Saturday, January 29, 2011

Stewart Island

After our outing to Castle Rock and Cave Stream, we were eager to get further away and see some of the country we hadn't yet visited. So, after some planning, a little shopping, and a wee bit of packing we hopped in the car and drove South. We were heading to Bluff at the bottom of the South Island where we would jump onto a ferry and finish off on Stewart Island - otherwise known as, Te Punga o Te Waka a Maui (the anchor stone of Maui's Canoe), which links to the creation story of New Zealand, or more commonly as, Rakiura (the great and deep blushing of Te Rakitamau) for a Maori chieftain who is now seen as the sunrise and sunsets and aurora australis (southern lights). It is a place well-known for being one of the last vestiges of New Zealand native bush and birds, a great place to catch a glimpse of the infamous kiwi. The photos here are an assortment from our trip there and all the splendorous things we saw there. Hope you enjoy!

[Waiting for the ferry in Bluff]

[Bluff is one of the largest ports in New Zealand]

[Halfmoon Bay, Oban - Oban is the only town on Stewart Island]


[Oban waterfront]

[Chess on the beach]

[Territorial Oyster Catchers]

[Golden Bay - where our shuttle left from to take us up to Freshwater Hut]

[Driving through Paterson Inlet and up the river]

[Going up the Freshwater River]

[A load of trampers waiting to board the shuttle heading back to Oban]

[The Freshwater River - reminded me of a jungle river with dense forest to the waters edge]

[Leaving Freshwater Hut]

[Native New Zealand bush]

[Our favorite DOC bridges and hiking up Rocky Mountain]

[Our first kiwi!]

[The top of Rocky Mountain]

[Native forest with ferns galore, rata trees and lots more]

[Much of Stewart Island is made of muck]

[But the hiking is still fantastic]

[A friendly little Stewart Island robin]

[Happy people are more fun]

[Almost there]

[Finally arrived - escaping the sand flies with some inside time]

[Masons Bay]

[Exploring the beach]

[Little Blue penguin]

[Sand dunes]

[Walking back through the Chocolate Swamp - all the little white things are spider nests]

[Trail types]

[Yet another friendly visitor]

[Our ride returned and we were taken back to Oban]

[Through big waves and heavy wind]

We tucked into a hostel that night and hoped for good weather the next day so we could go kayaking.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Beetroot Ravioli with Broad Bean Pesto


For months now I've wanted to make some home made ravioli. We've made lots of home made pasta before, but there's something about ravioli that is just that much better when home made (at least in my head). So, I finally decided that this Saturday I would find some tasty morsels at the market to put into a ravioli. Beetroots and broad beans were the thing, along with some delicious goats cheese parmesan and some ricotta.

Now the great thing about ravioli is that you don't really need a pasta machine. You can simply hand roll the pasta using a rolling pin. It might not be as thin as with a machine, but there's that hand made quality that only comes from, well, your hands. So with our fresh produce from the market and some tasty herbs from the garden, we got at it.

I found this recipe online at the Jamie Oliver website. The original recipe can be found here. But I've included my own version of it here for you. Have fun!

Beetroot ravioli with broad bean pesto


For Filling:
2 beetroots (about the size of your fist - no, not his, yours)
250g mascarpone (or ricotta)
~2 inch piece of parmesan, grated
Freshly ground black pepper

For the pesto:
40-50 podded broad beans
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
50g grated parmesan
1/2 tsp sea salt
Some pepper
30g fresh basil leaves
10g fresh mint leaves
1 tbsp unsalted butter
Juice and zest from 1 lemon
50-75 ml extra-virgin Olive oil

For the pasta:
300g flour
2 eggs
Pinch of salt
50ml water
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil


For the Filling:
1. Boil the beets for ~1 hour, until cooked through. Remove from the water and peel skin once cool enough. Cut into 1 inch cubes.
2. Throw beets and mascarpone (or ricotta) into food processor and blitz until smooth. Dump into a bowl and add the parmesan and season. Mix together. Set aside.

For the pesto:
1. Throw all the ingredients (except the olive oil) into a food processor and mix until roughly chopped. Add a splash of olive oil and pulse. Keep adding oil and pulsing until you reach the consistency desired.
2. Place in a container and press plastic wrap (or a tight fitting lid) right down onto the surface of the pesto to keep air out (this will turn your pesto brown).

