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Sabato Blog

  • Jacqui & Phil's 2018 Adventures

    A blissful start

    Before setting off on our annual sourcing adventure, spending a couple of days with our (now firmly London-ensconced) daughter Helen was a must. However Helen had decided we should eschew London for the Cotswolds. Airbnb was consulted, a car was hired (you don’t need one in London, and unlike her Kiwi counterparts, many of Helen’s British contemporaries do not even know how to drive!) with enough luggage space for us all, she collected us from Heathrow and off we went.

    It was a comfortingly brisk, grey British day, though temperatures of up to 22 degrees were apparently promised the following week. Yeah right!

    We stopped en route at a huge service area, complete with mini supermarket and Ramada Hotel for a truly awful coffee – Allpress definitely need to expand their (understandably successful) operation beyond London. It really didn’t take long to arrive at our gorgeous destination, the accommodation being a cottage traditional to the area, complete with a modern kitchen, good heating, great water pressure – and soft beds. Bliss!


    Helen had a timetable in mind (you don’t mess with a Virgo) so after unpacking, showering and a change of clothing we set off to the train station to collect the fourth member of our party, and head to our first eating spot: The Cherwill Boathouse. We all enjoyed a hearty and tasty meal, finishing with a couple of fine British farmhouse cheeses.

    The next day we had been invited to visit Daylesford Organics and were accorded a comprehensive tour of this wonderful place. It comprises a 2000-acre organic farm complete with restful spa, as well as a restaurant, a food store and a home wares shop by Jerome, who is the export manager for one of Lord and Lady Bamford many operations – a French winery called Leoube. A magnum of their very nice Rosé had been a gift for my birthday earlier this year.


    Certainly the shop and restaurant are exceptionally attractive – and we were interested to note the presence of Torres crisps. The star of the show however was not on the food side. We had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Charlie – a chatty 10 year old on the animal husbandry side – who certainly knew his lambs, lifting one straight into Helen’s arms and enthusiastically offering to prepare a bottle for her to feed it. Charlie was not looking forward to abandoning his small charges to return to school the following week.


    We then meandered through a few of the nearby romantic Cotswold villages, complete with thatched cottages, clumps of daffodils growing in artistically-placed clusters, crows and magpies,  bridges christened with names like Tadpole Bridge and pubs called ‘The Red Lion’, ‘The White Hart’ and ‘The Kings Arms’, then headed to another of Lady Carole Bamford’s establishments, a restaurant called ‘Wild Rabbit’ to enjoy lunch in another of her very convivial settings.

    Wild Rabbit

    That night we self-catered with some of the fine fare we had purchased at Daylesford Organics and took some time to enjoy our gorgeous cottage, before we packed our bags and set off early the next morning for Barcelona.


  • The La Chinata Smoked Paprika Story...

    A defining ingredient of the Spanish kitchen, La Chinata Spanish smoked paprika is favoured by top chefs and food writers worldwide. It is instantly recognisable in its red tin and can be seen in the kitchens of the likes of Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson and Gordon Ramsay.

    The rounded smoky flavour and intense colour of La Chinata smoked paprika make it a great addition to so many dishes. It is essential in a traditional Spanish paella and delivers so much flavour when used in marinades, rubs, dressings and sauces. La Chinata smoked paprika works especially well with fish, chicken, beef and vegetables bringing out flavours that salt and pepper alone simply cannot.

    Sabato has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with La Chinata, which was founded in 1975 by the Oliva family. Cecilio Oliva has been joined by his two sons Javier and Carlos and they continue to produce this world class spice.

    Pimentón (peppers) from la Vera in Spain, are smoked over oak for 10-15 days to intensify their flavour before being stone-ground to produce a paprika totally distinct from other paprikas. In 1993 ‘Pimentón de la Vera’ became the world’s first pepper spice with ‘Denomination of Origin Protection’ (DOP).

    There are three varieties of La Chinata smoked paprika to choose from, dulce (sweet), agridulce (bittersweet) and picante (spicy). Each variety is made from a different variety of pepper, unique in taste. We recommend starting with dulce and working your way through the range. Although if you like spicy foods, go straight to the picante!

