Eating local

Goat Island Dairy. Photo: Supplied
Goat Island Dairy. Photo: Supplied
There are so many ways to eat more sustainably. Choosing local seasonal food is one, writes Hagar Ozri. 

Because it is fresher, food locally grown can deliver better nutrition.

Eating locally sourced food isn't difficult.

There are resources on line, as well as local government help.

The Dunedin City Library team has developed a handy booklet called Green Food Ideas that shows what gardening and food-related books are available, and makes it easy to find them.

More than 20 community gardens are operating in Dunedin. There is a map of their locations called the Dunedin low cost food & transport map.

We have an amazing farming community in the wider Otago area, which provides us with an incredible selection of foods all year round. The Otago Farmers Market is a one-stop-shop for fresh produce and artisan food products.

I asked one of these artisan food producers, Shaun Thomson, of Goat Island Dairy, about his journey producing local food.

Goat Island Dairy is a small goat dairy farm, producing fresh goat's milk, yoghurt and soft cheese, here in Dunedin.

It started in January this year with 30 goats and plans to have a herd of 120 goats by the end of September.

"The trick for success in running a small avant-garde business like this, in the land of dairy (from cows) and meat," says Shaun, "is to start off slowly."

His background is in conventional dairy farming and he says he chose to start a goat dairy farm after buying goat's milk for his wife and two daughters who are intolerant of cow's milk. He found that the milk tastes great.

Shaun maintains that goat farming is much more sustainable than conventional cows or sheep farming.

"Goats impact the land less than cows, as far as pugging goes, and they help condition the land by way of eating the weeds."

He farms without chemical sprays and no antibiotics are given to milking goats.

"A lot of New Zealanders are still unsure about milk that is not from cows," Shaun said over coffee with goat's milk.

But the time is now to try it. Small scale farmers like Shaun need our support and encouragement to help them succeed in producing healthy food for us and our children.

It leads to better health for us and for the planet.

A meze

Photos: Gregor Richardson
Photos: Gregor Richardson
A great way to use our local food is in a meze - the Middle Eastern name for a shared meal of small dishes that go together well to create a spread.

Have your dishes in small plates or bowls accompanied by a pile of hot fresh flatbreads and your favourite pickles and sauces.

Meze dishes can be stored in the fridge as condiments to add to meals, or used in sandwiches and for work lunches.

Dishes that go well in a meze are dips such as hummus and babaganush (eggplant dip), chili dips, ratatouille and all sorts of pickles and condiments.

The recipes I have chosen here to get you started are: labneh, a soft white goat cheese; bean salad; falafel and tabbouleh.

Goats cheese labneh

Labneh, as a soft white cheese, can be shaped into balls (golf ball sized) and served in olive oil or served as a dip. Making Labneh is simple. You need natural goat's milk yoghurt, and a little salt.

1 litre of fresh goat's milk yoghurt

¾ tsp salt


Mix the yoghurt and salt in a mixing bowl.

Line a large mixing bowl with a tea towel or a muslin cloth with the edges hanging down and pour the yoghurt into the cloth-lined bowl.

Tie the edges together and hang off the tap over the sink, place a bowl underneath to collect the whey, and let drain for 24 to 48 hrs. And the labneh is ready!

Like any cream cheese, labneh will store well for up to two weeks in a container in the fridge, or longer if preserved in olive oil. For this method the yoghurt has been strained for 48 hours, forming a thicker labneh. At this point, roll the labneh into small 3/4-inch balls. Place on a large tray lined with paper towels, cover with another paper towel and refrigerate overnight. When ready, place the labneh balls in a clean jar and pour excellent quality olive oil on top, making sure the labneh balls are completely submerged. Cover and refrigerate until needed; it'll be good for months this way. Or leave the jar at room temperature for some weeks (2-4 weeks is safe).

Serve with zaatar, a Middle Eastern mixture of dried herbs, sesame seeds and salt, and hot pita breads, carrot and celery sticks, or serve on a cheese board with your favourite local cheese selection.

