Friday, April 1, 2011

Cooking in the Catlins

Here I am on the perfect picnic log, at what used to be called Moa Bone Point, on the Papatowai estuary in the Catlins. Walking along the beach, you can see where the sea has eaten into the bank and exposed the layers of ash from the moa hunters' hangi. If you're lucky you might even see a moa bone sticking out (though of course you won't remove it - all such finds are protected).
      We picnicked most days, very simply - bread and butter, salami, cheese, fruit - but not till 2 pm or even 3. No rushing, that's the essence of a good holiday. We were lucky - we left Dunedin on a Saturday, so we were able to stock up first at the railway station farmers' market.

Breakfast was fancy organic muesli and fruit, including the rhubarb from the cottage garden cooked up with the wonderfully tart red apples Jenn salvaged from a roadside tree. You can't buy proper cooking apples like these any more. (Apparently everyone has the right to pick fruit from roadside trees growing outside fences or hanging over them - it's called fructage.)

After coffee and one small piece of toast with comb honey, we set off for wherever Jenn had planned. She grew up in the area so I couldn't have had a better guide. By lunchtime, after what seemed to me like a really virtuous amount of walking - to beaches, waterfalls, rainforests - we were ready for morning tea. I'm happy to report that there was no shortage of good cafes. Owaka had giant slabs of carrot cake. Balclutha's indifferent coffee was offset by sensational home-made neenish tarts.  Gore had magnificent date scones and passionfruit yoyos, plus remarkable sculptured latte leaves. The only off-note was the eye-watering $24 we paid for two mochas and two afghans at McLean's Falls.


I had offered to take over the cooking, to give Jenn a break after doing all the driving. I really like working out what to make in holiday kitchens, and our Papatowai eco-cottage had all the basics. I think my piece de resistance was the Owaka Four Square's Bluff oysters, followed by a pretty pasta with (frozen) shrimp, broccoli and fresh pale green Italian courgettes (a present from Jenn's friends' Dunedin garden), and a sauce made from the oyster liquid, softened mild fresh onions (another garden gift), lime juice and white wine....

.... but the salad of Taylor's Gold pears, farmers' market goat's cheese, gifted Dunedin walnuts and rocket nicked from an absent local friend's garden was pretty good too....

... and our market plums and sweet little pinot noir grapes, plus a square or two of chocolate, did very well for dessert, priming us up nicely for the nightly Scrabble contest. Once (thanks to two blanks) I got all my letters down - but even so, I only just beat Jenn.

PS: The only cheese roll I had was awful.

1 comment:

Jenny said...

Anne - can I come on your holidays?!! These meals look fantastic!! Love the jacket as well :) xx