    Paprika flakes are a NEW addition to the La Chinata range. These are packaged in convenient glass bottles with grinders and are perfect for grinding over steak, eggs and potato and for use at the table.

  • Celebrating the Julie Le Clerc Range

    Phil and I have enjoyed a long collaboration with the talented food writer and cook Julie Le Clerc and we are thrilled to celebrate the Sabato Julie Le Clerc range this March for our 25-year anniversary.

    Julie’s passion for cooking is inspiring. Her flavour focussed philosophy, based on fresh, natural ingredients cooked well means her recipes consistently deliver vibrant tastes that are simply made to be shared. Julie enjoys creating accessible, straightforward but stylish recipes which encourage home cooks to put together deliciously satisfying dishes from scratch.

    When Julie sold her café many years ago, the Sabato philosophy of small batch, quality production fitted her desire to have her very popular, signature preserves and chutneys available to her established following. One of the most popular is the spicy harissa, a fiery, North African chilli spice paste perfect to rub or marinate meats, chicken or salmon or add to a Ferron rice risotto. A classic favourite is her Moroccan chutney, an appealing condiment with very addictive qualities.

    We have some exciting things planned for 2018 with Julie so watch this space!

  • Rustichella d’Abruzzo

    Rustichella is the benchmark in the world of artisan durum wheat dried pasta.

    Discovering their linguine (still a favourite strand, but now one of many), is one of the reasons you are reading this today.Rustichella is the first brand of the foundation ingredients we are highlighting in our 25th year of Sabato, and has long been a key brand in our range.

    Rustichella pasta is an excellent illustration of how using best quality core ingredients give you a more delicious, more forgiving, more nutritious and more pleasurable dish.

    Simply boil your chosen shape in plenty of salted water until cooked to your liking (the Italians prefer it quite ‘al dente’). Rustichella is more resilient and does not overcook as quickly as other pasta. Drain and dress with your favourite Sabato-selected extra virgin olive oil and a dusting of one of our fine Parmigiano-Reggiano. Then enjoy. Simple and delicious. If dairy is not your thing, use instead one of the tasty Sabato bruschetta, sauces, pastes or vegetables.

    Because of the qualities of this pasta, you will find that the flavours of your other ingredients will be absorbed by the pasta and may taste even better over the next few days. This pasta holds its mouthfeel. You may find you have leftovers as a little Rustichella goes a long way. Another of its fine qualities is a high yield. Cook and keep up to four days in your fridge. Cooled, cooked pasta is higher in resistant starch, which has been linked to reduced gut inflammation. This pasta is very digestible pasta, which is the word we found the delightful Peduzzi family (who founded and still operate Rustichella) often use to describe it.

    Based in the charming region of Abruzzo, apparently often overlooked in favour of Tuscany, this too is a very picturesque place of rolling hills, ancient towns, good food and relaxed friendly people.

    Amusingly, and quite appropriately, the Rustichella offices are in the town of Penne. It is a family-owned company consisting of a brother, a sister, in-laws - and now quite adult children. All of whom are very dedicated ambassadors of their fine brand, and when you taste it, you understand why. They are dedicated to excellence, from the selection of specifically milled wheat and using local pure mountain water, to the long and slow artisan process of production and attention to the finer details.

    I asked what happened to the loops which are trimmed from the long strands so the pasta will fit into their familiar brown bag after slow humidified drying over rods. The answer? Off to be added to a gourmet dog food brand.

    How Italian!

  • Catching up with the Girolomoni brothers

    The only thing that momentarily drew our attention away from the demands of the bumpy, winding road leading towards the crest of a hill (we would call it a mountain) in Isola del Piano, in the Marches, was the appearance of busy local bee keepers, as we headed up the slopes, to visit Girolomoni. They are our organic supplier of pasta, farro, mountain lentils, extra virgin olive oil and a few other very interesting grains.

    The Girolomoni entrance sign. The Girolomoni entrance sign.

    We were particularly intrigued to return to the 14th century Montebello monastery that the late Gino Girolomoni was making his life's work to restore, complete with a small museum, when we first visited some years ago.

