Thomas Bywater asks guest chefs to prepare their best one-pot dishes that you can cook anywhere
Cameron Sims and his tall blond knot of hair look so healthy they could have sprouted in a field of wheat. He runs a company obsessed with natural ingredients. So it's something of a surprise to hear him speak with such passion about the key ingredient that inspires him and his work at Plant Culture: Cannabis.
Turning up at the beach with a handful of seeds, and some hemp butter. I was curious to see what he'd prepare. Though, it turns out, this was a strangely conventional dish.
There are few meals less scandalous than baked bananas and hot chocolate. It's a Kiwi campfire classic, as Cam says.
"They're all ingredients you could find here in Auckland," says Cam. Banana, cocoa and hemp are a trifecta of outdoorsy goodness - or "the staples of life!" as he cheerfully refers to them. Wrapping the bananas in leaves to cook, Cam has engineered a more sophisticated version of the dish than the one you might recognise from scout camp. It has minimal waste and maximum flavour.
Hemp is hardly associated with healthy choices. Or most scout camps. He's surely not the only Kiwi to head on a camping holiday with his favourite parts of a hemp plant. However, while it is more associated with pungent and smoke and equally unpenetrable camp-side conversations, Cameron has dedicated his work to changing people's attitudes and uses for the plant. His uses for the cannabis are far less illicit, and far more delicious.
"I grew up on a farm and was always looking for alternatives for my dad," he says. He came across hemp as an ingredient while studying for exams in Dunedin. "I just went like 'Wow' New Zealand could really help with this growing eco-industry."
Cameron has given two TedX lectures on the benefits of hemp as a health food.
The star ingredient is New Zealand hemp butter. A creamy cooking sauce, it has an appealing shade of pistachio green. Beyond the flavour, it's a great space saver for those wanting to travel light: "It basically replaces a 2 litre bottle of milk," he says and makes rich sweet or savoury sauces.
Having spent some time travelling in a van with his girlfriend, he's used to the principles of outdoor cooking. "Just keep it basic," is his advice. "It's really good practice to no need to have everything perfect."
Find more recipes and ingredients at plantculture.nz; Plant Culture is delivering goods with overnight orders for $6
Favourite foodie destination
"South America is one of those places I've never been but I'm so inspired by the food." Currently trying to grow yucca plants, he says there are "just so many other amazing ingredients, I just want to try."
Never leave without
"That'd have to be Hemp butter. It's creamy, perfect for pudding or pasta sauce. A little goes a long way."
Rich hemp hot chocolate and stuffed banana leaves
Hemp butter adds an indulgent twist on these campfire classics. Banana, cocoa and hemp create a rich sweet tooth. Coarse coconut sugar and creamy hemp butter create a chocolate dessert that is rich and full of texture. Topped with hemp seeds, they give a pistachio-like texture to the dish.
For the filling:
• Coconut sugar x 4 table spoons
• Cocoa powder x 6 table spoons
• Hemp butter ½ a cup
• Salt 1 teaspoon
Hot water 2 cups
Bananas x 2
• NZ hemp heart seeds to serve
To prep, clean your banana leaves with a wet cloth removing all white sap. Bring your water to the boil and heat a hot stone or grill. For the filling add the coconut sugar, cocoa and salt into a container to mix. Slowly stir in hemp butter until even in consistency. Cut the bananas length ways, leaving them in the skin. Stuff with chocolate mixture. Then wrap each banana in a leaf and seal the ends with cocktails sticks, before placing on hot stone. Leave until the leaves are charred black and bananas cooked through. To serve unwrap leaves and garnish with more hemp butter and hemp seeds to taste.
For the hot chocolate: add remaining mixture to boiling water, mix thoroughly. Pour into cups to serve hot.