This is my secret. A quarter acre slice of wild beach paradise. Bondi this is not!
Take a stroll in any direction on the Cape Coast and you will come across tiny artisan producers, orchards, berry farms, substantial and family vineyard operations, and natural food gems just to gather. Being a food forager, I always have my antennae out for the unusual.
Waking early to the loud cacophony of gulls I decide to investigate. Out the drive and heading right I grind down the limestone track on my bike. Yes, the kahawai are running and my neighbours are out with their surfcasters. Scuttling across the rough stones and down the bank I see the spoils of their casts. My grinning friend hands me a glistening kahawai and announces it is all mine. This river-run ocean fish is rich in flavour and texture, and is perfect for smoking. Smoked fish will be on the menu today.
You need to bleed the kahawai immediately – as this minimises the flesh from darkening – and then gut. If the fish isn’t to be eaten straight away, the flesh from un-bled kahawai takes on a brownish colour and is nowhere near as good to eat. Leave the scales on as this keeps the fish moist in the smoking stage. Smoke the kahawai whole for around 10-15 minutes with the lid on, and then leave the lid on for another 5 minutes … resisting a peep as all the smoke will evaporate! At home I use a small portable stainless steel fish smoker with manuka chips, and a small handful of crushed up vine cuttings collected from across the road at our neighbouring vineyard. Now I will prepare the kahawai rillettes…
When cool, flake and debone the fish, adding 1 finely-diced onion which has been cooked in butter. Picked from our small herb garden, I add chopped marjoram (a herb with sweet pine and citrus flavours), a pinch of sea salt, and ground black pepper with a splash of balsamic vinegar. Serve in a rustic bowl with crusty bread on the side. This is the Mediterranean … Hawke’s Bay style!
Summer and Sauvignon Blanc need no introduction, so I zip into Clearview Winery and choose a bottle of Te Awanga Sauvignon Blanc 2013 to serve with the rillettes. This crisp and refreshing wine will be perfect.
- Smoked fish rillettes
- Avocado and watercress salad
- Berry and tarragon compote with Origin Earth Pot Set Yoghurt
Returning to my bike, I smell a pungent aniseed aroma. The wild fennel is flowering and so that means the time is right to collect fennel pollen. This can only be described as a labour of love and compares to harvesting saffron without the pecuniary advantage. It takes hours to collect one small jar of pollen, but the result is well worth the effort. Not today however, as I have more gathering to do.
Beetling down the track with the sun in my eyes and the thrill of the next find, I come across a roadside sign displaying buckets of avocados. These are big beauties from the Haas variety. They have a nutty, creamy rich flavour; now all I need is some greens to make a fresh salad. Remembering there is watercress in the stream, I peddle off in search to find (it is important to avoid plants that drain from fields where animals, in particular sheep, graze).
To prepare the salad, cut the avocado in half, stab the stone with a knife, and then twist to free the stone. Peel and slice the avocado just before tossing with the watercress. Make sure you wash the watercress thoroughly just using the tender leaves and then flick dry. Splash a little Village Press Frantoio olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the salad as a dressing. Frantoio is one of the most highly acclaimed oil varieties, exhibiting delicious fruity, nutty flavours. It is also perfect served with fresh crusty bread and at Mister D we serve this prestigious oil with our ciabatta. [In Tuscany, an olive oil processing factory is also called a ‘frantoio’.]
Another hive of artisan activity is to be found in the kitchen at Te Awanga Estate just 800 metres back from the main road. It is here that Anissa – a french chocolatier of petit size – creates her small batches of the very best hand-crafted organic chocolate bars. No butter, eggs or cream are to be found in Anissa’s chocolates. Catching my attention are the unique and delicious flavours such as white chocolate, lemon and poppy seed, and orange and toasted sesame seeds.
The ‘La Petite Chocolat’ range is sold at the Hastings Market, online, at our local Haumoana Four Square and straight from the Cellar Door at Te Awanga Estate. This fresh, pure, quality chocolate is simply chocolate at its best.
In close proximity, just back from the coastal strip, is the only berry garden in our area.
Located at 52 Raymond Road, ‘Blakcatberries’ is planted with approximately two acres of berry fruit and 1.5 acres of apples.
Raspberries, blackberries and boysenberries are grown here. The variety of blackberry grown is Karaka – a hybrid berry that has been achieved by crossing two varieties in the New Zealand hybrid programme achieving that delicious ‘old fashioned’ flavour. Julie and Tony’s chosen variety of boysenberry is ‘McNichol’s choice’ – these are good-sized berries with a sweetness and flavour that is hard to beat. They are lovingly hand-picked and sold fresh from the farm and through local markets. They are currently developing their jam range and sell frozen berries all year round by arrangement. Loading up my basket with these luscious gems, I get that smug feeling that can only be felt when living in places like this.
Picking fresh French tarragon from our garden I start to prepare the compote. Make a light sugar syrup of 2 parts water to 1 part sugar, adding the tarragon stalks and fresh vanilla pods. Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes, then take off the heat and leave to cool. Just before serving, toss the fresh tarragon leaves and syrup with the berries, and serve with a dollop of Origin Earth Pot Set Yoghurt and a drizzle of Arataki honey.
Origin Earth Pot Set Yoghurt is set in the pot that you buy it in. It has a thin layer of cream on the top, and under this is the thick creamy yoghurt. Perfect for garnishing the berry compote achieving a healthy garnish to boot. Origin Earth is a Hawke’s Bay-based company producing fresh milk that is not homogenised. The owners Joni and Richard live only a stones throw away, but their factory is based at the end of Te Mata Road in Havelock North. Their fresh milk is available just hours after the morning milking and all of the milk they use can be traced back to the farm, the paddock, and the animals of origin.
Lunch is served.