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    Saturday, September 26, 2009

    The Ultimate Spring Dinner - Asparagus

    They keep on telling us 1st of September is not the first day of Spring...the 21st is that magic day. So bearing this fact in mind, coupled with my lack of cooking for 6 days, this is our first spring dinner.
    I was excited to see loads of asparagus in the supermarket, all looking fresh, great and at a really good price. I bought 3 bunches.So excited.

    I combined it with new potatoes, fresh snapper and cherry tomatoes.
    We loved it.

    Blanch the asparagus in salted boiling water... about 2 minutes, quickly cool it and set aside.

    Cut 6 cherry tomatoes in half set aside

    Put the new potatoes on. They only take about 12 minutes in boiling salted water, drain and toss with a knob of butter and a good grind of black pepper.

    The following is still my favourite way of cooking fish. It is so moist and flavourful.

    Season the fish with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    Place into a medium hot pan, 2 tablespoons of olive oil
    Add the filets cook for about 2 minutes
    Add a good knob of butter
    Swirl around
    Turn the fish over
    Throw in 1/2 glass white wine.
    Turn the heat up till the wine comes to the boil, should only take seconds
    Turn the heat off, cover and leave about another 2 minutes.

    The fish should be perfectly cooked
    Remove and keep warm

    Turn the heat up again and toss the asparagus and tomatoes into the juices

    Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    Toss around in the juices for another minutes or so

    Serve. Can't get much better than that.

    Thursday, September 24, 2009

    DJ Takes us to the Tip Of New Zealand

    What a Difference a day makes!

    Above - Monday night, dull and grey.
    Below - Tuesday morning, Sunny and Fab.

    High on my Bucket List, is to visit as many places as I can in New Zealand.
    You get so blase about your own country. Other people rave above this place and we all go Yeah Yeah.
    The last couple of years as "non-going-out-to-work-everyday" people, we have done a bit of road travel. Did the road trip to from Auckland to Wanaka a couple of years ago.
    It was fantastic fun. Now thanks to our friends DJ and Lu, we had this opportunity to go to the Far North. I really wanted to go to Cape Reinga.
    This is the north-western-most tip of New Zealand and is famous for the meeting of two seas. The mighty Pacific Ocean and The Tasman Sea.
    So we set off for our Trek to Cape Reinga. First stop Taipa to shop for Petrol.
    According to local history this is where Kupe (who was the first Polynesian explorer to discover New Zealand) apparently landed. This sculpture (situated outside of the Gas Station) was designed to commemorate this landing. We filled up and headed North.
    This was a fascinating find. This machine (below) is designed to wash the posts on the edge of the road. The little green thing is like a mini brush. It goes up and down. How about that for a job? 'I am a post washer'!
    Hunting for coffee we went down to Houhora Heads. Looked interesting.
    Little bit ramshackle, me thinks! They had an Internet Cafe.
    Love the mail box.
    Seems like they are not prepared for Intrepid travelers and Coffee.
    How about that for an Internet Cafe?
    Love it.
    So the Coffee hunt was still on.
    En route...this is a view of the Houhora Bay. very pretty with the little boats all anchored.
    Took a shot of DJ taking a shot. There was a bit of that.
    There hope for us yet... look at that wonderful old lady tending her garden.
    Finally we found a Cafe in Waitiki Landing
    We have made a discovery. When hunting for Coffee.
    1. If it says Tearooms - no.
    2. Don't be too put off by the exterior.
    3. Pop your head in, if there is a Big Italian Coffee Machine you can almost guarantee a good brew.
    Frequently the Coffee Reps give the staff Barista lessons.
    This Cafe/Pub had seen better days
    There was a big coffee machine, so we gave it a go.
    The lovely lady made us excellent coffee.
    She had had lessons from her Coffee Rep. It paid off.

    Plenty to look at in this establishment.
    Good artifacts.
    If you caught a big enough fish, you got on the notice board.
    Dozens of Happy Punters.
    Probably not the most interesting Souvenir collection.
    Wonder how many people use this exit.
    Maybe a few, late at night, after a bevy or two.
    Now a mention... this is the last port of call before you reach the Cape.
    Bit disappointed. Good coffee but no Date scones, or even a muffin, but plenty of burgers and chips, if you are so inclined.
    Suggest you wait till you get to Pukenui. (arrow down, information there)
    A new home for a lighthouse!
    Waitiki Landing
    So only another 20 kms or so to the Cape.
    We pulled alongside Tourist Coaches and lots of cars.
    I imagine this is pretty busy in the summer.
    D.O.C. have done a wonderful job with this treasure of ours. There is lots of information in both Maori and English. So attractive, Rusty iron with the text burnt out.
    These boards were scattered around the site. Lots of interesting information.
    D.O.C. have made a fairly grand entrance and as you walk through, there are haunting sounds. This is a very spiritual Place for Maori. According to legend, the spirits of the dead travel to Reinga before departing to the next world.

