iodized salt and bread made with iodized salt. But when choosing iodized salt, we should not eat more salt than we already do.
  • Zinc – seaweed, boiled taro, broad beans, corn on the cob, courgette, peas, silverbeet.

So, what’s the answer? We should eat more vegetables and fruits! Better yet, we should grow more vegetables and fruits, and enjoy the harvest from our own gardens. They always taste best when we grow them ourselves!

— Contributed by Ginny Point (Nutritionist & WIC member)

There is more information about the nutrition survey here:

Photo: artemisphoto

Picnic food idea - Quiche

Trying to think of something to take to the WIC picnic on Monday? One of my favourite things to take on a picnic is quiche - and I hear quiche is a favourite to bring to church gatherings in the Niuan community too! You can vary the recipe according to what vegetables and herbs you have in your garden. Try grating in courgette (zucchini) and topping with sliced tomato.

My favourite quiche recipe uses canned salmon, drained crushed pineapple with fresh herbs (dill, tarragon and parsley are particularly good with fish), onions and finely sliced or grated seasonal vegetables.

The Healthy Food Guide magazine has a recipe that is much lower in fat than the traditional recipe and full of vegetables available for free here:

It can be eaten warm or cold. If you are not going to eat it straight away it is a good idea to chill it and take it to the picnic in a chilli bin. If you don't have a chilli bin, or a polystyrene container, trying wrapping the container in lots of newspaper to keep the cold in.

I am told that in Australia it is a bit odd to picnic sitting on a blanket on the ground - you might get bitten by ants and other insects!

Vegetables - Storage, Recipes and More!

At you can learn more about many of the vegetables grown here in New Zealand (and a couple of fruits).

Under the 'Select a vegetable' tab you can find out other names a vegetable might go by, see a photograph, learn how best to store them, nutritional value and suitable cooking methods. 

Use the 'Meal Ideas' search box (top right) by typing in the vegetable you want to use for recipes.  You can also sign up to have a seasonal vegetable recipe emailed to you once a month at

Under 'Your Family' there are ideas on how to encourage children to eat more vegetables, getting children involved in cooking, what vegetables are great to eat during pregnancy and breast feeding, and vegetables for babies.  

The site is run by Horticulture New Zealand on behalf of commercial growers.

Photo: Artichoke (Globe)

Sweet Treats - Using Stevia

The herb Stevia Rebaudiana has been described as the sweetest herb in the world - the leaves are many times sweeter than sugar!  Unlike sugar it has zero calories making it excellent for diabetics and people with a sweet tooth wishing to loose weight.

How to use:

  • In herb teas (such as the refreshing sweet mint tea drunk in the Middle East), experiment with adding a fresh leaf or dried leaf two to the pot.
  • One generous tablespoon dried, powdered leaf is roughly equivalent to one cup of sugar. (Dried leaves are generally 10-15 times sweeter than sugar.)
  • A posting on the Ooooby Herbs group suggests that when baking "add a few leaves to a cup of boiling liquid (water or milk according to your recipe) and allow them to steep for 20 minutes to extract the sweetness. The amount varies according to taste. As a guide I use 10 leaves per 1/2 cup sugar, but again, tastes vary." 
  • Make stevia syrup by crushing 1/4 cup fresh leaves then pouring over 1 cup hot water.  Allow to sit at room temperature in a covered container, then refrigerate. Excellent for sweetening drinks.    

See the 'growing' discussion for tips on where to get the plants and how to grow them.

Learn more on the following sites: - includes a mint syrup recipe - how to use Stevia in cooking, lemonade recipe (NB this is written for Northern Hemisphere audiences - the months of the seasons are the reverse of here!)

Citrus Leaf Tea

In Permaculture we are encouraged to have things in our garden which have more than one way of being useful (lifting our hearts by being beautiful counts too!)

This week I learned another use for citrus trees:

Citrus (lemon, orange, etc) leaf tea is popular in the Pacific.