For the pasta:
1. Place flour and salt in a mound on work surface and make a well in the middle. Break your eggs into the centre. Add your olive oil and water. Using either a fork or your fingers, gently mix in the liquid ingredients with flour from the inside of the bowl. Don't worry if your bowl breaks and liquid escapes, just sprinkle some of your flour over top of it and mix it together.
2. Knead on counter until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. If it is too wet add more flour, if too dry add a little water.
3. Once the dough has reached a good consistency, cut it into 4 pieces of equal size. Roll one out to ~1/2cm thickness and cut into circles using a cookie cutter, glass rim or jar. Keep cutting and re-rolling until all your dough is gone.
4. Pair up your circles and then roll them out as thin as possible. Brush one circle with water and start filling!

Assembly and cooking:
1. Place a heaped teaspoon of filling (or as much as you can) on the wet circle. Place the other circle on top and press down on the seams all around, trying not to let any filling escape.
2. Place completed ravioli on a dry tea towel and cover with another.
3. Bring some salted water to a boil. Cook your ravioli in batches to ensure they don't stick together for 3-5 minutes - until glossy and cooked through. Use a slotted spoon to remove cooked pasta. Drizzle with olive oil, plate and serve with some pesto.

Mmmmmm - tasty!

PS. We had some filling left over, so the next day we added it to our mashed potatoes and it was pretty tasty (and very pink).

Castle Hill & Cave Stream

A friend from back in Whitehorse arrived in Christchurch last week for a visit. We warmly welcomed to our new home and stuffed him into the small space under our stairs with an air mattress and free room and board. We also excitedly looked forward to all the new exploring we could now do with someone to share New Zealand with. Since we only ever seem to get out of town when someone comes to visit there had been much dreaming about what to do this time.

We settled on doing some local exploring before heading out on a bigger trip (which I will cover a little later on). So, on Sunday, we packed up the car and headed out to Cave Stream and Castle Hill, both out in the Craigieburn Range.

The wind was howling and pushed the car around a bunch, but we eventually made it to the spot. We pulled into the relatively boring looking parking lot on the side of the road. This spot I had driven by a hundred times going to ski hills and tramps (which was always empty) was packed with people, both wet and dry. So we grabbed out flashlights and headed down the trail.

After cross the Broken River, we came around a bend and came to the mouth of the cave. A little trickle of water seeped through the gravel and out into the river, and a cool breath of air whispered out around us. I could hear the distant sound of laughing twisting its way down the tunnel. We turned on our lights and stepped into the dark mouth.

The first bit of the cave is a pool - up to my chest. This is promised to be the deepest part of the stream, but it is known as Cave Stream, so one must expect to get wet. With our breath stolen away in those first two minutes we walked deeper into the cave and out of sight of the entrance.

The stream twists and turns through the ground leaving a smooth walled tunnel for us to stumble through in excitement and awe. You can run your fingers along the walls and not hit anything sharp, they've all been sanded smooth by occasional flooding. Up waterfalls and through knee deep pools, around corners with multiple passageways and under ceilings that disappear in the darkness beyond the reach of my light.

We are not alone. This is a popular route, especially on a beautiful day such as this. We occasionally meet a group of three, trading the front with them. Though we both eventually catch up with the group of almost a dozen Chinese visitors filling the cave with laughter and camera flashes. They kindly let us by and their noise dims quickly as we wind our way round more twists and turns and up waterfalls.

After almost an hour we come to another deep pool with two waterfalls, one to get in and one to get out. We all dive into the pool to fully submerge ourselves in the cool cave waters before entering the bright world of sunshine and birds. Then it's up the ladder, along the squeeze and out into the light.

[The trail back]

[Looking back towards the mouth]

[Back to the car]

After getting back to the car, we eat some lunch and change into some dry clothes. We hop into the car and head off down the road to Castle Hill. Another neat place I've driven past so many times without stopping.

[Castle Hill Reserve]

[Large limestone rocks litter the slope]

[The trail winds between monoliths]

[Ben's limestone ship]

[Taking in the view]

[My rock bath]

We soon decide to head off home and get ready for our big trip. Off to Stewart Island!