Falafel (left) and labneh (right). Photos: Gregor Richardson
Falafel (left) and labneh (right). Photos: Gregor Richardson

Serves 6

1 cup of dried chickpeas rinsed and soaked overnight

1 onion peeled and quartered

1 cup Italian parsley (leaves only)

Small bunch fresh coriander

2 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

½ tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp salt

Grapeseed oil for deep frying


Drain the chickpeas well in a colander, set aside in the colander while you are processing the onion and parsley.

In a good food processor, place the onion and press pulse to roughly chop; then add the parsley/coriander and pulse again; now start adding chickpeas half a cup at a time, and add the spices and salt while the food processor is going continuously. Continue adding the chick-peas and stop processing when all the chickpeas are added.

To fry the falafel

Roll the mixture into balls the size of walnuts with damp hands and set aside; prepare a large plate with paper towels to drain the hot falafel as they come out of the oil.

In a deep pan heat the oil gently on medium heat, check if ready by dropping a falafel ball - if bubbling and floating to the surface the oil is ready, now drop the balls gently into the hot oil and turn after a minute, or when golden brown, and fry on all sides. Turn out on to a paper towel to drain excess oil.

Best served immediately.

If making the falafel mix for later use, store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week, or freeze for up to three months.

Beans with garlic and tomatoes 

Serves 6

500g dried butter beans, rinsed and soaked overnight

⅔ cup olive oil

2 large onions chopped

3 garlic cloves thinly sliced

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 celery stalk, trimmed, rinsed and sliced

2 carrots

2 tsp chopped fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried)

2 tsp chopped fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)

2 cans of chopped tomatoes

2 tablespoons of tomato paste diluted in 2 cups hot water

½ tsp sugar

¼ cup finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Rinse the beans and place them in a saucepan with plenty of cold water, cover and boil until they are almost cooked. Keep an eye on them as they cook quickly, about 30 minutes! Drain and discard the water.

Heat the olive oil in the saucepan, add the onions and saute until light golden, add garlic and fry for 2 minutes, Add the pepper, celery, carrots, oregano and thyme and saute for 5-6 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, diluted tomato paste and sugar, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add the beans, season with salt and pepper, and cook gently for a further 15 minutes.

Stir in parsley, transfer to a large ovenproof dish and cook in preheated oven at 170degC for 30 minutes, or until browned around the edges.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Zaatar is a Middle Eastern mixture of dried herbs, sesame seeds and salt.
Zaatar is a Middle Eastern mixture of dried herbs, sesame seeds and salt.

Serves 6

Tabbouleh is a parsley and bulgur wheat salad. It can be made gluten-free by using a different grain - such as quinoa or millet instead of bulgur wheat.

1½ cups bulgur wheat (cracked wheat) picked clean of stones

200g bunch flat leaf parsley trimmed of thick stalks

A small bunch mint

1 Lebanese cucumber diced

2 tomatoes about 250g diced

½ green bell pepper seeded and diced


Juice of 1-2 lemons

4-5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

A large pinch of allspice

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Put the bulgur wheat in a fine sieve and rinse under running cold water. Put in a bowl and soak in warm water for 20 minutes. Drain and pat dry in a clean kitchen towel to get rid of excess moisture. Transfer to a large bowl.

Coarsely chop the parsley and add to the bowl. Add the mint, cucumber, onion, tomatoes,and pepper and mix well. Cover and chill.

Just before serving, mix all the dressing ingredients together and beat lightly, pour over salad and toss to mix well.

Taste and adjust the seasoning adding more lemon juice if needed. It should have a refreshing tangy taste.

More from Hagar

Radio show Sustainable Gastronomy, fortnightly on Tuesdays at 10am. OAR FM 104.5 Dunedin or listen to podcasts anytime at
Healing Foods Cooking Class on Thursday, October 17 at 6:30pm tickets $45 from


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