    Entrance Arriving at Girolomoni.

    A pioneer of the organic movement in Italy, Gino is renowned throughout the region as the man who brought it back to life again through the introduction of organic farming. At one point he had also been a very innovative and progressive mayor. These days, both his sons and daughter are involved in the co-operative which now includes 200 farmers spread through this, and other regions, in Italy.

    Seven years ago, Gianluca, the General Manager, had told us how lucky he was to work in this company and this environment, a comment he reiterated this visit. Everything in this unique area is farmed organically and the movement has grown considerably over the last few years. Girolomoni grow organic ancient varieties of wheat and grains onsite, and make pasta from these. We heard of plans to build their own flour mill next year on the side of the 'hill'. This will close the circle. Durum wheat is quite difficult to grind compared to normal flour, as it is more like sand in texture. If environment can be seen to directly influence the end product then this mill will produce truly wonderful flour as the views are serene, and the air has a crisp freshness, even on a sunny afternoon. Their power sources are mainly supplied by solar and wind turbine.

    View View from Girolomoni farm.

    The farro used for Girolomoni’s farro pasta is from the father of all modern wheat: triticum monococum. It is characterised by a very appealing natural sweetness. We tried it simply dressed with their extra virgin olive oil. Often people who are sensitive to gluten find they can tolerate this pasta, and the pearled farro they also supply us with. We have recently added their semi-integrale pasta to our Sabato range, which has part of the husk left on, ensuring it is higher in fibre than normal pasta but is still delicious to eat.

    The businessman and the farmer. The businessman and the farmer.

    Gino’s son, Giovanni, is involved on the business side and his brother Samuele, on the farming side. There is a small restaurant onsite, where the chef, Andrea, was mowing the lawn as we arrived. Andrea's previous employment had been at a two-starred Michelin restaurant and he had been interviewed and employed by Maria, their sister, who later became his partner. Andrea cooked us a really delicious lunch and his talents extended to an interesting crispy cracker made from leftover pasta.

    The Montebello monastery chapel. The Montebello monastery chapel.

    All three of Gino’s children now have children of their own, with Giovanni having married in the chapel of the ancient Montebello monastery, lovingly restored by his father from the roofless ruin we had last seen. In the last few years the children have managed to get through the red tape of Italian administration to have the remains, of both their mother and father, laid to rest in the simple, beautiful chapel.

    Here, there is a strong focus on educating the next generation to ensure the survival of the organic movement and Girolomoni frequently invest in this by conducting visits to the property for school groups. The students are shown first hand the passage of the wheat from farm to grain or pasta. Everyone at Girolomoni is very passionate about organic being the sustainable way of the future, and in that environment you can understand the appeal.

  • Jacqui & Phil's visit to Carlo Crivellin

    Having warned our son Thomas, about the breakneck driving we would be likely to encounter in the south of Italy compared to the 'civilised' north, it was a rude shock to have an early hair-raising experience whilst still in Northern Italy. We were on our way to see one of our newer suppliers, 'Carlo Crivellin', driving the narrow road alongside the Adige River in the Veneto. We managed to arrive in one piece despite the best efforts of large trucks and speeding, loose-laned cars playing the game of 'sideswipe'.

    family Crivellin family

    The little company of 'Carlo Crivellin' was started by Carlo and his wife Fiorella in 1969, focusing initially on pasta and polenta, until the pasta took precedence and the polenta machinery was sold to a good friend.

    Carlo-+-Madonna The man himself - Carlo Crivellin and the beautiful Madonna perched in the garden.

    Today the company is still very much a family-run operation, in a tidy little factory complete with a rather beautiful Madonna in the garden. Carlo and Fiorella are at the helm on a daily basis, working with their children Laura and Arianna, and son-in-law Alessandro. Carlo and Alessandro create the recipes, with Alessandro refining the machinery and plant to customise production - and he and Arianna live onsite. Talk about living your work!

    Gluten-free pasta being made right in front of our eyes! Gluten-free pasta being made right in front of our eyes!

    They tell us the secret to the great flavour of their gluten-free egg pasta is the high percentage of local eggs: 25% instead of the usual 20% - made to an old recipe of Carlo's.

