Olesia Ocheretiana is from Ukraine and is on a mission to bring the best sweet things from the globe to Dunedin and boy are we truly fortunate that this is the case. Anyone walking past her stall at the market is immediately drawn in to experience her highly crafted and decorated, yet rustic sweet treats.
Olesia has worked as a chef for many years in various European countries but in recent times she has been researching traditional recipes from around the world and reinventing them using local ingredients. Many traditional recipes use much less sugar than modern recipes and Olesia feels very fortunate to be able to use local ingredients as she believes that here in New Zealand we really do have amazing products including honey, nuts and fruits. She buys many of her products from other vendors at the market.
Olesia likes to make everything by hand and this even comes down to the nut flours she uses. She aims to produce the best quality she can at all times so she blanches the almonds, peels the almonds, roasts the almonds, grinds the almonds and roasts again to reduce the moisture content as much as she can and get the optimum flavour for her almond flour. This 5 step process does take some time!
She finds that many people are attracted to her stall at the market because they recognise treats that they have eaten while overseas. She even gets requests for specific products that customers remember fondly from their travels. Nothing is too much trouble and she willingly researches traditional recipes to find the ideal recipe. Her bookcase is full of books from around the world in multiple languages. She speaks several languages well but finds that she can readily interpret recipes (with the help of YouTube) as techniques are similar around the world. She finds that traditional recipes use few ingredients and is deeply suspicious of recipes that call for 15 ingredients. As she says her grandmothers never had a pantry with that amount of variety.
In Europe people want to buy something special and presentation is very important. They eat with their eyes. Olesia brings an incredibly high standard to her presentation. Many of us would not have ever seen her peach shaped and coloured ricotta filled cakes before. They are little works of art and equally as delicious as they are pretty. We are so lucky to have her at the market!