I’ve been around the world a time or two…….but these tomatoes were the best!

Aint nothing like home grown heirloom tomatoes

I am feeling rather dislocated both seasonally and time-wise. Our family just had a sun-filled month away on the magical New Zealand island of Waiheke. We were there for a summer wedding and we made the most of every waking moment, attempting to do everything I remember doing in my childhood – fishing for snapper off the rocks, snorkeling, digging for shellfish with your toes, looking for fresh scallops after a storm, bush walking, watching the ponderous wood pigeons ingest berries until they could hardly fly – oh, it was a treat. And the food – we embraced the local farmers market trying jams, pickles, chutney, cheeses, artisan breads, homemade baking, crepes on the beach, quails eggs from a lady who’s birds produced exactly 7 eggs a day (and she sold them on for NZ$ 5 for a dozen. I noticed that due to the recession more people are growing vegetables, doing their own baking and trading produce. Even though times are a little tough there was an abundance of  new cafes which will have to excel to survive. And there were some stunning menus: broad bean fritters served with haloumi cheese and a dab of dilled cottage cheese to finish, lots of freshly made blueberry and watermelon smoothies, zucchini marinated in garlic and lemon, drizzled with a local peppery oil, light as feather tempura pumpkin, local cheeses served with long crispy cigar thin baguettes, honey mixed with olive oil, onion jams etc. Wherever you turn on the island there are lots of people working very hard to tempt us mere mortals with delectable delights. And then we travelled home via Tokyo where food is taken extremely seriously and arranged with great care even in Disneyland. But my favourite meal was Sam Osborne’s home-grown tomatoes, served with a local goat’s feta, fresh basil, some of the Two Fat Bird’s Blueberry infused vinegar and no. 29’s olive oil and garlic, cracked pepper and Southern sea salt. Thanks Sam, you’ll go down in history for that!

This is Jack’s snack today using wholemeal scones baked yesterday (store in clingfilm to keep fresh) some apple rings from organic market, celery stalks with parmesan cheese inside, and a rice cracker from Japan. Our daughter has discovered the joy of caesar salads and I am encouraging it. Here’s her favourite recipe.

Caesar Salad for school lunch

Toast one slice of brown bread. Cut into some croutons. Crisp up some pancetta in a non stick pan (no oil needed). Cool. Grate some parmesan cheese, add to torn pancetta and croutons and place a little lemon zested up mayo in a small container in plastic lunch container. In a cooled gel salad container (we got ours online from Amazon.com) place shredded celery, chopped cucumber, chives and lettuce. Mix everything at school and don’t forget to put in a spoon, knife and fork. Done!

Lastly a word of warning. New Zealand is getting much fatter. We are fast following in the footsteps of the US although are still behind the UK and Australia. It’s a huge (sorry bad play on words) concern in terms of diabetes and heart disease and we should all be concerned. Fast food outlets target areas where there are secondary schools, shop owners offer huge discounts on bad food like cheapo meat mince pies, chips and fizzy drinks! We need to educate our kids about the health and environmental concerns of eating such food and its throw away containers. I believe in balance, in cooking from scratch, in buying locally, and in trying to grow a few vegetables yourself. Above all teach your kids to cook and you kids, cook with your mums and dads – it really is fun. Go on Bake Someone Happy! (that wonderful quote from http://www.parinto.com – see their fab designs)  And guess what you don’t need those fizzy drinks either!

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