On arrival at the Matakana Markets, the first thing most people do is get a coffee from the Love Shack. The beans are roasted less than 100m away and the brew has won 6 out of 7 awards over the last years. The scent of Matakana Coffee Roasters’ espresso is the backdrop to the marketplace, as are the shouts of the baristas calling waiting customers to their coffee. And the band plays on...
Cath Lewis’s French crêpes and galettes (savoury buckwheat pancakes) are large, thin, delicate. She has a degree in nutrition and a background in large-scale event management (she used to run Christmas in the Park) which is evident in her crowd-wrangling skills; customers will queue several deep for her mouthwatering crêpes, but they don’t have to wait long.
Sweet fillings range from the classic lemon and sugar through to seasonal fruits with her trademark crème anglaise or whipped cream. Right now she’s turning plums from her mum’s tree into a tangy, vanilla-laced compote, and Otago apricots are served with a mix of Greek yoghurt and cream cheese with pomegranate.
Cath’s galettes are also to die for: there’s creamy bacon and mushroom, a Mexican corn and rice pancake (bean or chicken with hand-cut salsa, sour cream, chilli sauce and zesty lime and paprika sprinkle), or the classic Galette Complète: free-range ham, cheese, and an egg from her neighbour’s chooks, garnished with herbs and folded square.
Michael and Sophie Isbey get their Akaroa salmon flown up from the South Island midweek. They pack the sleek fillets into the big smoker at the Matakana Smokehouse as soon as they’ve applied the four different marinades: organic golden sugar and salt, organic coconut sugar, roasted nigella seed and salt, or the fully whammy of nigella seed, organic coconut sugar and salt.
After only a few months on the job, the Isbeys’ delectable salmon is now selling into high-end local wineries, and the market-goers are loving it. New products include smoked mushrooms and twice-cured citrus gravlax. The very latest experiment, straight out of the smoker – fresh sardines. Michael is “very happy” with them.
MATAKANA NUT BUTTERS
All the delectable products offered by this family-run business are handmade, starting with whole nuts, roasted till they’re just the right shade of golden brown. Matakana nut butters are 100% nuts with nothing else added except sea salt, manuka honey or dark chocolate.
Josie Jackson has created variations of almond, hazelnut, cashew and brazil. Standouts include almond and manuka honey, ABC (Almond Cashew and Brazil), hazelnut with dark chocolate, or the new almond and chia seed, which is flying off the shelves. Try the almond and manuka butter on wholegrain toast with sliced banana on top – the best breakfast.
MATAKANA FISH CO
At 4.45am on a Friday morning and David and Janine O’Sullivan from the Matakana Fish Company are on their way to the Auckland fish markets. Their catch will be filleted and packed on ice for them, then it’s back to Matakana to finish curing their salmon gravlax in Bombay Sapphire gin – picking up an order of Al Brown’s Best Ugly Bagels on the way.
At their Matakana market stall, early on a Saturday morning, the couple serve the first run of locals, most of whom they know well. “This is the best time of day – serving a great breakfast to friends before the crowds arrive,” says David. Film directors and farmers alike munch gravlax and cream cheese bagels, snapper burgers or tacos.
For fresh fish, they’ll always do prawns and at least four types of fish. “There are so many other fantastic fish out there,” says David. “We like to try and get people to try out other, more sustainable species, like Porae, Blue Moki or Trevally, which is fantastic as sashimi.”
SUNWALKER HOT SAUCES
Tom Stitchbury’s a relative newbie at the markets. He used to be in the Auckland film industry but quit the rat-race to come and make chilli sauces in Matakana. He grows his own chillies (and most of the other ingredients of his sauces) using organic methods. He has Carolina Reaper and Ghost chillies, two of the hottest in the world (you can watch foolhardy types trying to eat a Ghost chilli on youtube) as well as the classic Scotch Bonnets and Habanero – 40 varieties at last count.
Tom’s created three sauces to date: Pineapple Habanero, a medium-hot yellow sauce which is great with fish and chicken; Berry Hot, a sweet chilli and berry sauce perfect for game, and an all-purpose traditional hot sauce.
Conrad and Barbara Blind create their range of nutty comestibles in their commercial kitchen in Point Wells. They were one of the first in NZ selling dukkah around 16 years ago, inspired by a trip to the Middle East. They now sell four different flavours, including a pumpkin and fennel and Tuscan version. Their Turkish ‘za-atar’ is popular (sesame and Jordanian sumac - trying coating Haloumi in it before frying). There are also four flavours of nutty, healthy salad sprinkles, various nut butters and a cranberry and coconut muesli sweetened only with manuka honey. Conrad is also the Matakana agent for Puhoi cheeses on another stall, and here you’ll also find his legendary creamy salad dressing.
Silvana Silvestro is a second generation Sicilian who makes classic Italian food that people drive miles for. Her canoli (sweet, crisp pastry tubes filled with vanilla custard or sweet ricotta) and arancini (rice balls with Salumeria pork sausage, mozzarella and egg) are sensational. Her cousin, a pastry chef in Rome, taught her the perfect canoli recipe years ago – with only a slight tweak to the one her grandmother used.
Silvana and Kiwi husband Mike also make pizza in their little wood-fired oven at the market, and you can take home pasta meals as well. Everything is home-made from scratch – even her ricotta!
These are just a few of the exceptional foodies at the Matakana Markets – there are also handmade Swiss chocolates, Vietnamese pork buns and spring rolls from Viet Q round the corner, bakery and patisserie stalls, masses of fresh, verdant produce, hot crispy mussel and whitebait fritters on buttered bread with lemon and pepper, honey, ocean-fresh oysters, a huge array of artisan condiments and sauces, Italian handmade sausages from Salumeria Fontana, olive oils, pies, buffalo burgers and cheeses, and more. Check out the website for the constantly updated stallholders.