Basic version:

Add 6 citrus leaves to 2 litres of water and boil for about 5 minutes.   

Remove the leaves and drink, hot or cold.

You can add more leaves or boil for longer according to taste.

Roruta's Minty version (Vanuatu):

Make as above, but at the end of cooking add a bunch of mint and remove from the heat.

Citrus Leaf Coffee:

Make the basic recipe, then use the citrus water to make fresh coffee, eg in a coffee press.

Other uses:

Papa (Samoa) uses the citrus leaf water as a flavouring when making the burnt sugar and coconut milk syrup for a dumpling dessert - very much a treat food.  


Citrus is the main fruit in many kiwi back yards over winter, including mandarins, oranges and lemons.  Lemon season usually starts this month – although if you have a large old tree you may be lucky enough to have fresh lemons all year around!  Try to pick lemons as you need them.  If you need to store them, they will last for about a week in the fruit bowl, or up to two weeks in the refrigerator.  You can freeze lemon juice in ice-cube trays - it will keep its flavour for up to three months.


Not only are lemons high in vitamin C, eating lots of citrus fruit has been associated with lower risks of heart disease, strokes and are thought to help prevent some types of cancer.   There is more information about lemons and how to use them on the Healthy Food Guide web site: 



Yams (Oca)

While you are waiting for the tubers to grow, use some of the leaves in salads: they have a tart flavour. 

The tubers (see left) can be eaten raw or thoroughly cooked.  The flavour varies from tuber to tuber from sweet to acidic, so if you are trying them for the first time, try several before deciding if you enjoy them.  Leaving them in the sun for a few days makes them sweeter.

In Mexico, where they have been eating them for at least 200 years, they dress raw yams with salt, lemon, and chilli.

Irish chef Denis Cotter (who lived in NZ for a while) has a couple of interesting yam (oca) recipes: one cooks them with spinach, coconut and cashews; another Indonesian style warm salad uses roasted oca and pak choi with a peanut, lime and coriander dressing  - see his book Wild Garlic, Gooseberries and Me, p 251-252 for the full recipes (held by Hamilton City Libraries).

There are more yam/oca recipes on the web site too: put 'Yams' into the 'Meal Ideas' search box.

There is more information about growing and eating yams on the Seeds of Change website.

Photo: Red yams, courtesy of

Food Safari

When we started the WIC project, some of you said you wanted to learn about the kinds of foods other cultures eat, and how to cook them.  If that was you, you might enjoy watching Food Safari on TV One, 9 am Saturdays.   The Australian program features a different migrant community each week, exploring their key ingredients, cooking methods and classic recipes.  They visit a mix of chefs and home cooks. 

Last week featured Mexican cooking which looked really healthy and flavourful.  This weekend’s episode featured Spanish cooking.

Saffron is a key ingredient in Spanish food, used to give a golden colour and unique flavour, often in combination with rice.   One tip was to grind the saffron threads with a little salt in a mortar and pestle to release more colour and flavour from the spice. 

Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, but you can grow your own in the Waikato, also olive oil – another key ingredient.  There is a garden developed out of an old quarry just out of Cambridge where they grew saffron commercially for a time: now they just share it with friends and family.  They also grow and press their own olives (see photo), and make a very special saffron infused olive oil.  (You can arrange to tour their garden and ask about their growing methods – see Earth and Clay.)

Saffron threads are the stamens of a particular variety of crocus flower.  Plant saffron (Crocus sativus) in summer, it flowers in autumn.  There is a good article about growing saffron from the NZ Lifestyle Block magazine which can be viewed for free here:

Vegetarian Wraps

Fungai and I were talking about vegetarian recipes last week: this is my favourite.

Australians call this style of food ‘kebabs’. It is based on a recipe from the book Living the Good Life, an autobiographical account of trying to live a sustainable lifestyle, including growing most of their own food, written by Linda Cockburn, a kiwi living in Australia, available at the public library. 

The book has a number of vegetarian recipes and a table that includes information on vegetable sources of protein, etc.


