Heritage Baking featuring Amber Rose of Love Bake Nourish as Featured in The Pioneer Issue

One of the fun aspects to creating a new issue is being able to interview and feature people we really love. Brand Manager Ajenda is an avid baker and so when we were drafting and storyboarding The Pioneer Issue, author of Love Bake Nourish Amber Rose was on her list of people we should interview. We were looking to feature artists who were pioneers in their community or industry, people who live authentically, differently. Amber's rather magical childhood and beautiful, healthy dessert recipes were both stories we had to share with our readers. 

Enjoy a small excerpt from Amber's feature and read more in The Pioneer Issue - sold out most places, but available on select news stands.

Cottage Hill: How did you become interested in your unique style of ‘heritage’ baking?

Amber Rose: When I grew up in New Zealand my mother was very well known over there for being a pioneer in sustainable and organic agriculture. She’s been a huge pioneer in heritage seed saving so I grew up in her garden that was filled with more than 800 varieties of heritage fruit trees, vegetables, flowers, seeds and things. We ate from her garden all year round. It was just basically heritage produce every single day of the year.

So I think the way I bake stems from going into my mother’s garden after school. I started baking when I was about seven or eight. I was quite young. Back in those days in the kind of rural New Zealand, kids had a lot of freedom. My mom just let me have free reign of the kitchen letting me experiment as long as I tidied up afterwards. So from a very young age I would be baking pikelets which are like little drops scones.

At my fingertips was always this seasonal produce from heritage fruit trees that my mom had collected from all over New Zealand that had been brought over by the settlers who had come over to New Zealand when they first colonized it. And so, I had to be quite inventive because I had to make things with what I had. I shopped for fresh ingredients out of our garden instead of selecting ingredients from a supermarket.  I just had to say, “Okay the peaches are in season. What can I make with peaches?” Or, the rhubarb was in season, or the plums were in season, or the citrus was in season. And I would create dishes with what I had.

My style was also influenced by my mom’s philosophy of gardening and cooking. We lived in the countryside and the ingredients we could not grow we would buy in bulk. My mom would order these huge 40 killo sacks of stone ground beautiful wholemeal spilt flour. So as a kid, I would bake with that. The style in Love Bake Nourish very much stems from how and where I was brought up.

CH: It must have been amazing to just walk outside and have that produce!

AR: It was honestly paradise. It was honestly quite wild. At the time, it was quite eccentric in a way. It wasn’t always easy in a social sense, but I look back on it now and  thank God for my upbringing. We really need to simplify our postmodern world. We need to get back to basics and embrace heritage plants and our knowledge about growing and processing fruits and vegetables. It's a brilliant  way to bring families together, both past and present. I think it’s becoming in a way quite fashionable. You go to farmer's markets and there are heritage tomatoes and heritage beetroot, and that is all the goodness I was brought up on. It warms my heart to see parents raise their children the way I was raised.

CH: Tell us more about your mom’s heritage seeds.

AR: She did not like the quality of produce in New Zealand. Mom had some health issues and wanted to provide better quality food for us so she decided to grow her own garden. She realized at the time that the only seeds that were available in New Zealand were from somewhere in Holland, I believe, which at the time it was sitting under a nuclear cloud. I vaguely remember her stories. So that is what inspired her to start collecting heritage seeds that were local to her in New Zealand instead of buying these rather toxic seeds that came from the other side of the world. That is what started it, but it just snowballed.  

She set up this nursery and it before long and she had hundreds of different varieties of fruits and produce. For example she had about 20 or 30 different varieties of tomatoes. And obviously, it’s hard to keep things in their pure lines without things being crossbred. So when the tomatoes would start flowering she would have to put these huge nets over each different variety. But then of course, the bees could not get in because they all had nets over them, so we would have to go in after school. Everyday after school we would work out in the nursery for two hours. We would have to go in with these little paintbrushes and pollinate all of the little tomato plants so that they would have fruit.

What had started out as her passion, quickly turned into a business where she would grow the fruit trees, vegetables, and flowers and then sell the seeds. It became a mail-order seed business. It really took off and people would send her seed varieties all the time because they knew her as the seed saving lady.

CH: Was there anything in her garden you waited for every year?

AR: I used to get into such trouble as a kid because I like fruit when it’s just on the turn, like almost slightly before it’s ripe. So I would always be stealing the peaches, nectarines, apricots and things from the fruit trees just before they were about to ripen. It would drive my mother crazy. So I was always getting in trouble for stealing the peaches.

I was also crazy about cucumbers as a kid. I just used to munch on these cucumbers like they were apples. They were these little cucumbers that were round and yellow. They were just the crunchiest sweetest, juiciest cucumbers you ever tried. I used to eat those all the time.

CH: What inspires your baking?

AR: Just cooking meals is a necessity, we all have to do that.  Baking, for me, is a combination of feeling particularly inspired or creative about a certain life event.  Inspiration can be derived from emotions and desires awakened by the loving memories of baking with gooseberries, plums, or any medium.  Baking, like life, has many seasons, I use what is in season marinated with love and affection. Everyday cooking is a requirement for survival.  Baking is done to express something extra. I also have a crazy sweet tooth.

Read the full interview with more photographs by Amber Rose, plus an exclusive recipe, now in The Pioneer Issue.