Simple summer meals: Gluten-free and vegan crusader Zee Tana

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Zee Tana’s kitchen up in Tikipunga is a popular place for locals to try some healthy food.

Whangārei born and bred Zee Tana runs a popular food hub called Palate Wholesome Collective in Whangārei and Tikipunga. His gluten-free and vegan food caters to a range of diets, and the hub’s signature burgers surprise even the most carnivorous of eaters.

Tana’s passion for food stems from growing up in a big whānau.

He “loved being in the kitchen with the cuzzies, aunties, uncles, our Nan and Grandad, sharing in yarns, singing away, hearing our kaumatua and kuia connect in te reo Māori, reading the hundreds of cookbooks taking up space in the kitchen cupboard, learning different recipes and getting to eat all of the wholesome kai we got to cook – that is where my passion for food was bought about, in the hearth of our whare, in service to our whānau”.

Tana was diagnosed with coeliac disease at 26 and made a change to his diet, eventually removing animal products and byproducts.


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Zee Tana runs two kitchens, in Tikipunga and Whangārei.
Zee Tana runs two kitchens, in Tikipunga and Whangārei.

“It was both a personal and health choice which [meant] I noticed a significant difference in my own personal health, my mental health management and the awareness of my love and affection for other sentience i te ao marama [in the natural world] – everybody’s body, mind and journey is unique and different. That’s what makes it spesh.”

His advice for those wanting to get stuck into the kitchen this summer is to buy local, support locals and New Zealand.

“There are some brilliantly talented and passionate local gowers with amazing goods from right here in our region growing seasonal, wholesome, organic (if you please) and affordable-as-heck produce.”


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His advice to those who are interested in trying a vegan diet?

“Don’t be hard on yourself – have an open mind and palate, enjoy taking control of your own consumption. This is your own journey; do it all in your own time.”

Palate Wholesome Collective fritters

These gluten-free and vegan fritters are a popular staple at Palate Wholesome Collective and super easy to make. Tana has provided an easy-to-make recipe that can be used for a range of meals and altered to your own taste.


1 cup gluten-free flour


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1 cup rice flour

1/2 cup chickpea flour

1 & 1/2 tsp flax meal

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 Tbsp coconut sugar


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2 Tbsp vinegar

1 & 1/2 cup water/plant milk

1/2 cup more liquid to thin if needed

Seasoning (such as herbs of your choice)

Any veggies you want to flavour it with. Suggestions include onions, leek, greens, corn, beans, lentils, chickpeas, potato, and kūmara.



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Place the dry ingredients together in a bowl and mix together.

Place the wet ingredients in a separate bowl and mix.

Add the wet mix to the dry and combine – don’t over-mix.

The mixture should double in size from baking soda and powder mixing with the vinegar.

Oil a frying pan, and heap a tablespoon in for fritters. You could also place some into a sandwich press for a flat fritter, or into a tortilla for a quesadilla.

Then season with herbs to your taste, vegan cheese, liquid smoke, smoked paprika or any other flavour profiles of your choice.


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Ten staples for a gluten-free and vegan pantry:

Brown rice

Brown lentils

Red lentils



Potatoes/Peruperu/Taewa (Māori potatoes)


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Brown rice flour

Coconut sugar

Chickpea flour

GF flour

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