    We lunched at a large, local, simple restaurant where for the princely sum of €13 a fixed daily menu offered pasta or risotto, followed by the choice of steak, prosciutto, chicken, duck, octopus, rabbit or horse - which is commonly offered in the Veneto. Also a salad, which can be hard to come by as we travel, mainly eating in restaurants. We chose the duck, which tasted free range and was a wood-fired black. Alessandro told us he normally avoided the rabbit as a nearby local town used to be known as 'gattomangia' (cat-eaters) and he always wondered if the custom lingered.

    After a night in a nearby agriturismo, we left early for the long drive further south to see our organic supplier: Girolomoni.

  • A visit to Marina Colonna's olive grove

    Marina Colonna's quality extra virgin olive oil has been a prominent hero in our range from the day we started Sabato.

    The sign welcoming us to Marina Colonna's Estate The sign welcoming us to Marina Colonna's Estate

    Her excellent quality oil - and the distinctive anfora bottle bearing the Colonna family's ancient noble crest - are personified by the woman herself.

    A very resilient woman, of resourceful character, she became involved in the family farm in the 1980s as she tired of a career in documentary-making. The final straw was a trip to the Amazon where she was the only woman on a dark and threatening jungle journey. Hot, sunny deserts she could handle deftly, but that jungle trip was mainly pitch black and "you never knew what might slither down your neck". She decided to focus on the potential of producing quality extra virgin olive oil instead.

    Marina cooking us lunch Marina cooking us lunch.

    This is also not for the faint-hearted, to which those involved in our local industry can attest.  Consistently achieving the high quality Marina has maintained for decades and remaining in business, is a feat accomplished only by very few. Marina Colonna may be the only woman to have achieved this status.

    A' Principessa' from a lineage based in Rome with a long and noble history, her estate in Molise has been in the family since the 1800s. It is now 180 hectares with 55 hectares devoted to the many varieties of olives she nurtures like children. About half of these are certified organic, which comes with a lot of extra cost.

    The driveway leading us up to the Colonna estate. The driveway leading us up to the Colonna estate.

    Marina is a fearless innovator and her infused oils - which were first in the market in New Zealand, and often the inspiration for copies - have always matched the superb quality of her classic oil. The Granverde (lemon-infused) in particular has been a staple we have enjoyed supplying to many restaurants and domestic kitchens. It is pressed from the skins of hand peeled organic Calabrian and Sicilian lemons along with the olives. She loves it as a finishing oil or with balsamic vinegar. We really must take her a bottle of the Forvm Chardonnay vinegar, as that has long been a favourite combination in New Zealand.

    Jacqui, Marina and Phil by the tanks. Jacqui, Marina and Phil by the tanks.

    We enjoyed visiting her again. Like a proud parent she showed us around her groves pointing out varieties and individual trees of which she is particularly fond. She noted that the flowering this year is excellent which, barring natural disasters, should mean a good harvest. The necessary water comes from three natural lakes on the property. Nothing is wasted.  The olives provide fertiliser and power as well. She turns the pomace (the waste of the paste after crushing for her extra virgin olive oil, often turned into pomace oil by other companies) into compost. This is then used as fertiliser, while the olive stone part of the pomace is separated out and used as fuel for the boilers, which heat the buildings and the water.

    A view of olive groves and one of the lakes on the estate. A view of olive groves and one of the lakes on the estate.

    I thought to ask what had inspired her unique anfora-shaped bottle, and she laughed and waggled a wooden curtain tassel of the same shape at us.

    Marina with her curtain tassel! Marina with her curtain tassel!

    Simple, pure genius - befitting of the lady herself.


  • Cheesemonger Chatter - NZ Cheese Awards

    The annual NZ cheese awards are being held this Tuesday, 14 March - so ahead of this event, here are my picks of what’s awesome in NZ cheese and available in-store at Sabato.










    Tenara pasteurised goat’s milk, microbial rennet, 3 weeks old, made in Kaikoura. A mousse paste enrobed in my favourite bacteria Geotrichum, producing a much loved fluffy cloud of beauty. Back in season August 2017.








