We loved The Modern Preserver cookbook so much that we asked author Kylee Newton to become Bite's own modern preserver. Kylee is a Taranaki girl but is based in London. She runs preserves company Newton & Pott, which she describes as a "genuinely heartfelt kitchen table business with jars cluttering every surface, and pans bubbling on the stove".
Kylie fell in love with preserving seven years ago when she was strapped for cash and hand-made some treats as gifts. The recipients' touched reactions encouraged her to start Newton & Pott so she could share that homemade sentiment with everyone. Unfortunately, we can't buy her preserves in New Zealand but you can get a copy of The Modern Preserver, which is filled with desirable recipes for chutneys, jams, pickles and more.
We talked to Kylee to find out a little more about her business, inspirations, cooking escapades and dining desires.
Did you manage to take time off over Christmas and what’s been on your holiday menu?
I managed to shut down shop for two weeks over Christmas this year. We had made all our orders and my team who help wanted to get off to their families, some of them going to Sweden and Poland, so we made sure everything was ready for them to leave. I had my last market on Christmas Eve for all those last minute panic shoppers (which is definitely me) and then my mother-in-law picked me up and whipped me back to Horley (South of London by Gatwick Airport) so I could finally put my feet up and relax with my UK family.
My mother-in-law has taken on my mum's tradition for me, of waking up to toasted croissant with cheese, tomato and ham accompanied with a glass of bucks fizz (sparkling wine and orange juice). Christmas lunch has been out of my hands for the last couple of years due to the fact I'm usually working up until the end so they let me have a break from cooking - but it's generally turkey that we go for and I'm happy to say accompanied with my delicious cranberry, port and orange sauce (which I think is the best). All the trimmings: potatoes in duck fat, savoy cabbage, brussels sprouts fried in bacon, carrots with butter and orange juice, stuffing, pigs in blankets - the works. It's a completely different feeling having this proper warming roast Christmas dinner in the winter than when we used to stuff ourselves in the summer months in New Zealand.
Cocktails fill the day, egg nog, chocolate, even a pav made an appearance. Fnished off with whisky, ports and sherries and a cheeseboard that nobody could fit in but we managed - complete with lots and lots of chutneys.
The days that followed were filled with leftovers - I hate waste especially with food and this is always a great way to invent new recipes and get creative with using up leftovers.
Do you miss the summer holiday food you would have eaten at this time of year in New Zealand? If so, what specifically?
My mother would always put on a large turkey Christmas dinner, my father usually a roast of chicken. When we were young we rotated Christmas lunch and dinner at both parents' homes - to be honest it was a lot of food in one day. I remember having acute appendicitis one Boxing Day as I was literally eating as a foie gras goose might.
I do miss the bountiful seafood - my father was a fisherman and growing up we would go out for mussels and paua and catch fresh john dory and gurnard. I'm a big seafood lover, there's nothing like it on the barbecue in the summer - that I miss.
And what do you most enjoy about food in the UK?
I love the access to worldwide cuisine here - don't get me wrong New Zealanders have amazing cuisine and I love the Asian influences there and I introduced my husband to Malaysian laksa when we were last in Auckland but London is truely cosmopolitan.
It's born out of people from around the world coming to trade, heading down the River Thames and this, I think, has brought with it a vast appreciation of cuisine from around the world. At my front door I have access to the Caribbean or Lebanon, Chinatown's dim sum and Sri Lankan hoppers. There's an exploration of food going on here, it's big, it's intriguing and it's incredibly accessible. It makes me hungry for more.
What took you to London and how long have you been there? Do you get home to Taranaki much?
I came to London not too long after I had finished my studies at Auckland's Elam School of Fine Arts. A few of my friends had travelled there and after I had saved up enough money I decided to see what all the fuss was about. I also had been working in a cafe/restaurant for too long and I wanted to open my wings and see what was out there in the world. I think New Zealanders often feel this way as we have inquisitive minds that are too large for our island far far away from the rest of the world - we aren't flightless kiwis.
