New Zealand Road Trip. Cooking the Local Produce.

ImageOne 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!

ImageNew 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.Image

ImageThe 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



  1. Cook the mussels until they just open. Shell them and then chop the flesh, removing any hard bits, into 1 cm pieces.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.


Around My Edible Garden, March.


I have been recording my vegetable garden activities in a hard covered journal for the last four years. It documents the sequence of planting in our 14 garden beds, as well as recording garden fantasies, drawings of fabulous arches, borrowed designs from garden visits. But there are no photos of each month’s results. Let’s face it, written journals are portable, flexible in style and very ‘Victorian’ when it comes to gardening but blog journals allow one to creep on all fours amongst the plants with camera on Macro, capturing the flowering, fruits, beetles, and worms.


Yesterday the perfect weather, with the promise of rain in the next few days, took me back to the garden to plant seed for the next round of crops. My poor veggie patch has been neglected for months, mainly due to the heat and drought conditions in and around Melbourne, Victoria for the last three months. I plant seed only when

  • the soil is the right temperature ( not too hot/cold)
  • there is no wind ( which dries out the beds)
  • when there is a possible rain event, or even better, an electrical storm
  • when the day time temperature isn’t too hot/cold. If it heats up too much, I throw on my ‘dog beds’ for protection. ImageImage

These perfect conditions usually occur in Autumn and Spring, the busiest time in my garden.

My other garden laws are as follows:

  • Crop rotation ( hence the need for a written journal, with numbered beds). Crops such as silverbeet (chard), lettuce and parsley drop seeds in the same bed year after year, depleting the soil of essential minerals. I now move them along as they pop up. I attempt to rotate tomatoes throughout the beds, never planting them in the same spot for two years.  I have also removed potatoes from the beds completely, growing them in containers as they tend to leave small potato seed behind, which have a detrimental effect on other crops, especially tomatoes.
  • Leaving beds fallow for a season is also advisable. Like us, they need a rest too.
  • Companion planting is great for bug reduction. Certain plants like each other, for example, tomato and basil, but this includes growing nasturtiums and french marigold.
  • I let curly endive and radicchio go to flower each spring: their blue colour attracts bees and assists in fertilising the summer crops. The best specimen of any plant is left to go to seed for collecting. I rarely buy seeds. I have one lettuce variety that has been collected from my gardens for 25 years.
  • Mulching is essential to keep the plant roots moist in summer and warm in winter. I use pea straw. I used to use Lucerne, which is dynamic  but it tends to drop too much weed seed.
  • Composting in layers- one part green, one part brown, one part manure- helps to keep the pile active and sweet, whether in a closed or open bin. Newspaper is collected and shredded by hand- the ink dyes are vegetable based. Leaves are collected too. Manure comes from our three cows and assorted chooks (hens). The kitchen provides the rest. In spring grass clippings are added, as well as an occasional sprinkling of ash from the open fires. There is always plenty of material about.
  • Rain records are kept

Documenting the crop each season is also important. This March ( 2014)  is the year of the eggplant. Last year, capsicums ( peppers), the year before, tomatoes. We do plant all these crops, but each season, one crop ‘stars’ due to the weather conditions. Of course zucchini will always do their thing! This season’s garlic bulbs were huge in size due to abundant Spring rain: last year’s lot were much smaller due to a dry Spring.


Do you have a vegetable garden? How big is it and what system works for you? Do you rotate crops or grow herbs in pots? Are our summers getting hotter? Do you grow your veggies in separate beds or in amongst the flowers?  What are the main pests or problems? Do you share the abundance or make preserves? Do you have an orchard and what is your best crop? Please leave a comment and if you like, add a link to your vegetable garden round-up for March in the comments below, with stories or pictures or both.  Also refer to my blog in your garden story so that it can be included.  This will become a monthly event for me, and I hope you can join too, to document our success and failures in the garden.


This is such a great response from Davide, I am moving it from comments to this spot.

                                              Stealing Kisses

I have 3 beds that I have been using now going into my second winter. I dedicate this space to my “ major” veggies, so eggplant, tomatoes, cucumber, broccoli and beans. My “minor” veggies get relegated to other parts of my garden. For example, rocket and leafy greens. My main problem is the location of the beds, which receive filtered sun during summer and typical issues like aphids ect. Trying to be “organic” and avoiding spraying with nasties is a time consuming process. Having the TIME to dedicate to my veggie patch since the birth of my son is a “ problem “ too 😦
I often feel like I have to steal “ kisses” from my veggie patch 😦
Despite all this, we have surprisingly great crops and, especially in my first summer, was able to hand out to relatives and friends. (I think the best part of growing your own veggies)
We preserved our basil and made homemade pesto, which was incredible! And pickled loads of veggies “ Italian style” …mum helped me out with that and we are still eating to this day. I forget the Italian name for that.
This summer eggplants, cucumbers and capsicum were my big winners. They are still in the ground. The cherry tomatoes grown over an arch did well, but not as well as last summer. I grew 2 on our fence and they did very well. My son loves eating them straight off the vine 🙂 I tried being more sophisticated with my tomatoes plants by pinching out the new growth and having just a main vine, however they struggled again. Lack of mulch, inconsistent watering and no fertilizing cost me I think. (due to a lack of time)
I will give them one more go, before I pack it in and only grow the cherry tomatoes.

I will be purchasing a couple apple creates in the next couple of weeks to build on what I already have, so would like to use them for my leafy greens! I love your idea with the dog beds to protect the seeds. I have loads of problems with falling leaves ect with my seeds.

I love your blog. Thanks Davide


Also check out this delightful edible garden from Deborah ( My Kitchen Witch)  in Sheffield, UK.  Romantic stone walls, Morello cherries, herbs and bay trees, gooseberries look so romantically English and historic.