2 cups dried kidney beans - soaked over night*

2 tsp ground coriander

2 tsp ground cumin

Salt & pepper to taste**

Toppings such as: thinly sliced red onion or spring onions, pineapple, grated carrot, cheese (low fat cottage cheese, or low fat sour cream, or Greek yogurt are a healthier option), fresh herbs and salad vegetables (from your garden!) such as: lettuce, tomatoes, capsicum (sweet peppers), sliced avocado, sliced cucumber, grated carrot…

Sauce eg chilli sauce, hummus or salsa.***

Flexible flatbread of your choice - roti, tortilla, pita, chapattis...

To make your own Chapattis:

2 cups plain flour

1 tsp salt**

½ cup water



Filling - Simmer beans for 45 minutes. Drain. Use a stick blender to blend the beans with a little water until you get a paste which is thick but still chunky. Alternatively bash the beans in a mortar and pestle.  Add coriander, cumin, salt and pepper, then set aside.

Chapattis - Sift flour into a bowl and add salt. Add half the water and mix with your hand to form a dough. You may need to add more water depending on the flour used. Knead well. Divide dough into six balls for larger chapattis to serve three, or eight for smaller chapattis to serve 4. Roll each out into a thin circle on a floured surface – cut around a plate if you want perfect circles.

Heat a frying pan over a moderate heat. Brush the pan with a little oil and cook chapattis one at a time until golden brown on each side.

To serve - smear some of the bean mix down the centre of your flat bread, then add toppings and sauce. Roll chapatti firmly. Optionally, cook it in a sandwich press.

Linda says that if you double the amount you need, you can assemble the next day’s meal in less than 3 minutes! 

Vary the herbs and spices according to your favourite food cultures, eg I sometimes fry 1 onion and 4 cloves of garlic, mixing this through the beans with the spices she lists, plus 3 tsp paprika, ½ tsp chilli powder (more if you like it hotter) and 1 tsp oregano.

* Dried kidney beans are much cheaper than buying canned.  Optionally double the amount of beans, then freeze half the cooked beans ready for another meal. Add kidney beans to bulk out a stew recipe, reducing the amount of meat per serving.

**Using lots of strongly flavoured herbs and spices reduces the need for salt.

*** A salsa is a fresh (uncooked) chutney. 

Dairy Free Oat & Fruit Biscuits

A few of you have tried these cookies and asked for the recipe.  They make a good addition to the lunch box in place of a muesli bar, as they are very filling - the protein and fibre combination means they help you feel full for longer.   They also freeze really well.

¾ cup oil
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup desiccated or thread coconut
1 cup raisins
1 cup diced dried apricots
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  2. Mix oil and sugar together.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, beating well.
  4. Add vanilla essence.
  5. Combine flour, baking powder and cinnamon and stir into the above wet mixture.
  6. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
  7. Grease or line 2 oven trays with baking paper and place tablespoons of the mixture onto trays, allowing room for spreading.
  8. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until firm and brown.
  9. Remove tray from oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Makes about 20 biscuits.

I vary the dried fruit according to what I have in the pantry, including dried apple and dried banana.  Sometimes I vary the spices too - eg using cardamom.  You could experiment with swapping the vanilla essence for rose water or orange water. 

Did you know that raisins are dried black grapes, while sultanas are dried white grapes?  Grapes grow really well here in the Waikato.

(The recipe is based on one by Janet Vuleta, from Blackball in the South Island.)

Free Cooking Classes

  • NZ Ethnic Social Services are running a free 6 part course on healthy cooking on a budget, 4 - 6pm once a fortnight at the Migrant Centre in Claudelands – next session is on 21 February 2012.  To book ph (07) 839-4688, or 021-214-0142.
  • SHARMA, in Melville, are running a free Healthy Living course teaching women how to cook low cost meals on Feb 23 and Mar 29 2012, 5-7 pm.  To book ph (07 )843-3811 or email



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