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Archive for August, 2014

Broccoli (Brassica oleracea)

Broccoli (Brassica oleracea)

Spring flowers, broccoli among them

Spring flowers, broccoli among them

Watching a head of broccoli (Brassica oleracea) on a grocer’s shelf isn’t much of a spectator event, but watching one come slowly to fruition in your own garden is fine entertainment, the intrigue and expectation rising with each daily episode. You want it to become as big as it will get, but not to burst into actual flower. And you want to do it justice because it has been the star of a show before it even got to the kitchen.

Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)

Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)

Marigold (Tagetes sp.) and calendula (Calendula officinalis)

Marigold (Tagetes sp.) and calendula (Calendula officinalis)

And then the thinking starts about how broccoli is a flower bud, and how you have been enjoying flowers in salads of late from the calendula (Calendula officinalis), marigold (Tagetes sp.) and nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) you planted as companions and the rocket (Eruca sativa) that has rocketed on all winter out the front. Capers (Capparis spinosa; more flower buds) and honey (bee-processed flower juice) could go in a fresh mayonnaise, mixed over the steamed broccoli and the whole thing strewn with petals. Deep-fried onion flowers (actual flowers, not where you cut an onion so that it looks like a bloom) come out a bit bitter and are dusted on top only very lightly. It is the last day of winter, but spring is well and truly here.

Spring flower salad starring broccoli, nasturtium, calendula, marigold, capers and nectar (honey)

Spring flower salad starring broccoli, nasturtium, calendula, marigold, capers and nectar (honey)

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MolluscRules

Play by the rules, especially when you are a visitor: Bag limit of 10 paua (25 for mussels), minimum size 12.5cm

Paua (Haliotis iris)

Paua (Haliotis iris)

If there is one thing that I love as much as Australian blacklip abalone (Haliotis rubra), it is New Zealand paua (Haliotis iris). And I’ll go pretty close to the ends of the earth to get it. Southland to be precise; the remote south coast of remote New Zealand’s remote South Island, or even the more remote Stewart Island that hangs off the bottom of that. If you do happen to get there and find someone else holidaying in Southland, as often as not they will be a Southlander themselves. It is that kind of wonderful place with wonderful people where there are plenty of reasons either not to leave or to make an effort to get back if you do. As long as you are of the opinion that paradise can be often cold and wet, then this is it.

Cosy Nook on Southland’s south coast – supposedly not actually a great paua spot any more, but a beautiful place that can easily be on the way to one

Cosy Nook on Southland’s south coast – supposedly not actually a great paua spot any more, but a beautiful place that can easily be on the way to one

Where this place is and whether I got paua there is something I really couldn’t say

Where this place is and whether I got paua there is something I really couldn’t say

If you really time it right and get lucky, you might even get some paua without getting too wet, but this means getting to the right spot in the short window of the bottom of the lowest tide of the month as far as I can work out. If you strike out, there is at least always a pretty good chance of some lovely greenlip mussels (Perna canaliculus) for consolation. Off Southland, you will be doing well to get clear enough water for good snorkelling visibility, so it seems to me that you still want the bottom of the tide for that and to find a sheltered spot in shallow water on any typically murky day and just fumble about as best as you can. A sure haul of big ones would probably want you in some more challenging water and ideal conditions, but in the end you just have to make do with what you get.

Groping around in the low tide might make finding paua difficult, but mussels are a likely consolation

Groping around in the low tide might make finding paua difficult, but mussels are a likely consolation

greenlip mussels (Perna canaliculus)

greenlip mussels (Perna canaliculus)

Get yourself across the Foveaux Strait from the south coast to Stewart Island (Rakiura) on the other hand, hire a kayak for a few nights out in some of the huts around Paterson Inlet, take a decent wetsuit and your mask and snorkel and things certainly get easier. They don’t get warmer mind you, and it still rains on more days than it doesn’t, so you just gear up and embrace it as ‘part of the charm’.

I have to say that I hate those recommendations of ‘things that you should do before you die’, like paraglide naked in the moonlight with whale sharks in Lappland. But still, if eating fresh paua (or any seafood you took part in landing) at the bottom of New Zealand turns out to be one of them, you are sure to be glad of it.