    As you look west, you see another headland called Cape Maria Van Diemen,
    so named by Dutch explorer Able Tasman, when he passed through in 1642.
    It is so beautiful. The colour of the water is breathtaking.
    Its a good walk down to the lighthouse and it is imperative that you do it.
    This is where you really get to see the oceans meet.
    A little posing by DJ and Lu.
    Everyone loves the sign post.
    The light house is impressive.
    Lu and I looking out to Cape Maria Van Diemen
    On your left, Ladies and Gentlemen, The Tasman Sea. On your right, the Pacific Ocean.
    Get ready to rumble!
    As it was a calm day, there was only a small battle, but I guess when the wind blows it must be amazing.
    It was only such a short time ago we landed at London Airport, ready for our European Adventure. Now we are at the other side of the world.

    The Intrepid Four

    So farewell to Cape Reinga. We were getting a bit peckish but first we visited the Giant Sand Dunes. This is the entrance to the World Famous Ninety Mile Beach. You need a four wheel drive to embark a journey onto the beach. The trusty Ford Falcon didn't fit the bill, so we looked, took photos and moved on.
    There is a strong resemblance to Fraser Island, in Queensland Australia. Driving through wild bush, following river beds to get onto the beach, then beating the tide, all very adventurish. Lots of people have been stuck. Not us though. We were hungry.
    We decided to give Waitaki Landing a swerve for our lunch and headed for Houhora.
    This time not the heads, but Pukenui Village. Great little shopping centre. There is the local Post Office, General Store, Pub and this lovely Cafe.
    The Pukenui Pacific Bar, Cafe and Takeaways
    Highly recommended. I suggest you make your way to the Cape, late morning... have a good look around, then come back and have a leisurely lunch.
    I had a fabulous steak and onion sandwich.
    Mine host (pictured below).
    Nothing was too much trouble, everyone's food was excellent. He came out to check that we were happy.
    Definitely would go there again
    We were pretty well tuckered out by then, so our Camp Leader drove us back to Accacia Lodge and we all had a wee nap.
    After a quick pre-dinner drink, we popped into Mangonui, to the local Thai.
    'Thai Chefs Restaurant'. Glad we booked, it was busy.
    Had very good food, we over ordered and I didn't have the camera. So no shots.
    The general consensus. Very Good.
    Keen to get to bed...but first, just a little brandy night cap.
    Slept well.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009

    DJ's Famous Tiki Tour of the Far North

    Normally when we drive up north of Auckland it is to join the boat and see the far north from the water. This time we are with our friends, DJ and Lu and we are exploring the top bit of New Zealand. DJ, the designated driver, a Tour Guide extraordaire.
    We left Auckland, it was dull, then it rained. Pity as the landscape was grey and uninteresting. We stopped at the Kaiwaka Dutch Deli for Cheese buying. These people bring in the most beautiful cheese from Holland and it is a must.
    To the left of the Cheese Shop, is this amazing looking restaurant, Eutopia Could be a Hobbit Pit Stop.
    We toyed with lunch at Eutopia, which I must admit is a fabulously eccentrically decorated eatery. They didn’t have the food we fancied so we soldiered on. A detour to Waipu Beach was fruitless. Everything closed. We are a bit previous for this road trip. One bonus though, not too many other tourists. The hunger pains were kicking in, so we entered Whangarei Proper, instead of bypassing, which is the norm and found a great little pub the Jovial Judge. Based in the old courthouse, it had a fire going and looked most welcoming.

    The menu was interesting and we ordered between us, some tasty food. Nice little find. We didn’t want to be stuck with big fat tasteless Panini, stuffed full of raw spinach and sprouts,
    The Jovial Judge had Oysters, Calamari, Scallops on Mash (DJ's choice)
    Bangers and Mash (me, nice plump Pork sausages with onion jam and gravy)
    Just what we needed…Perfect.
    Next stop Whangarei Falls, never been there before, (cause we always bypass!) nice toilets, falls impressive, a good drop.

    Shame about the rain. But that didn’t deter our intrepid guide, this was a falls day… he could hunt them out... instead bypassing of Pahia, we took that route, and found the Haruru Falls, out of Pahia. We have been to Pahia umpteen times and have never seen the falls. Learning a lot on this Tiki Tour .
    We then drove on ,got caught in a traffic jam, South of Kerikeri, ironically caused by a crash, so much for the notice carefully put up by the Transport Department.
    Did a 'uey' to get out of the jam and took a scenic tour to Waimate North 15 kms and then wound our way back onto the main highway till we were well and truly passed the crash. Might be a long diversion but better than sittingtwiddling your thumbs. Finally
    we reached Manganui.

    We did a few extra kms finding our way around, looking for Mill Bay Road, the location of our destination… found out later we had passed the sign twice and didn’t see it, but hey, we got there in the end.
    Accacia Lodge is a small Motel complex with a heated pool. Mine host Roger is very charming and nothing is too much trouble. A very pretty vista.
    Bed is comfortable and what looked like a shower, that could be like a Chinese torture dripping tap, in fact was a good solid rush.
    Time for pre-dinner drinks, and then we walked into the village for dinner. The first place we came to was The World Famous “Manganui Fish Shop”. If it is good enough for the World it’s good enough for us. And it was. They made all sort of seafood salads…We grabbed the plump little shrimps with a good dipping sauce while we waited for the Fish and Chips.
    They were frying Hapuka, (grouper) one of my favourites. Great fish and chips. Everything came in disposable…so wrap up your dishes andin to the bin. Saves on washing up. Might be killing trees and things that make plastic, but we are saving water.. So end of Day one.
    It rained as we walked home so much for the winterless north.