Neena Truscott and Belinda MacDonald first popped up on the foodie radar when they appeared on television show My Kitchen Rules NZ in 2014. The down-to-earth Cambridge mums introduced themselves as ‘modern-day hippies’ but they were so much more.
Their authentic love of home-grown and foraged ingredients immediately set them apart from the pack and they went on to win the television crown, along the way educating New Zealanders about the bounty of food available right outside their front door.
The pair have since created their version of foodie nirvana; launching an informative website thegreenkitchen.co.nz and recently releasing their book; My Green Kitchen: Nourishing Food for New Zealanders.
“Our My Kitchen Rules NZ experience allowed us the honour of meeting so many beautiful like-minded foodies. It was a dream come true and something we will hold close to our hearts forever,” says Belinda.
“To educate people of the healing elements in food and wild greens was always at the top of our priorities list and to have six of New Zealand’s top chefs embrace our ideas and recipes was the most humbling experience. Chef Ben Bayly told us that he felt nourished when he ate our food, which was the biggest compliment he could have given us.”
The best friends remain true to their food passion; determined to showcase using wild weeds and native New Zealand bush produce in their recipes, as well as helping inspire people around using Mother Nature as their supermarket and path to wellness.
“Wellness through awareness is what we are all about,” says Neena. “It is our desire to educate and encourage people to reflect and look back over the centuries before us regarding what we eat.
“We cannot stress enough the importance of bridging the ancestral gap between the whole foods of yesteryear and the packaged society we live in today.
“As parents, we are at the centre of our families’ wellness, and it is up to us to teach our children the importance of living a more conscious sustainable lifestyle.Our passion is to encourage and educate about healthy nourishing food and practices which are deeply wholesome, simple to prepare, seasonal and delicious.”
And with recipes and lifestyle tips aplenty on their website, their book backs this up with style. Boasting more than 150 nutrient-rich and nourishing recipes, there are also herbal first aid remedies and immune boosters, as well as tips on foraging for natural ingredients. It is both delicious and inspiring.
Fitness Journal caught up with Belinda and Neena for a quick insight into their lives right now.
What is your fave recipe in My Green Kitchen and why?
That’s hard to narrow down but right now because it’s spring we are loving the wild edibles and for something really unique and utterly delicious, try the coconut crusted chicken with banana ketchup.
What are your fave local ingredients and why?
Boyd’s asparagus. We are so lucky in Cambridge to have these beautiful fresh green spears in abundance. Also, spray-free garlic and fermented black garlic from Richard Cato at the local farmers’markets, and our shortbread which is a delicious and unique spin on traditional shortbread recipes.
List five things you wish everyone knew about food goodness
1. Good fat is back in the good books
2. Savoury is the new sweet – crowd out sugar cravings with sweet root veges.
3. Everybody is unique. Do your own research to see what’s right for you and be kind to yourself.
4. Fermented foods are so important for us. Why not try adding a dollop of sauerkraut to your evening meal? It’s a great place to start.
5. Bone broth is a must. Even in summer freeze bone broth in ice cubes and add to your morning smoothies for your daily gelatin fix.
What has been one of the greatest highlights for you in the past 12 months?
Finally seeing our beautiful cook book in print. The past two years have been about laying the foundations for our business (thegreenkitchen.co.nz) and doing the groundwork, so finally seeing the fruits of our labour is just the best.
What are your plans/goals for the future?
While bone broth has been quite the slow cooker, that’s our main focus for next year and we have some other exciting developments in the pipeline which we will open the lid on soon.
We have no doubt that this recipe will become a Friday night family favourite: it’s grain-free, dairy-free, can be started ahead of time, and can be made with any meat or seafood you like. We recommend serving this with a fresh garden salad, or wrap the chicken up in lettuce cups or pickled cabbage wraps (page 100) and serve with generous dollops of banana ketchup (swirled through some yoghurt to cool it down for little ones) and a squeeze of fresh lemon.
800 g chicken breast fillets
1 cup coconut thread
1 cup ground almonds
3 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp dried chilli flakes, optional
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
Himalayan pink salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp coconut cream
2/3 cup tapioca flour
coconut oil for frying
lemon or lime wedges, to serve
1. Cut the chicken breasts lengthways into strips and pat dry with a paper towel. Set aside.
2. Mix the coconut thread with the ground almonds, parsley, chilli flakes (if using), garlic and onion powders, salt and pepper.
3. Whisk the eggs with the coconut cream. Place the tapioca flour in a shallow dish.
4. Try to keep one hand dry for the dry ingredients and use the other hand for the egg wash, so it’s less wasteful and messy. One by one, roll the chicken strips in the tapioca flour, then dip into the egg wash with your other hand, then into the dried coconut and almond mixture so the chicken is completely coated in the crumbs.
5. Heat the coconut oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Cook the crumbed chicken in batches for 3–4 minutes on each side or until golden brown, crispy and cooked through. Drain chicken on paper towels and place in the oven to keep warm. Season with salt while warm.
6. Serve the coconut-crusted chicken with the banana ketchup and some lime wedges.