A few weeks ago we told you about trading in our car for an old Land Rover, a 2008 LR2. No dog days of summer here—we’ve been busy scouting a rooftop tent, LED lanterns, a camp stove, rollup tables, nonstick pots and pans… Carving out time for the farmers market on Saturday, we found Walter Harvey’s gorgeous pears from the Similkameen Valley—the hottest place in Canada—ripe and ready. Buying non-stick fry pans and juicy pears reminded me of one of the best-tasting salads at Camp Latitude65, invented in Kohanga, our RV in New Zealand.
The genesis of the recipe started with a generous hunk of Kapiti Kahurangi creamy blue cheese that our friend Ruth Ann gifted us when we arrived at Whitianga, where she and Bruce (lucky buggers) live for half the year. New Zealand is the world’s largest producer of milk and milk products—831,000 tonnes of the stuff in 2013. Delicious milk producing delicious lattes, pungent cheeses and thick yoghurts (they add an “h” to yoghurt in NZ). Dairy products here are so good that we’ve heard one of our favourite bakers in Vancouver, Chris Brown from Bâtard Boulangerie and Café Moderne, uses NZ butter in his croissants! Most mornings, Magellan and I plumped our bowls with yoghurt, especially the Collective brand with flavours like passion fruit, rhubarb ‘n custard and plum, and laughed at the tagline on the container: “Great Dairy: No Bull.” I wanted the Kapiti blue to last until halfway through the trip when I realized I better be less stingy about serving it.
At the Saturday farmers market in Whitianga, Ruth Ann pointed out a vendor of macadamia nuts, another homegrown NZ delicacy. Who knew? I also didn’t know they’re only grown on the North Island. How I wish I’d bought them as it wasn’t so easy to find macadamias on the South Island. In a small store in Lake Wanaka halfway through the trip, I bought a rather large bag (to be honest about a pound of them!) that made their way into Kohanga’s cupboards.
Remember this tale from Winnie-the-Pooh: “‘Well,’ said Pooh, ‘what I like best,’ and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.” That’s how I feel about NZ’s mānuka honey, especially Beeware mānuka honey. Kohanga had a jar in one of her cupboards, which meant we had to do more than spread it on toast if we wanted to use it up.
April being autumn in NZ, juicy pears were in season. Not the best fruit to take hiking, pears, like their family members the roses, need attention if you want them to last. Our pears, like the salad greens in Kohanga’s fridge bin, were feeling neglected.
So, from these ingredients and using only one pan and one bowl—camp style—we created this nutty/sweet/savoury/umami salad.
It tasted (almost) as good when we made it at home this week.
But like Pooh, I’m anticipating the moment, and how very good it’s going to taste, out camping this fall. “Sweet-as” as they say in NZ. In translation, “as good as it gets.”
Chris Brown at Bâtard Boulangerie and Café Moderne in Vancouver is a first-rate baker. His goat cheese and apple scones, rusticas, market loaf and levain noir (made with red fife) are especially fine.
Products from The Collective Dairy are easy to find in NZ and most delicious. We loved Puhoi’s yoghurt http://www.puhoivalley.co.nz with flavours like Elderflower Pear, Lemon Delicious and Rhubarb Heaven. Why doesn’t anyone in Canada make rhubarb yogurt? UPDATE: Thanks Ward for letting me know about Riviera’s Petit Pot Rhubarb Yogourt, made in Quebec and as good as any we tried in NZ.
Harvey’s Orchards are at 1050 Chopaka Road in Cawston, BC. His organic pears, cherries, apricots, apples and quince are among the best we’ve eaten; his raspberries so fragrant you swoon.
Soul Food in Lake Wanaka is a great place to stock up on fresh organic produce and macadamia nuts from Greenacres, a Bio-grow certified orchard started by the owners’ great-grandfather more than a 100 years ago in Tikorangi on the North Island.
We found Pasquale’s Beeware bioactive NZ mānuka honey at The Winery in Queenstown. The reason it was there is Pasquale is a winemaker in North Otaga making the most delicious honey as well. The label on the jar says: “Thank you, Bees!” You can find mānuka honey, a dense caramel-coloured delight, at health food and specialty stores and Whole Foods. It’s expensive as the mānuka tree, in the same family as the tea tree, flowers for only two to six weeks per year.
- 2 Tbsp mānuka honey (or your favourite honey)
- ¼ cup macadamia nuts
- 4 pears, cored and sliced
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 3 ounces blue cheese cut into 3 wedges
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp mayonnaise
- small head of butter lettuce, washed, torn into bite-size pieces and spun
- Spoon the honey into a small frypan. (Lick the spoon.) Add the macadamia nuts and caramelize over medium heat, watching it carefully so the nuts don't burn. Remove and place an equal amount on 2 salad plates.
- To the same frypan, add the butter (and a little more honey if you like) and melt over medium heat. Add the pears. Cook until lightly caramelized but still a bit firm. Remove and place an equal amount onto the salad plates.
- Combine 1 wedge of the blue cheese, the olive oil and mayonnaise to make the salad dressing. (I do this in the bowl of the salad spinner to save on dishes.) It will be pasty in consistency. Mix the dressing into the butter lettuce. Place the lettuce evenly in a mound on the salad plates.
- Place the remaining 2 wedges of blue cheese onto the salad plates.