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Season 2 Episode 29: Birkenhead

This week on Neighbourhood, Michiko Hylands shows us around the suburb she grew up in – and still calls home – Birkenhead.

We’ll taste a traditional Dutch dish and join a Russian woman on a mission to preserve her culture for the next generation. A British Ceramicist shows us the inspiration she’s inherited from her grandmother and we’ll discover the treasured artifact that connects its owner to her Egyptian ancestry.



Michiko Hylands grew up in Birkenhead, child of a Japanese mother and a European father. When her parents married it was such an unusual thing for a Japanese woman to marry a kiwi man, it was reported in the local newspaper.

Michiko has a background in costume design and used to make and sell her own clothes. She is currently Head of Make Up and Wardrobe at TVNZ, responsible for keeping all the celebrities looking their best.

She loves art and design, textiles and fashion, which are all huge components of Japanese culture, so Michiko is sure her cultural DNA played a big part in her choice of career – as did her mother!



This week on Neighbourhood local Dutch Restaurateur Willem van der Velde celebrates a very special day with a traditional dinner including this delicious pear dish, Dutch Stoofpeertjes ( stewed pears).


  • 1 kg cooking pears 
  • 100 grams of caster sugar
  • 2 small pieces of cinnamon sticks
  • 2 pieces of lemon peel 
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 cup of red wine or red currant juice
  • Some water until the pears are just covered.


  1. Peel the pears, cut them in half and remove the cores.
  2. Place the pears in a casserole (pressure cooker) with the remaining ingredients.
  3. Bring them to boil and then turn the heat as low as possible.
  4. Let them 2-4 hours stew (in a pressure cooker 50 minutes) until tender.
  5. The broth is what thick and syrupy.
  6. Remove the cinnamon sticks, the lemon peel and the cloves.
  7. Optionally, you can use some extra bond (mixing with water) created with cornstarch.
  8. Serve it as a side dish (specially with pork) or as a dessert with some whipped cream.