Partners in fine flavours of home

ROBIN RAYMOND
Last updated 09:37 20/06/2012
Laura Bettjeman and Christina Cocchi

Kiwi connection: Marlborough Italian cooks Laura Bettjeman, left, and Cristina Cocchi and catch up and share some recipe ideas near Spring Creek.

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They're a long way from home, but Cristina Cocchi and Laura Bettjeman are bringing an Italian flavour to Marlborough.

Both women run traditional Italian food stalls at the Marlborough Farmers Market. Although they only met a month ago they have a lot in common. Both women came to New Zealand in 2007. Laura came to Dunedin with her Marlburian husband, Bodhi Bettjeman, and Cristina to Marlborough, working on a thesis in viticulture.

Both dream of one day setting up a bed and breakfast and are passionate cooks, who worked in restaurants back home in Italy.

Laura used to be a furniture restorer and said cooking was another way of being creative and relaxing. There is also a sense of pride in eating something you made, Cristina said.

"I really feel at home when I eat something I have made. It doesn't matter if I'm at home here or in Italy or at a camping ground, if I eat something I made I feel at home."

Cristina met her partner, Simon Cooper, in Marlborough, and the pair spent three years in Italy before returning here last year. Laura and Bodhi moved here this year to raise their two young children closer to Bodhi's family while he trains as a winemaker.

Cristina started CK's Kitchen in November as well as managing another small business. Laura started Gusto Italiano three weeks ago and is a swimming instructor.

Although they might seem natural competitors, selling similar produce, they quickly struck up a friendship – working alternate weeks at the market – and even share cooking tips.

Pasta is their main seller although it had taken a while for their Kiwi clients to realise the differences between homemade and supermarket pasta, Cristina said. Hand rolled pasta with no preservatives had a different flavour to shop pasta, but the big difference was how soft traditional pasta is. It took a while for clients to get used to that and some had nearly lost their food by standing the pasta vertically and seeing the soft dough simply fall down, Laura said.

Their love of hospitality was part of their Italian upbringing, where families cook, eat and drink together, Laura said.

"In Italy you always go home for lunch to be with the family, eating and drinking is social and it's quite bonding for families. Everyone has half a glass of red wine. I remember when I was little, my grandmother watering the red wine for me."

In New Zealand they love the space, the access to nature and the laid back Kiwi lifestyle, and they are intent on building a fusion of cultures.

Their mix extends to the kitchen, where different ingredients here have changed their style, along with new cultural influences which have seen both women experimenting more.

"Here in New Zealand I do a lot of barbecue food and a lot of Asian food. It's things maybe I would eat in Italy at a restaurant, but here I try cooking them," Cristina said.

Both said they miss the cheeses, breads and salami-style meats of home though and most enjoy cooking Italian.

"To cook Italian you really have to love it, because it seems simple but it can be quite slow and boring," Cristina said.

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Pumpkin Ravioli (for two people)

2 eggs

180g flour

70g durum wheat flour

1/2 Tbsp boiled and moulied nettle leaves

For filling:

200g pumpkin

20g cheese

50ml besciamella sauce

1 Tbsp hazelnut dukkah

Salt and pepper

For sauce:

50g butter

1 Tbsp honey

1 tsp chopped rosemary

1 tsp chopped sage

1/2 Tbsp poppy seeds

Salt and pepper

For the ravioli, mix 1 egg, 70g flour, 30g durum wheat flour and leave for 30 minutes.

Separately mix 1 egg, nettle leaves, the remaining flour and durum wheat flour and leave for 30 minutes.

For the filling, bake the pumpkin and when cooked mash and add the other ingredients, mix well.

Roll the pasta really thin, place 1 tsp of the filling in the upper part of the pasta, every three centimetres, and fold the lower part of the pasta over and close the borders together.

Push the pasta down around the filling and cut to separate the pieces. Repeat until the filling is finished.

For the sauce, melt the butter on a slow heat, then add the other ingredients and leave to heat for two minutes.

Boil the ravioli in salty water for four minutes, drain, add to the sauce, mix to an even consistency and enjoy.

Lasagne (for four people)

Pasta:

250g flour

3 eggs

Salt

White sauce:

500ml milk

1 Tbsp flour

50g butter

Salt and pepper

Ragu sauce:

500ml tomatoes chopped or as pasta sauce

500g beef mince

2 onions

2 carrots

2 celery sticks

2 garlic cloves

Salt and pepper

1/2 cup olive oil

Sauce: Fry onions, carrots and celery in the olive oil until golden, add the mince and cook till browned then add the tomatoes or passata sauce and leave to simmer for up to three hours.

White sauce: Melt butter, add flour then milk, stirring to prevent it sticking. Season with salt and pepper.

Pasta: Pile the flour on a bench and make a well in the middle. Add eggs and start mixing with the eggs till you have a texture you can knead. Work until smooth and elastic and leave to rest for 30 minutes. Roll with a rolling pin (or pasta machine) and cut into strips to fit your baking dish.

Layer pasta sheets with ragu sauce, white sauce and parmesan, finishing with ragu. Bake at 200 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes.

- The Marlborough Express

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