Troll with a lure while you’re at it and you may get a barracouta (Thyrsites atun) – not a popular local delicacy, but can be bait for the blue cod (Parapercis colias) that is

Troll with a lure while you’re at it and you may get a barracouta (Thyrsites atun) – not a popular local delicacy, but can be bait for the blue cod (Parapercis colias) that is

While swimming is decidedly chilly around Stewart Island, there is a good chance that you will be cold and wet above the water anyway

While swimming is decidedly chilly around Stewart Island, there is a good chance that you will be cold and wet above the water anyway

Snorkelling alongside a kayak buddy helps you be a little bolder and gives you somewhere to stash the catch

Snorkelling alongside a kayak buddy helps you be a little bolder and gives you somewhere to stash the catch

Cook them as you would other abalone, sliced and tenderised in my view, sautéed hot and fast in butter (see here). Generous serves in a sandwich of that cheap soft white bread you mightn’t let your kids eat, particularly when camping, can be perfect (and a filling with an (irrelevant) market value of $10 on 10c bread is somehow strangely and ironically decadent).

PauaFeet

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If patience was indeed a virtue, a great many more fishermen and women would be saints. And if persistence was instead the virtue, almost all of those who keep on fishing through most of their lives would be candidates. Because that is what fishing so often seems to call upon. I know one bloke who heads out to catch live bait in the afternoon to fish dusk in one place, the turn of the tide in the night at another and has been known to catch a few z’s on the floor of the dinghy before trying another tide change or dawn, only to go home empty handed. When many, including me, might have been more inclined to take the squid from the bait catch home for a meal at a decent hour, he is after Sydney Harbour’s game fish and only its game fish – kingies (Seriola lalandi) in the day and jewies (Argyrosomus japonicus) in the night. For others, the persistence is a fierce refusal to be beaten by a particular fishing spot or method; returning again and again because they know that sooner or later the fish will be ‘on the chew’. For me, it is trout along the shores of the outlet of New Zealand’s Lake Wanaka where the Clutha River begins.

No fish

Not catching fish, but with a wonderful view on Lake Wanka

As a younger man, going back some 20 years, I did well there. ‘Tassie devil’ lures were the go at the time. Later, there was a decent run of hooking up on diving hard bodied lures with rattles in them. Soft plastics were also tried, but despite being the rage of modern fishing, they are a recurrent disappointment for me. In fact, for three years running, everything was. The closest I came to a feed was a rabbit that the car got the better of on the way home one evening

But I persisted. I recognised that a lot of the time I was fishing with the sun too high because with a kid, twilight was an increasingly difficult time to get out fishing. Or that I was I running lures too high in the water because they cost too much money to risk busting (another one) off on the lake floor. And I knew that I had started to often fish… perhaps ‘ambiently’ is the word, just casting and retrieving mechanically with the consoling pleasure of simply being there, perhaps on my own, perhaps with the boy along for the outing, a play and a splash. The place I am talking about objectively presents a scene that anyone would call beautiful, but which for me has somehow become some sublime treasure as one of the key touchstones of the Kiwi part of me (an Australian for the most part).

HaweaFishing

Still not catching fish, but still with a wonderful view on nearby Lake Hawea

But as far as the actual core purpose of the activity goes – trout (or land-locked Quinnat salmon as an outside chance) – nothing. For close to three consecutive annual trips. And then finally, this year, one long skinny jack-jawed old male brown trout (Salmo trutta). I was, quite simply, utterly joyous with my prize. If you had asked me, when that fish was securely on shore, if I was content to simply fish for the sake of wetting a line in paradise, I would have laughed disdainfully in your face. When push comes to shove, there is inevitably one core and utterly dominant reason why I fish, and that is to catch fish and eat it. If you had come to me with an insistence that I put it back because you have bought into the cruel perversity of catch-and-release, it would more likely have been you taking a swim (seriously, if you want them to remain in the water instead of a pan, then don’t give them a hook in the face to start with). There was nobody there to see me walk back to the car that evening, nobody to see a two metre man feeling like a three metre one walking with a two foot fish feeling like a three foot one.

BrownTrout

Brown trout (Salmo trutta)

For all that this fish was destined for the plate and completely guaranteed a welcome reception when it got there, a big old seemingly half-spent male is still not the ideal animal for it. But thankfully, there is possibly nothing wrong with any of the salmonid fish that a hot smoker can’t fix. A mix of manuka and apple wood sawdust, 30 mins in the hot smoker (one full load in the methylated spirits burners that drive it all plus some time finishing as the box cools down), some decadently expensive horseradish cream and some crackers, and it was all worth it. Perhaps as many as twenty outings (albeit some very cursory) over three years, more than $300 in fishing licences, maybe $200 in gear and a great deal of salivating expectancy; all down to what was essentially a pretty simple feed. And all of it worth it.

BrownTroutSmoker

SmokedBrownTrout

Hot smoked brown trout with horseradish cream and capers

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