Artisans: New spin on our kai moana

By Alexia Santamaria

Less is more with the kina pate simply made of kina, herbs and butter. Photo / Supplied
Less is more with the kina pate simply made of kina, herbs and butter. Photo / Supplied

In the name of our national day on Monday we thought we would feature a truly New Zealand product. And it doesn't get more indigenous than kina.

It's fair to say our native sea urchin is an acquired taste but anyone who is a fan is in for a treat.

Apatu Aqua enterprises is the husband and wife team behind New Zealand's first kina pate, which is just one in a range of seafood-based products they sell. The judges at the 2009 Cuisine Artisan Awards certainly lapped it up, awarding it the runner-up prize.

Hamish is a mad keen diver who noticed the abundance of kina when he visited Coopers Beach several years ago. The couple were living in Hawkes Bay at the time and he couldn't get the idea of harvesting and selling it out of his mind.

He convinced wife Nichola to give it a try and they moved north. It wasn't an instant success as the kina in this area are small and it was very labour-intensive. But the move exposed them to other business opportunities and they started selling fresh and smoked fish as well.

Despite dropping the kina as a raw product, they kept it on for the pate and also started doing a smoked eel and smoked fish version too. It's become so popular now that it is even available in selected supermarkets. For anyone worried about sustainability, Apatu Aqua is committed to ensuring the health of their marine environment. Their target species for eel is the New Zealand shortfin between 1kg and 2kg in size, which is well above the legislated legal limit. "The harvesting and processing of our seafood is intensely monitored and regulated and of course everything we catch is well within quota," says Nichola.

The whole range of products, including the kina pate are true to their ingredients and very simple and fresh, with a homemade taste. They have a two-hour policy where everything is processed, packaged and refrigerated within two hours (and delivered the same day or next day). It's all made in small batches to ensure freshness and has a 14-day shelf life as no preservatives are used.

And they taste great. The kina pate is made up of kina, herbs from their own garden and organic butter; the smoked fish pate is simply fish, cream cheese, herbs and spices. The smoked eel pate is the same but with eel.

The kina pate's consistency seems to vary depending on the time of year and Nichola says she thinks this is because at times they hold more water.

All are great as spreads but the kina pate could be tossed through pasta too. Celebrate Waitangi Day this year with something a bit different.

Where to buy:

Kina, eel and smoked fish pates from $8 to $9.95. Available from kai.co.nz; The Barrow; New World Kerikeri, Albany, Eastridge, Devonport, Remuera, Victoria Park; Albany Pak 'n Save.

- NZ Herald

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