My hairdresser has travelled extensively overseas but until recently had never visited the South Island. I suspect a lot of Kiwis haven’t explored their own ‘backyard’. So now is the time and I encourage travellers to enjoy some of the food specialties of the regions visited.

Who knew that the only cranberry farm in New Zealand is situated close to Westland’s Hokitika where one can purchase fresh berries in season plus frozen fruit, sauces, jellies and relishes? And that pistachios are being trialled in Central Otago? And pomegranates in Northland?

The range of New Zealand food is as diverse as our scenic attractions. Some foods may be special to more than one area — for example, scallops from Coromandel and Nelson — but often local conditions will influence the character of the food providing flavour differences. 


I grew up in Hawke’s Bay and have wonderful childhood memories of ‘picking our own’ stone fruit at local orchards or purchasing them from road-side stalls. There’s nothing quite like the taste of fresh, tree-ripened fruit. The roasting of the stone fruit in this recipe imparts intense flavour.

Roasted Stone Fruit: 4 apricots, halved and stoned
2 each: peaches, nectarines
4 tablespoons each: runny honey, water
Sauce: 2 apricots 
1 each: nectarine, peach 
2 tablespoons each: runny honey, water 
Filling: 1/2 cup cream
2 tablespoons icing sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla essence
1 cup thick plain yoghurt
Flan: 23cm-25cm prepared flan
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pistachio nuts

Preheat the oven to 190°C. 

Place the apricots in a baking dish. Halve the peaches, peel and stone. Add to the apricots in a single layer together with the stoned nectarines. Drizzle with the combined honey and water.

Bake for about 20 minutes until softened. Cool. Can be prepared up to 2 days ahead. 

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Chop the stoned apricots and nectarine. Halve the peach, peel, stone and chop. Place the fruit in a saucepan with the honey and water. Simmer for about 10 minutes until very soft. Purée until smooth. Add a little extra water if too thick. Cool.

To make the filling, whip the cream, icing sugar and vanilla together until very thick. Fold in the yoghurt.

Spoon evenly into the flan. Slice the nectarines and peaches and arrange attractively over the flan together with the apricots. Drizzle with a little sauce. Sprinkle with the nuts. Serve the remaining sauce on the side. Serves 6-8.


The warm coastal waters of Northland provide an abundance of shellfish, crustaceans, fin and game fish. Many travellers enjoy at least one day on the briny catching their own. John Dory is a premium fish but snapper, hapuku, hoki and gurnard — amongst others — are also plentiful. Although squid (calamari) is also fished, it's in Whanganui where this cephalopod is considered a local speciality.

Squid: 2 cleaned squid tubes, about 100g each
1 medium onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 each: red and yellow capsicums
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 cup chopped parsley
6 large button mushrooms, diced
salt and pepper to taste
1 small egg, lightly beaten
1 cup good tomato pasta sauce
Paprika Fish: 350g skinned and boned white fish fillets, eg John Dory, snapper 
3 tablespoons plain flour
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil

Wash the squid tubes and pat dry.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Sauté the onion until softened. Seed and dice the capsicum. Add to the onion with the garlic, parsley and mushrooms. Season. Cook until the vegetables are soft. Remove from the heat and add the egg. Cool. Fill the squid tubes with the mixture. Secure the ends with toothpicks. Can be refrigerated until ready to cook.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the squid in a small baking dish and pour the pasta sauce over the top. Cover and bake for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, divide the fish into 4 servings. Dust with the flour, paprika, salt and pepper combined. Sauté in the oil for about 2 minutes each side or until cooked. 

With a sharp knife, halve the squid crosswise. Serve with the fish on the side. Great served on rice or couscous drizzled with the pasta sauce and garnished with fresh herbs. Serves 4.


The Bay of Plenty is aptly named. It is home to hundreds of hectares of nutritious kiwifruit and numerous other fruits, and the Bay’s avocados are considered some of the best in the country. About 40 years ago my father tried his first avo purchased from an honesty stall — which he ate like a pear. (Avos are also called alligator pears.) This was one of his favourite recipes

4 tablespoons each: lime juice, avocado oil
flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 avocados
4 thick slices ciabatta, toasted
1/4 cup chopped coriander leaves

Whisk the lime juice, oil and seasonings together.

Halve, stone and peel the avocados. Cut each half into 3 wedges.

Place 3 wedges on top of each piece of hot toasted ciabatta, drizzle with the dressing and sprinkle with the coriander. Serve immediately. Serves 4.


In Southland, Central Otago and Westland, wild deer roam the mountains. Travellers can join culls but in many areas deer farms provide an alternative source of venison. Venison and cranberries are a perfect match and the country’s only cranberry farm is situated near Hokitika.

Sauce: 6 tablespoons cranberry, red currant or boysenberry jelly
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup cranberries (thawed, if frozen)
Venison: 500g venison back steak  
1/2 cup red wine
2 cloves garlic, crushed 
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1-2 tablespoons olive oil

To make the sauce, heat the jelly and orange juice together. Add the cranberries and simmer gently for 4-5 minutes. Add a dash of sugar if too tart.

Place the venison in a shallow dish. Add the red wine, garlic and black pepper. Marinate for at least 1 hour, turning often.

Heat the oil in a heavy frying pan. Pat the venison dry. Pan-fry for about 4-5 minutes each side depending on thickness. The meat should still be pink in the centre. Remove to a warm platter. Cover and rest for 4-5 minutes. Slice before serving.  

Serve the warm sauce over or alongside the venison. Serves 4.


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