It’s fascinating to see food which is not just traditional, but actually indigenous to New Zealand.
Horopito is one such item. It’s a vibrant red shrub which thrives in wet areas. Here’s a photo from NZPlantPics.com:
Food or medicine?
I first picked up horopito thinking of it as a hot peppery herb. It’s commercially produced by Kaituna Farm and sold by Farro. However, a closer look at Kaituna’s website shows they are really excited about it as a medicine. They have gathered considerable scientific research showing it to be an effective and side-effect-free anti-fungal agent, for both external / skin and internal / gastrointestinal use. They actually show it to outperform some of the best anti-fungal options on the market at the moment. However, it’s also slow to grow and drought-sensitive, so who knows if this is a viable drug of the future…
There are several recipes on the internet for horopito as a meat rub – I’m imagining a flavour like peppered steak. But what are the other applications, I wondered?
My first attempts include using it to dress a salad and in risotto.
1. New Zealand spinach and horopito risotto
To keep with the indigenous theme, I used New Zealand spinach in my risotto. (Pet bugbear: NZ spinach, sometimes called perpetual spinach, is not in any way the same thing as spinach. Different family, looks completely different, tastes different, smells different. They’re both green leafy vegetables but that’s about it. You can’t just call NZ spinach ‘spinach’ and sell it. I’m looking at you, seed companies.)
- In plenty of olive oil on medium heat, soften a finely sliced onion and a few cloves of garlic.
- Add two fistfuls of arborio rice per serving and a pinch or two of dried horopito per serving. Keep stirring.
- You can add wine here if you like, otherwise get started adding ladles of vegetable stock, one at a time, stirring until the liquid is absorbed.
- Meanwhile, wash and chop the NZ spinach. Either in the microwave or a pot, cook it with a little butter and a small amount of water.
- Optional – blend the NZ spinach with a stick blender into a paste. This will make your risotto a wonderful green shade, rather than white with bits of green.
- When rice is cooked, add spinach, adjust salt, and add a knob of butter (optional).
- Grate parmiggiano generously over the dish.
2. Salad with horopito dressing
I used leaves with a full flavour along with strawberries and tomatoes.
For the dressing I shook together a dollop of extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and two pinches of horopito.
This much horopito wasn’t strong – if you like your food hot, I’d recommend using more.
The amount of horopito I used wasn’t very noticeable in the final dishes. I sensed more of a slight lemony flavour than hot and peppery in the risotto – I think that was the horopito but I’m not sure. I’ll try greater quantities in future.
I may try horopito hummus next, from the NZ Herald’s recipe.
What horopito recipes would you recommend? Are there any you’d like to see featured here?