One of the joys of travelling abroad is the chance to eat the local cuisine. Even better if you get the chance to cook it yourself. Some of my fondest food memories are of meals cooked in backpacker lodges in Ireland and Scotland, rented houses in Italy and France as well as meals made camping, both here in Australia and in New Zealand. I often dream of the wild salmon and new baby potatoes we cooked in the backpacker lodge in Ballina, County Mayo, Ireland, or the fig jam we made in St Michele d’euzet, Languedoc, France or picking local herbs to enhance a lovely farro soup while staying in Guido’s ‘Casa dello Scrittore’ near Lucca, Italy.
A trip to New Zealand in a campervan/motor home/RV provides another chance to eat some very fine local produce. Seafood is plentiful and inexpensive- just look at the amount of coastline on a map!
New Zealanders love to smoke fish and I am really pleased about this. Chowder is on the restaurant menus and it is always on mine too. Heavenly smoked mussels from Coromandell are addictive. Smoked Hake, Tarakihi and Trevally are readily available in supermarkets. Fresh green lipped mussels can be purchased for $2.00 a kilo, while local Gurnard, Salmon, Snapper and Tarakihi are the main fish varieties commonly available. Pipis and clams can be collected or purchased.
The seasons in the North Island are mild; the soil is rich and fertile, largely due to earlier volcanic action. Visiting Farmer’s markets along the way to find fresh, local and organic produce is so satisfying. In May, you can expect to find local avocados, persimmons, mandarins, apples, all manner of lovely vegetables, field mushrooms, organic cheeses, sourdough breads and olives. Many farmers sell directly from stalls along route, and the wineries of New Zealand are always close by and very tempting. The local Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris are very tasty indeed. The Sauvignon Blanc I can happily leave on the shelf.
Here is one sample of ‘on the road’ cooking from our recent trip. This is a simple and easy dish to prepare on a two burner stove inside a motor home using all fresh NZ produce.
Salmon fillet, with Mussel, Spring Onion and Cream sauce, mashed Agria potatoes.
Ingredients ( for 2)
- 2 pieces of New Zealand salmon fillet, skin on, around 150 grs per person.
- 150 gr fresh green lip mussels
- one small container of local cream
- unsalted New Zealand butter
- 4 spring onions
- 4-6 Agria potatoes, peeled
- EV olive oil
- salt, black pepper
- Cook the mussels until they just open. Shell them and then chop the flesh, removing any hard bits, into 1 cm pieces.
- Melt a knob of butter in a small pan, add finely chopped spring onions, including some of the green. When soft, add a slurp of white wine ( straight from the glass that you are drinking), reduce, then add the chopped mussels and a generous glug of cream. Season with pepper only.
- Boil the potatoes, add salt to taste towards the end of cooking. Mash with a knob or two of butter, finsih off with a little cream and fork until until smooth.
- Meanwhile, cook the salmon fillets in a frying pan with a little EV olive oil, until crispy on the skin side, then turn and cook briefly. Remove from heat. The salmon will continue cooking as you assemble the dish.
- Re- warm the mussel sauce, plate the mash, add the salmon fillet, then arrange the mussel sauce over and around the plate.
Note. On the road means always making extra. The left over potatoes and mussels became the next day’s tasty mussel and potato patties.