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Last Saturday was hot. By 10am, when Stephen and I went out to Lyttleton to shop it was already smoking and by lunch, when we returned it was about 32 degrees centigrade. We unloaded the food, planted the pepper plants we had purchased, ate some food and grabbed our swimsuits. Then, along with our friend visiting from Whitehorse, we climbed back into the car and drove up into the Port Hills.

We wandered about Godley Head, from gun placement to gun placement. Unfortunately, the camera I had brought was dead, but you can see pictures from a previous trip here. It was a little different, as the tunnel walk was closed due to earthquake damage, but we managed to find some awesome tunnels to explore related to the massive underground gun magazines. We wandered back to the car and drove the twisting road down through Lyttleton and over to Corsair Bay, where we scoffed some tasty ice cream and then dove into the bay and washed the sweat of the day off our bodies. We returned home just as the wind was picking up and the sky was filling with the tell tale signs of Nor'wester.

[Nor'wester sky - the arch is just barely visible in the bottom left]

Now Nor'westers are definitely Canterbury phenomenon. Occurring when warm moist air from the Tasman Sea is blown up against the Southern Alps, the clouds are forced to drop their moisture (as rain) and rise quickly. As the cross over the mountains and drop down again they pick up a lot of heat from the plains and by the time they reach the East coast of the South Island it is a hot, dry wind that can sometimes reach gale force strength. The Nor'wester is often associated with an amazing sky and what is known as the Nor'wester arch, with dense clouds above the East coast with an absolutely clear sky to the West. Locally known, and widely accepted, to affect people's moods, it also usually means a poor night of sleep. Because it's so amazingly hot.

[Despite the wind, our BBQ was nice - as per usual]

So after, a tasty BBQ with our neighbours and friends, we settled into bed for a restless nights' sleep. Hoping tomorrow would maybe not be quite so hot.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Summer Bounty

We've now been back in New Zealand for a little over a week and we're slowly settling into the heat and the increased free time we seem to have accumulated. But don't worry, that free time is not going to waste. No Sir. Well, most of it anyhow. We have come back to a country full of ripening fruit and veggies just waiting to be preserved.

The first thing I did when I came back (after unpacking of course) was to call up my Austrian friend, Ursula, and get myself invited over to learn how to make Walnut Liquor using green walnuts. We collected a basket full from her walnut tree out back and she dutifully wrote down the instructions for me to follow at home. This was something totally new for me, so I will have a long wait for the 8 weeks to pass until I can sieve it and give it a try.

On Saturday, Stephen and I got out to our weekly market visit and were absolutely floored by the amount and variety of fruit already ripe. I swear it was at least a couple of weeks later last year. Oh well. We loaded up on cherries (right at the end of their season), apricots (just starting), strawberries, raspberries (from the North Island) and tomatoes (for tasty chutney or relish or both). On the way home we came across several plum trees dripping with fruit so we obliged by lightening the boughs and bringing home our amazing finds.

With the table groaning under the weight of all that fruit we knew we had to get to work. So yesterday afternoon, we cranked out some strawberry and vanilla jam, and some plain old delicious raspberry jam. This morning I made up some plum and star anise jam and this afternoon, we'll make up some tasty cherry jam. The kitchen is sticky with sugar and the house is warm with all that steam filling it up, but our cupboards are filling up with the glimmering jars of jewel toned preserves. Ready to fill our dreary winter with their bright sunshiney tastes.

Walnut Liquor (from Ursula)

2L vodka (38-42%, make sure it's good stuff as the quality of the vodka will directly affect the quality of your finished product)
1 cinnamon stick
35-40 green walnuts (they need to be young enough to that the shell has not started to form inside the meat - you'll know if it has when you cut into them)
1 Tbsp cloves
750g sugar (warmed - place in a cake pan in the oven and heat to ~180 centigrade, stirring evey so often with a spoon to keep it from clumping)
Peel from 2 lemons (keep the pieces large so you can easily fish them out at the end)
Peel from 2 organes (keep the pieces large so you can easily fish them out at the end)

- Chop the walnuts finely
- Place everything in a container (if you use 2L of vodka you should have a 3L container) and cover tightly
- Leave for 8 weeks, shake every so often

And I am not yet sure what you do after 8 weeks, but I will be sure to update you when I learn (in 8 weeks time).