    Cajeta may be the most delicious caramel you’ve never tasted. Unlike a basic caramel which is made from sugar, Cajeta is a goat’s milk based caramel. Cajeta has a deep and earthy complex flavour versus it’s cousin Dulce de leche which is all sweetness. Use Cajeta as a sauce for yoghurt, ice cream, a dip for apples or poured over cake or tart. While Mexican in origin, this Cajeta is made in Aotearoa, and is only available at Sabato.








    The Cheese With No Name pasteurised sheep’s milk, traditional rennet, 3 weeks old, made in Central Hawkes Bay. A petit lactic set cheese with a gummy mouthfeel paste, central pith and big gutsy farm flavours. THIS CHEESE IS EPIC. You can’t imagine until you try it! Available only at Sabato.













    Cwmglyn pasteurised cow milk, traditional rennet, 3 months old, made in Eketahuna.  Farmhouse cheddar style cheese with a natural edible rindThe ultimate in single origin, each cheese named after the cow – one of the rarest cheeses in NZ.

    Blue Monkey










    Blue Monkey pasteurised cow’s milk, microbial rennet, 6 weeks old, made in Katikati.  In the tradition of Saxelby Stilton, NZ’s most famous unknown cheese, a blue butter from a different mother.


    Calum Hodgson - Sabato cheesemonger.

  • Cheesemonger Chatter - new season Cranky Goat cheese

    Hey goat cheese geeks, get your new seasons fix of Cranky Goat cheese…now in stock.

    The Nag:  Pasteurised goats milk, microbial rennet, 3 weeks old.

    Pelorous Pearl: Pasteurised goats milk, microbial rennet, 3 weeks old.

    The Nanny: Pasteurised goats milk, microbial rennet, 4 weeks old.









    Continue reading
  • Cheesemonger Chatter- Tenara has arrived!

    HUZZAH! The wait is over. The first batch of Tenara from Kaikoura Cheese has arrived.


    Tenara pasteurised goat’s milk, microbial rennet, 3 weeks old, made in Kaikoura. A mousse paste enrobed in my favourite bacteria Geotrichum, producing a yeasty lactic beauty. 250g

    Buy it online here

    And the first batch of Savvy Washed Rind has arrived also.

    Savvy Washed Rind

    Savvy Washed Rind pasteurised goats milk, microbial rennet, 3 weeks old, made in Martinborough. Washed in Sauvignon Blanc with a peachy orange rind –  has aromas of fresh hay developing more earthy notes with age. 130g

    Smoked Soft Goats Cheese kicks off next Tuesday September 6.

    smoked goats cheese

    Smoked Soft Goats Cheese pasteurised goat’s milk, microbial rennet, 1 week old, made in Picton. Lactic set, lightly salted, matured for 3 days, cold smoked in apple wood for 20 mins.

    On Wednesday I hung out with Amanda and Jacqui from The Drunken Nanny in Martinborough. We knocked about town chatting cheese and launched a cunning plan to manufacture New Zealand’s first Gudbrandsdalsost clone; brown cheese. Watch this space….

    Brown Cheese

    Fun to present Blue Rhapsody and Fromage Blanc at the weekends BIG CHEESE lunch The Grill Sky City Auckland. With 100 ticket holders in attendance, there were plenty of folks loving NZ cheese! I had a fascinating chat with a truffle dog trainer that sniffs out the majority of NZ truffles, they tasted pretty epic on the Croque Monsieur.

    the grill lunch

    5000 tonnes of Camembert AOP was produced last year versus 60,000 tonnes of "Made in Normandy" Camembert. The appellation contrôlée label (AOC) certifys 'Real' French cheese keeping it free of any imposters. Normandy Camembert surprisingly is made in Normandy France and is protected with a AOP - a protected designation of origin. A debate is currently waging with the The INAO (National Institute for Origin and Quality) to try and clarify this situation between AOP and Camembert "Made in Normandy".

    Of the dozen Camembert PDO, only two are fermier - farm cheeses. And all of this mass production of Camembert damages the Camembert de Normandie brand leaving it to no longer mean anything. Read more here..

    By Calum Hodgson, our Cheesemonger

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