People

Suzette of Freshly Foraged

For a little while now, I’ve meant to write about some of the interesting people I know – people all over the world doing some pretty exciting things. I’ve decided to start with Suzette of Freshly Foraged. She isn’t only a fabulous foodie, she is family.

Suzette was born in the Phillipines, where sustainability was not just another trend – it was a way of life. As a child, she emigrated to New York City to live with her mother and Italian step-father, whose family introduced her to Italian cooking. Her love of food was clear from a young age, and she worked in various restaurants in New York City as a teenager before gaining her formal training as a Chef and Restaurant Manager in Las Vegas. She then moved to Los Angeles to start her own food catering business, before moving to the United Arab Emirates and working as a Chef. Ever the globetrotter, she is now living in Wellington, New Zealand, with her husband and two young children. 

Suzette runs a Facebook Group called ‘Freshly Foraged’. She posts interesting and healthy recipes nearly every day, along with photos of the dishes she has prepared. If you are looking for affordable and simple, yet tasty dishes, look no further. With a number of followers in both the United Arab Emirates and in New Zealand, she aims to provide recipes that are not too complicated, using as many natural, unprocessed ingredients as possible. And the results are delicious. Having two young children at home, she is also mindful of preparation time and clean up – big plusses if you are a busy parent. 

The group also allows Suzette’s keen followers to share pictures of meals they have prepared, with tips on how they have adapted the dishes.  I always get a bit of food envy as I lurk on the Freshly Foraged page, given my terrible cooking skills! I posed a few questions to Suzette, so you can learn a bit more about her favourite foods and inspiration.

You’ve done so much moving around – have you found being a chef a great way to learn about new cultures and places?

I’ve been an expat the past almost six years in two very different countries and cultures, but what I have found in my travels is that food is the best connector. It doesn’t matter if you are talking to a dignitary or a taxi driver – if you meet another foodie, you will connect in the most amazing way. You don’t necessarily have to speak the same language if you are already speaking the language of food. I have lots of unforgettable stories during my travel around food that I will always cherish. I once spent $45 on a taxi in Indonesia just to drive 2.5 hours for a plate of a roasted pork dish that cost $3. But the story didn’t end there. When you meet another “foodie” and they find out you are a chef you have an instant bond. I met my husband this way. I’m lucky to have met a man who finds the same pleasure in food as I do.

Tell us what your favourite Emirati/Middle Eastern and New Zealand dishes are.

My favourite Middle Eastern food isn’t really Middle Eastern, but when we lived in Abu Dhabi we had easy access to great Pakistani food, and curries that I can never ever replicate at home until this day. Now that I’m in New Zealand, I’m in awe of the amazing fresh produce and local ingredients that Kiwis take great pride in, so I try to keep it local and seasonal when I’m cooking.

You’ve got an hour to prepare an impromptu dinner for 10 people. What are your go-to dishes?

If I only had an hour, I probably would do a roast of chicken, beef or lamb. I can put the meat in the oven and while it’s cooking I can make a quick salad or some sides. I will usually roast some veggies too.

Are there any websites or chefs that you turn to for inspiration?

I’m inspired by the New York Times food section because I often miss food from home.

What does the future hold for Freshly Foraged?

When I started my career, I was a personal chef. However, my career evolved more towards nutrition as I worked with a nutritionist in Los Angeles, and helped people with eating disorders. I was single at the time and our clients were getting younger and younger, even small kids. This stuck with me and I made a conscious decision when I found out I was pregnant that I was going to take care of myself and made it my mission to try and feed my kids home cooked meals. Freshly Foraged started because mums used to ask me all the time what I was making for dinner. I wanted people like me to get motivated to cook. Nothing fancy – even just soup, if done well, is great. So I just hope I keep motivating people to cook, because it’s so beneficial in so many ways.

You can follow the Freshly Foraged Facebook Group here. I’ve included one recent recipe below!

Fish Puttanesca with whole wheat pasta and sauteed purple kale

For this recipe, you can use any fish you like.

Serves 4

1kg fish of your choice
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 can of tomato Puree
1/4 cup of capers
1/2 cup of olives green or kalamata pitted and sliced.
1 tablespoons of chopped garlic
1 small onion small dice
Olive oil
Whole wheat pasta
Kale or spinach

Directions

  • Boil pasta until al dente, drain, and set aside.
  • Sautee greens with olive oil and set aside.
  • In a pan, sautee onions until soft, then add garlic until garlic is cooked. Follow be adding tomato puree and chopped tomatoes, capers and olives.
  • Season with salt and pepper and let simmer slowly for 20 minutes on low.
  • Add fish and cover and let cook for 4 to 6 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish.
  • Serve with shaved parmesan and chopped fresh parsley.

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