What does one eat when they go to New Zealand you ask? Well, everything you can’t get in Fiji of course. I started by eating my way through the produce section of the local market…. cherries, apricots, nectarines, strawberries and kiwi.
I wanted to cook for my host so I whipped up a brunch of lumberjack proportions & this was the menu:
Omelet with sauteed onions and zucchini
Oatmeal with homemade strawberry rhubarb jam
Fruit salad of nectarines, apricots and kiwi with a lemon juice and local honey drizzle
I miss zucchini people, I don’t know why exactly but I go for it straight away when I can get it. I sauté the onions and zucchini low and slow so they get soft and creamy versus burnt and crispy. The fruit salad speaks for itself, bright and tart, the honey rounds it out. The strawberry rhubarb jam was created on the fly when I walked through a market and saw this most delightful rhubarb begging to be used. It just so happened strawberries were on sale so the jam-idea was born. The recipe is stupidly easy & requires no skill or technique whatsoever. See recipe below for said tangy treat.
The next thing I couldn’t wait to get my hands on were the New Zealand Green Lipped Mussels. I have had these many times before in the US and they are known globally for being some of the best in the world. I bought some in bulk for $3.49 per kg….for those of you not familiar with the metric system that’s a meager $1.59 per pound. Score!! A bowl of a dozen of these in a mid-range restaurant in the US is easily $18. High 5 local seafood!! You can make these mollusks a million different ways, but I’m a purest so I like mine steamed, straight up with nothing or at most a splash of lemon. These were delectable. Moist and tender, they were bathed in its own broth tasting of warm sea water, briny, mild and smooth. The inner shell is a multi-hued mother of pearl. This was a budget masterpiece fit for a queen. Hands down the BEST mussels I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating.
New Zealand and especially Auckland is hugely ethnically diverse which makes the foodie VERY happy. I saw kebabs, Indian, Italian and even an organic African restaurant all in one short drive. One of the things I miss most in Fiji is hummus. Can’t get enough of that delicious Mediterranean dip! When I was in Dunedin I asked my local host “Where’s the best kebab place?” He replied, “Oh yeah, let’s go there now.” A minuscule, cramped joint, but it had all the fix’ns & I was ready to build a masterpiece of meat. I ordered the lamb kebab and after chatting with the hand-rolled cigarette smelling Turkish owner for a few minutes I think he was ready to take me back to his home country. No worries, I used that to my advantage and out of the corner of my eye and with a gentle smile asked for extra hummus and a generous splash of the special sauce (which I later found out was a not-so-special mix of ketchup and mayo). He obliged. I ate it warm, parked along the beach while I watched the heavy winds push the seagulls backward.
And finally, the coffee. I’m not a “don’t-talk-to-me-until-I-have-my-morning-cup-of-coffee” person. I’m more of a “don’t-talk-to-me-unless-I’ve-meditated” kind of person. However, over the years I have learned to enjoy the distinct flavor of a quality roasted bean. In Fiji all you get is instant so when I land in a place that loves coffee I’m drinking it. Even the gas stations make each cup of coffee from scratch; there wasn’t even the option of having the dreaded, disappointing cup of “drip” coffee. But of course, you can’t drink your coffee alone, it must be accompanied by a tasty treat. A scone, caramel slice, cookie or anything sweet, creamy, buttery, crunchy or all of the above. I stopped for an afternoon pick-me-up in Queenstown at an outdoor café to people watch and sip a rocket-fuel strong cup of “long-black”, meaning espresso with a splash of hot water in it. I want to taste the flavor of the bean, so I like it black, no sugar and definitely no frilly flavored cream…(shuuuuderrrr)….. I also ordered a florentine, a very thin, crisp cookie made with honey, sugar, sliced almonds and candied fruit; the underside of the cooled confection was coated with dark chocolate. Yeah, I know, not exactly “clean eating” but I’ve got one word for you: vacation.
Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
1 pint strawberries, quartered with green tops removed
2 stalks rhubarb, chopped into ¼ inch pieces
1 cinnamon stick
½ cup brown sugar
2 tblsp water
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat covered over medium heat stirring occasionally. It will begin to breakdown and thicken. Cook until thickened completely about 15-25 minutes. Let cool and remove cinnamon stick before storing. Store refrigerated if by some unlikely chance you have leftovers.
I also turn this into a crumble. Take cooked strawberry rhubarb mixture and pour in a small pie dish. Top with a mixture of oats, sugar, cinnamon and cut in butter. Pour over top and bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees or until browned on top and bubbling.