Rising to the challenge

Keepers author Cherie Metcalfe relaxes in the kitchen with her family. PHOTOS: MELANIE JENKINS
Keepers author Cherie Metcalfe relaxes in the kitchen with her family. PHOTOS: MELANIE JENKINS
Looking for a new direction after having a baby and deciding life as a chef was not what she wanted anymore, Cherie Metcalfe began creating her own products in her kitchen.

Fast-forward nearly five years and she has a range of pastes, salts, sauces and rubs sold nationwide, a range of cast-iron cookware, a popular subscription-based website, podcasts and now a cookbook.

Her business, Pepper and Me, is named for her daughter and started out with a lactation-aiding salt blend and spice pastes to sell at markets in Auckland.

But she soon learned it was not that easy with a baby in tow, so decided she needed to sell her products online so she could stay at home.

With help from her brother, she built a website and a friend helped her connect with an influencer. The rest, as they say, is history.

While in the early days she had a job as a pre-school cook, she was soon able to leave her day job to concentrate on expanding the business.

Her Man Rub and Man Grinds came next and then dukkah. From there she started sharing her knowledge online.

THE BOOK: Keepers, by Cherie Metcalfe,  published by Allen & Unwin NZ, RRP $45
THE BOOK: Keepers, by Cherie Metcalfe, published by Allen & Unwin NZ, RRP $45

"I could demonstrate how to use the products, teach people how to cook delicious food on a super-tight budget and share the joys of being a mum."

She took a risk, borrowing $1000 from a friend for stock and moved production to a contract manufacturer.

"It was a huge weight off my shoulders. Production increased 10-fold and the sales followed."

When she had her second child, she decided to move her business to a warehouse and hire a manager.

Now based in Tauranga, she then focused on writing recipes and started a club showcasing recipes made from her products, charging people $5 a month membership to access them.

She has also joined with Bernadette Gee, of Magnolia Kitchen, to make a podcast about their business journeys.

Her next challenge was adding a range of cast-iron enamel cookware to her range, wanting pieces that were functional, beautiful, high quality and affordable.

"This has been by far my most stressful venture but I have such a love for the products and getting to share this with the Pepper and Me family (cult?!) has been a pretty great experience."

Then the book deal came along. Writing a book was something she had always dreamed of, she said.

"It’s a juicy new project that I have thoroughly enjoyed."

The book features breakfast recipes, light meals, side dishes, mains, condiments and bakes.

Cheats ciabatta 


I first read about this technique a few years ago - a simple trick of stretching the wet dough back on to itself to create the beautiful holes that would otherwise take days to naturally occur and it’s become a favourite bread of mine to play with.

Serve it at dinner parties with some Confit Garlic oil and Mother Dukkah, or slather it in roast garlic butter.

It makes a pretty epic cheese toastie too.

Makes 1 large or 2 small loaves


2 tsp instant yeast

4 cups high-grade flour, plus extra for kneading

2 tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

2 cups lukewarm water

2 tsp olive oil


Mix the yeast, flour, salt and sugar in a stand mixer. Pour in the water and mix with the dough hook for 10-12 minutes. The mixture is quite a bit wetter than a normal bread dough and it’s quite sticky.

Pour the dough on to a floured surface. If you prefer two smaller loaves, separate the dough into 2 at this point, before you start making air pockets.

Using floured hands, knead, pull, stretch and slap the dough for another 4-5 minutes. By pulling at parts of the dough, stretching it up and then slapping it back down on to the rest of the dough, you create the beautiful air pockets we want to see, so spend a bit of time and add more flour as needed to keep the dough as one.

Flour an oven tray, and as you move the dough or doughs on to this, gently prod it/them into a loaf shape or shapes.

Drizzle with oil and cover with plastic wrap. Leave in the hot-water cupboard or somewhere warm for 2-3 hours.

Heat the oven to 200degC.

Cook for 35-40 minutes if baking 1 loaf, or 25 minutes if baking 2 loaves. When it’s ready it should look golden and sound hollow when tapped.

Let the ciabatta cool for around 20 minutes before slicing.

Sticky date pudding with spiced run caramel

A special recipe for my dad — sticky date pud, his favourite. Of course it needs thickened cream and vanilla ice cream to go with the molten rum caramel, too.

A decadent treat, perfect as a winter warmer.

This is a self-saucing version, because no-one wants to muck around with more pots and pans at dessert time.

Serves 6

1½ cups dates

1 cup boiling water

1 tsp baking soda

100g melted butter

⅔ cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

½ tsp sugar

½ tsp salt

1 cup self-raising flour

Spiced rum caramel sauce

1½ cups brown sugar

1½ cups boiling water

½ cup spiced rum

50g butter, at room temperature


Heat the oven to 165degC fan bake, and grease a shallow 26cm casserole dish.

Chop the dates, pop them in a bowl, pour over the boiling water and baking soda, and leave to stand for 10 minutes.

Whisk the delicious mushy date water into a paste, and add the melted butter and the sugar.

Whisk in the eggs, vanilla, sugar and salt, then stir in the flour. Pour the batter into the prepared dish.

Pop all of the sauce ingredients in a bowl, and whisk until the butter is melted. Carefully pour the sauce mix over the pudding batter. Pop into the oven for 45 minutes.

Serve warm.

Barbecue baked beans 

This recipe was originally Burnt End Brisket Beans but it’s not often we have brisket burnt ends sitting around to use as an ingredient - if you do, please add them in.

This is a great side when doing American barbecue-style food. It’s also a great breakfast option with a couple of poached eggs on top, or as a hot lunch with some crusty bread and butter.

Simply leave the bacon out for a vegetarian option or, in an ideal world, replace the bacon with any leftover brisket or pulled pork.

I’ve suggested four different cans of beans below, but realistically you can use any four cans of assorted beans that you like.

The liquid from the canned beans is called aquafaba, and you can save this when you’re draining them if you want to use it as an egg replacement in baking.

Serves 4 as a lunch or light dinner

Gluten free

2 Tbsp oil

1 brown onion, sliced

400g streaky bacon, sliced

2 Tbsp BBQ seasoning

400g can black beans, drained and rinsed

400g can white (cannellini) beans, drained and rinsed

400g can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

400g can of mixed beans, drained and rinsed

400g can chopped tomatoes

¼ cup water

½ cup chipotle or BBQ sauce

1 tsp salt with a squeeze of lime and

a pinch of chilli powder


⅓ cup sour cream

To garnish

chopped chives or torn parsley leaves


Heat a cast-iron skillet on the barbecue or stove top with the oil on a medium heat. Add the onion and saute for a few minutes, stirring regularly, then add the streaky bacon and BBQ seasoning. Add the beans to the skillet once the bacon is cooked.

Pour over the tomatoes, water, chipotle or BBQ sauce and salt, lime and chilli mix.

Stir gently - the skillet will be pretty full - place on the barbecue, shut the lid and leave the beans to bake for 20 minutes. Alternatively bake in the oven at 200degC for 20 minutes.

Stir well, then dollop the sour cream over the top, if using, and garnish with some chives or parsley. I like to serve it in the piping-hot skillet, but make sure to warn guests not to touch the handle.

Note: If you would like eggs with the beans, simply dig a few holes in the beans, crack an egg into each space and pop back on the barbecue or in the oven for 3-4 minutes.

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