With Helen Dorresteyn (Clevedon Valley Buffalo Co)


helen-dorresteyn-1Since establishing the popular Clevedon Village Farmers Market and the Clevedon Valley Buffalo Co, Auckland’s Helen and Richard Dorresteyn have enjoyed more than just a taste of success.

What makes buffalo cheese (in general) and your award-winning Marinated Buffalo variety (in particular) so popular?

It’s definitely down to the milk – delicate, sweet and very creamy without being cloying on the palate.

Our marinated buffalo cheese is unique. It has a velvety texture, it’s light and airy and has a full, rich flavour of buffalo milk as well as those from the marinade, which contains roast garlic, thyme and olive oil. Most people will eat it straight from the jar the first time but they soon discover just how versatile it is, using it in sandwiches, on crackers, or for dressing pastas, salads and vegetables and, of course, with grilled meats.

What’s your personal favourite from all the products your company produces?

I love our mozzarella, particularly the bocconcini (means ‘small mouthful’). It is the perfect size for my lunch. It takes me on a romantic journey to the Amalfi coast and I love pairing it with whatever is in season in the garden – at the moment I’m grilling finely-sliced fennel and serving it with the bocconcini torn in half along with a couple of pieces of prosciutto. Why eat if not well?

Your passion for buffalo cheese began during a trip to Italy 17 years ago; how did that lead to making your own cheese?

We discovered fresh buffalo mozzarella in Naples – it was a revelation! We needed cheese for the Clevedon Farmers Market so decided to have a go at making our own. You can’t make a comparable product from cow’s milk and it can’t be genuinely fresh if imported, unless it’s flown in overnight.

We bought our herd from Darwin in 2007 and now have approximately 130 animals, bred selectively for an improved temperament and to produce more milk. We need more land to grow the herd further. We have sold everything we have ever made and believe there is growth in the market for our products.

Have Kiwi palates become more sophisticated over the years? Are the days of ‘meat & three veg’ long behind us?

I think Kiwis who love to eat fresh food are spoilt for choice these days and, when they cook, they are very adventurous. Despite today’s busy lifestyle, if you can make time to eat well with others at least once a day, your body and soul will thank you for it.

Since you established the Clevedon Village Farmers Market, how successful has it been?

The market has bought bucket loads of joy and opportunity to many with customers coming from all over for the atmosphere and produce. It’s been a phenomenal success as it has been built by stallholders and customers enjoying a unique and friendly shopping experience. I hope the market continues to help farms and food producers in the area thrive as it provides an important first step for them in marketing their produce.

Are people increasingly looking to source food direct from producers?

Yes. Anyone that has ever grown something to eat knows you can’t beat fresh produce! People should know where their food comes from and how it is processed. As it’s their health at stake, they should have the right to make qualified decisions about what they eat.

Monty Python once (in)famously misquoted: ‘Blessed are the cheese makers’. How blessed do you feel?

We are truly lucky that we have been able to make this idea a reality. Richard and I are very grateful that we work together so well. It is an exciting, challenging industry to be in and, while we are optimistic for the future, we have to be so careful to stay on the right track – there is no pot of gold to raid if things go wrong and there are many mouths to feed. Running such a business is a huge responsibility.

If you could be Minister for Agriculture for one day, what would you do first and why?

I would duck and run for cover! Moving the country to sustainable farming practice is going to be so unpopular and expensive because many city folk won’t want to fund it and a lot of farmers won’t want to change. As a country we need to be making the most out of our primary sector, adding value and keeping our environment healthy, but that’s a tall and expensive order.

If you could invite any three people (living or dead) to dinner, who and why? 

Mum – I miss her and she taught me to cook. Robyn Williams – he had a kind eye and was modest. Jamie Oliver – he has put himself out for kids’ health and I would like to hear him say ‘Pukka’ first hand!