I've lived in London for over 15 years now and I find myself getting back home every couple of years - although it's been three years this time, the last time I was there I was introducing my very new husband to his new New Zealand family he hadn't met before (apart from on Skype).
Do you still sell your preserves at Hackney’s Broadway Market? Tell us about that.
Yes, I'm still down Broadway Market in London Fields, Hackney. I love the market life, it goes back to London being a city of trade. There's a real community down there that is hard to find in such a large populated city. But I'm a familiar face and name and it makes me feel like I am home - communities are important to me so it really reminds me of being back in New Zealand.
I've tried a lot of other markets in London, down Maltby Street - renowned for its fine foods, Chatsworth Road, Peckham markets in South London, the Shepherds market throughout London's landscape. But Broadway Market is my favourite, and this isn't just because it is in my neighbourhood and easy to get to with all my wares, it's because it's a market full of variety. I have been going to this market since it started and have watched it grow. It's in a very cool, creative part of London but it wasn't always like that. The market itself is full of amazing creatives so it just doesn't offer food and produce like most, it showcases the hard work of many artisans who live in the area - so you're not only promoting handmade but local as well - keeping it in the community.
You are making a name for yourself in the UK with your flavour combinations. Could you explain that?
Yes. This makes me laugh but I guess I am. When I set out to preserve it was to make something that had longevity (out of my disgust of wastage, especially in food - people sticking to best-before dates and throwing good food away) but I also wanted to make something from my heart and that was true to me. So I sought out tamarillos and feijoas which was no easy task - they get imported from Colombia, South America - which not everybody may know. I certainly didn't when I was growing up eating them in New Zealand - I just thought they were everyday fruits like an apple or an orange.
So I'm selling chutneys that are exotic to the British public, but at the same time I have a wee cult Kiwi expat following here seeking out the flavours that they miss so much. But I think this unique approach made my product stand out as someone doing something different and eventually got me a book deal with Penguin Random House.
The other flavour combinations have come from a demand for me to make jam and not feeling content with traditional flavours. I started experimenting with spices and herbs and floral aspects to add an additional depth to my jams. I encourage others to play around with flavour combinations and to know your own palate.
What’s on the agenda for you workwise now?
I am moving onto a more industrial kitchen this year, up until now we have been producing everything from a very small home kitchen in the heart of Hackney. Although it won't be homemade anymore I very much want to keep the handmade approach to my product and not outsource to factories who make things in vats. This way I have a quality control over my product and I can assure that it's at its best - I think this is evident in a handmade product.
I hope to write more and create a blog. I feel people need to learn how to incorporate preserving into their lives and with their everyday meals. It's a sensibility that is becoming very much the forefront of how we perceive food these days - eating seasonally, making it ourselves, taking a season and making it last into another one and enjoying it at a later date.
We are steering further away from over-manufactured food with ingredients that are made in science labs - we want to know what's going on our food and what's going into our bodies. So I would like the blog to be a hub of this old but new understanding and approach to food, to make preserving easy to incorporate into busy lives - it's really not that hard.
What’s your earliest food memory?
This is a hard question. Food is something that everyone can relate to, it's in everyone's lives, I think that's why we celebrate with it, why it's a ritual, why we obsess over it - perfect it. Every different culture has their take on it- it is so important as it not only sustains us it fills us with memories and joy of a place and time.
But I have to say Nan's pikelets - they set off so many memories - mauve set hair, laughter of the many grandchildren running around, sitting on my mum's lap around the kitchen able so I could reach out to the jam and butter-smothered morsel. These are so unique to New Zealand as well, ever noticed you can't find the word in the English dictionary - The Edmonds Cookery bible definitely has a lot to answer for.
Where do you draw your culinary inspiration?
I think the seasons inspire me, and what fruits and vegetables are available to me at the time. Everyone should cook to the seasons. My father has the best vegetable garden and rarely buys any from the supermarket - I aim to be able to do this one day but for now going to the wholesale market and seeing what is on offer for the month is my inspiration.
Who is your cooking idol?
