There are two types of camping from my perspective. The ‘hike-in’ version which includes carrying your life on your back and necessitates dehydrated remnants of what was once food. And the ‘roll-in’ version which includes a ‘princess’ camping mattress and boxes of real food. For those who know me well, it will come as no surprise which one I prefer.
My family like to give me a hard time about my ‘glamping’ tendencies, but I suspect they’re also secretly happy about coffee and music and bacon for breakfast. And so we ‘rolled-in’ to Gore Bay this week. Just 45 minutes north of The Food Farm, it’s a beautiful part of North Canterbury with a decent surfing beach, no mobile or internet reception and plenty of wild food opportunities. Pretty much our definition of perfection.
It’s also home to ‘Godfather Michael’, a dear friend who you might have seen on our Country Calendar episode or met during our ‘Grow Your Own Food’ Workshops. He owns a biodynamic property called ‘Little Owl BD Farm’, and as such always contributes to our food adventures.
The vantage point from his farm provided some of the best views back down to Gore Bay, particularly given the outstanding light and sunsets we had over the weekend.
But our main base was the camping ground on the foreshore of the bay. There are definitely some pantry stand-bys that are compulsory on any camping trip, including roasting marshmallows and breakfast toasties made with this wonderful machine. Favourite fillings include baked beans and cheese but anything is possible.
Target species for this trip were pāua and crayfish, both involving free-diving skills we’re working on as a family. Talking to the locals we began to understand that our chances were limited. Pāua is under a rāhui or fishing ban further north after the Kaikōura earthquakes, and that’s seen huge pressure on stocks in this area. We saw groups of divers with some pretty sophisticated equipment follow us out onto the rocks, and heard stories of commercial cray-potting along the coast having a impact on ability to get a recreational feed. So instead we were satisfied with the beautiful shells we found and a decent feed of mussels.
We steamed the mussels in some white wine and added kawakawa leaves, a peppery, savoury flavoured bush which can be found everywhere at Gore Bay. The mussels were delicious and the remaining juice is an amazing broth which we dip home-made focaccia into. The Food Farm focaccia recipe is pretty fool-proof and a great camping addition, so I’ve added it at the bottom of this post.
Not all food needs to be found, sometimes it just finds you! This included this wonderful woman in nearby Cheviot who grows blueberries and sells them in baskets through all the local camping sites. We’ve worked out over the years that the best camping berries are blueberries, as they last so well without refrigeration.
We also took the throw net and a crab pot for fun, and while we caught a couple of mullet and a few paddle crabs such as this little guy, it was really just an excuse to hang out on the beach (we’re not very good at sitting still, doing nothing!).
We certainly didn’t go home hungry though, thanks to Godfather Michael’s and Liz’s efforts. He managed to catch a few kahawai and we cooked them on the beach using a piece of dried bull kelp as a plate. We wrapped the pieces of fish in large cos lettuce leaves they’d grown and soused them with a tangy Asian dressing, san choy bow style.
And the heat of the weekend was mellowed by another wild food; banana passionfruit ice cream. This fruit is a favourite of my children, but it’s a terrible weed, so if you find it pull the plant out as you harvest it.
It doesn’t really matter whether you succeed or not when you go wild food hunting, it’s as much the adventure as it is the result, particularly when you get to share time with people you care about. Get out there and have some fun! Wild plums and blackberries aren’t far away….
The Food Farm Foccacia
100g olive oil
1kg of organic fresh flour (we use Milmore Downs White Wheat Flour)
100g olive oil
Mix flour and salt in a big metal bowl
Mix the water, yeast, sugar and oil together in a separate bowl
Tip the liquids into the flour and mix for a couple of minutes with a metal spoon. Leave to double in size (will take a few hours).
Line a roasting tray with waxed paper. Tip the dough into the tray and leave to rise again. Heat the oven to 230c.
Put the extra oil and water in a jar and shake. Push fingers into the dough and cover with oil and water, sprinkle with salt and rosemary.
Turn oven to 200c
Bake for 50 minutes or until golden brown and crusty.