The Cambridge mums, who are friends as well as cousins by marriage, describe their television experience as ‘mind blowing, humbling and such a learning curve’.
With six children between them, they are keenly focused on a healthy attitude towards food and creating nourishing recipes for their families.
After months of intense planning and hard work, the pair have recently launched their joint venture, a foodie website www.thegreenkitchen.co.nz, packed with inspiration and recipes, all with a dollop of Belinda and Neena’s unique personalities.
They also have a number of other projects on the go and assure Fitness Journal that ‘all will be revealed soon’ but among them is the product launch of their Bone Broth: Organic Chicken and Organic Beef.
This month you can catch Belinda and Neena in action as the pair present cooking demonstrations at the upcoming Women’s Lifestyle Expo in Hamilton (May 16-17) at Claudelands Events Centre.
We catch up with Belinda and Neena for a quick update.
Describe your lifestyle?
Busy. With six girls between us there is very little “downtime”. Right now we are full swing into business growth mode and loving it. We feel so blessed to have been given this “leg-up” and are taking the bull by the horns so to speak. Our only problem is that there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day.
How do you relax?
Belinda: Some people relax by going to a place they love, for me, my happy place is the kitchen.
Neena: A nice glass of red while enjoying some late afternoon sunshine on the deck.
What is your favourite place to go in Waikato?
Neena: Our family loves to go to Waitomo on nature-driven adventures. The kids are in their element exploring the outdoors, just like their dad.
What is your favourite comfort food?
Belinda: Scrambled eggs always seem to comfort me, quick, easy and delicious
Neena: Slow cooked beef casserole. There is something special about preparing dinner in the morning. Kids are at school and I can potter in the kitchen with music pumping and then when the “crazy hour” hits around 4.30pm, I’m all done and can just dish up.
What are your favourite new ingredients and why?
Bones. With winter on the way nothing beats a good old-fashioned bone broth. So versatile, either add torn up chicken or any leftover meat with some fresh vegies for a delicious “broth bowl”. Mmmmm so comforting and healing.
What are your greatest achievements over the last six months?
Launching The Green Kitchen and being accepted into the Sustainable Good Food Boost mentoring programme. We are thrilled to be involved in such an amazing programme and cannot wait to be mentored by Michael Van de Elzen (The Food Truck chef) and Martin Yeoman for marketing mentoring and Chris Morrison for sustainable business development advice. Basically our prayers were answered and we now have these experts to help us bring our product to market.
What is you the deepest learning curve from your MKR experience?
To harness positive self-talk and believe in ourselves. That may sound easy, but when you are being judged on everything you do it is easy to let self-doubt creep in. We worked very hard to remain positive and forward-focused.
What excites you most about with www.thegreenkitchen.co.nz?
We have an amazing new product due to hit the market this winter. We can’t wait to tell people about it, but not quite yet. What we will say is that it is for everyone, young or old and will help to heal and repair the gut, which is, in our view, the most important thing to look after.
What is the biggest change to your lives since MKR?
We have jumped in boots and all to be full-time working mums, Usually in business this is a gradual integration but since winning MKR we were given a platform that probably leapt us ahead about two years. When we entered the show, it was to set ourselves up businesswise. Winning was a beautiful bonus but it was not our only reason for entering. We knew how important it was to push forward after the show and make the most of this lifechanging experience for ourselves and our families.
If you could encourage everyone to make ONE change to their lifestyle, what would it be?
Look after your gut. Incorporate fermented vegies and broth on a daily basis. 80 percent of your immune system lies in the gut and so much disease is created by having an unhealthy imbalance. The importance of beneficial bacteria is underrated. Thankfully many experts and healthcare professionals are now recommending that we take good care of our gut and that it is just as important as our brain or heart… Breakthrough! There’s a new food revolution brewing and we are thrilled to be involved in this transformation.
What advice would you give to women?
One of our favourite quotes… “Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Nelson Mandela
This feijoa chutney is an exotic, divinely-flavoured taste sensation that is wonderfully addictive and plays around on your tongue with wonderful sweet, sharp, hot and sour notes. It is refined sugar-free and we have sweetened it naturally with wonderful manuka honey and Earl Grey-soaked dates which create a smoky aroma combined with playful cardamom and punchy green chilli.
Divine with sharp aged cheddar, brilliant dolloped next to a curry and a fabulous friend to meat, fish and chicken. Use the abundant fejioas and bottle these babies to use throughout the year. A Kiwi-inspired chutney using the best from Mother Nature’s pantry.
3 kg peeled feijoas, firm but ripe and roughly chopped
1 kg peeled shallots, finely sliced
4 large green chilies, stems removed, finely chopped
4 dessertspoons manuka honey
2 large dessertspoons Himalayan pink salt
330mls apple cider vinegar
The juice and zest of 5 large juicy lemons (from last year’s crop, still on the tree if possible).
A 10cm piece of manuka branch, with leaves, flowers and stem, washed. (or you could use rosemary)
3 cinnamon quills
4 fresh bay leaves
2cm piece of root ginger, finely chopped
12 green cardamom seeds crushed
12 black cardamom seeds crushed
1 dessertspoon dried chilli flakes
350g dried dates (soaked overnight in strong Earl Grey tea, I used 3 teabags and covered the dates)
Mix all the ingredients (except for the Earl Grey-soaked dates) together and leave in a covered dish overnight. It is important to taste the mixture at this stage and adjust to your liking with more lemon or chill, depending on the ripeness of the feijoas.
The next day add the soaked dates and the Earl Grey liquid and mix well, then place in a non-corrosive roasting dish and place in an oven, preheated to 180ºC
Cook for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.
It is cooked when the liquid has mostly evaporated and the shallots and fruit have begun to caramelise slightly. Your kitchen will smell aromatic and wonderfully fragrant.
Taste and season if necessary, then spoon into very hot sterilised jars and seal. Enjoy the feijoa feast.