He's going to hate me for saying (or love me) but I have to say Peter Gordon. Mostly because he is the most generous humble man I have ever met and his food is amazing. I can't believe he is finishing off his eighth book. Witing a cooking book is not an easy task, he's got a lot to give, a lot of inspiration and he's been incredibly supportive to me here in London. I look up to him and hope that one day I can give as much as he does to not just the foodie world but other communities in need.
What is your greatest cooking achievement to date?
I have to say writing The Modern Preserver. It's such a long process, with over 130 recipes it took a while and I'm so humbled that it has been received so very well here in the UK, and in New Zealand. It's now to be published in the USA which is a big thing for a first time author. In this modern world of social media I get to see everyone making the recipes which is such a lovely gift back to me.
What’s your favourite meal?
Paua fritters, but the way my dad does them. Not chopped up and mixed with other ingredients but tenderised like a T-Bone steak, dipped in egg and flour and thrown straight onto the barbecue. There's nothing like it. My husband is English and had never tried them before he first visited New Zealand, so it's on the request list every time we visit now. Also my dad's crayfish sandwiches with his homemade mayonnaise - we grew up eating these in our school lunches, I didn't realise how decadent it was at the time trying to swap my crayfish sandwiches for peanut butter and jam ...
What’s been your biggest kitchen disaster?
Nothing really has been a disaster. Things go wrong but I see it as a great learning experience, only to get better the next time.
One disaster in the true sense of the word was with making a jelly. Jams and jellies have to reach high temperatures to be able to react and set with the pectins, sugars and acids and they can get rather fierce and bubbly on the stove. The jelly decided to spit out a large glop of hot lava and land on my forearm - about the size of lemon - we reacted quickly and ran it under cool water for over 30 minutes before heading to A&E. I'm lucky that it didn't scar too badly but it was certainly frightening.
If you could eat anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Japan. It's a place I have never been but I love the simplicity and lightness of Japanese food. I would love to dine at Jiro Ono's 3 Michelin star restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro before his sons take over. Being born and bred in New Zealand, and as a fisherman's daughter, I love seafood and I find the Japanese approach to it the best, raw or lightly pickled - it's clean and simple, light but also filling. I also would love to explore their pickling and fermentation techniques - it's a very different approach from the European and I'd like to learn more. I think there are a lot of really good New Zealand Japanese restaurants, I think because we have access to such a wonderful selection of good sustainable fish.
What are your kitchen must haves?
Good sharp knives, we like Globals in our household. I was first introduced to these knives by my good friend Kiri Gillespie at art school in New Zealand and then later on Chris Jelly. Chris was our beautiful and very talented friend who was a chef. He gifted me a Global one year for my birthday and I rarely buy anything else now. They are lightweight and easy to sharpen and last forever. I also have a lot of chopping boards and wooden spoons - like a lo t- and they all get used.
Why do you love cooking?
It's definitely an obsession. I love the creative side of it. I went to art school in New Zealand and then worked for artist photographer Wolfgang Tillmans here in London for 10 years so I have turned to it as a creative outlet. I always thought I was going to be an art helper, but since I left Wolfgang's four years ago I found a way to express myself through food. It's also a very friendly community. I've been welcomed with open arms. I think because it's a part of everybody's everyday ritual, we all have to eat, so it's something that we all can relate to whatever the level of elitism it holds.
I am happiest when I am in the fruit and vegetable market thinking of ways I can enhance the flavour of the available produce - whether in a jam, chutney or pickle.
Who is your dream dinner guest?
This is tricky, I wouldn't want to pick a chef as I'd be too self-conscious cooking for them. There's no one person in particular - just someone who likes to eat. I always dream of hosting one of those outdoor feasts where everyone is involved with the cooking, that you see on foreign films. One long table outside in the sunshine that fits the whole extended family and friends, kids running around playing, adults getting more and more drunk on the series of courses and the plentiful wine. Into the darkness with fairy lights trailing in the vines above the table. So I guess my dream guests are those who are happy to pitch in, relax and enjoy the evening, with lots of laughter.