A Tour of Hawke’s Bay Seafoods

Hawke's Bay Seafood case

In my quest for clam meat that I don’t have to buy in a can from the American store in Auckland, I came across Hawke’s Bay Seafoods website one day. I was actually overwhelmed at the amount of different types they offered. Razor, moon, cloudy, tua tua, and frozen chopped clams. The clams I AM able to find come in a shell, vacuum packed and cost a LOT of money. Having never even shucked a clam before, I couldn’t imagine that the few clams in that bag would even be found in a pot of clam chowder.

I perused the options on their site and found that the razor clams seemed to be the best deal and I’d get 2 pounds of them for around $25. SOLD to the lady with the Old Bay Seasoning! Since shipping was reasonable, I figured I’d look for some more things. Low and behold….ON SALE was a huge bag of HEADLESS (finally), deveined and de-tailed (is that a word?) frozen shrimp. I could even choose the size of shrimp I wanted. Again, a fantastic price around the same as the clams. I couldn’t WAIT for my order to show up!!

frozen prawn meat New Zealand
I need to start calling them ‘prawns’ instead of shrimp

My order arrived the next day and I put it all in the freezer until I needed them. I was really thrilled at the amount of clams in the bag and the prawns were big and meaty. I felt RICH!

Frozen razor clams new zealand
Frozen razor clams

Knowing pretty much nothing about clams in their natural state, I let these babies thaw out and then realized that was a SHELL on them! Here I was thinking I’d have a ton of meat if I cut these into small pieces. Hah…what a dummy I am. So I dug out the meat which still yielded a fair amount, but it did take some work. Ok, lesson learned. By the way, the chowder turned out great.

I had emailed into HB Seafoods with unsolicited advice on some errors on their website. After hearing from Adam in Customer Support, who was more than happy to have me send in some corrections, also invited me to come by for a tour next time I was in the neighborhood. I was totally down with that and met up with him last week when I went to Napier.

Hawke's Bay Seafoods bait sales
Loading dock entrance

HBS (as I’ll call it from now on) has a nice shop on the corner selling fresh seafood and also has a takeaway counter. The outfit looked pretty large and I wasn’t sure where to go, so I started there. He pointed me over to a two storey building next door and I popped into reception and met up with Adam.

He showed me out to the balcony where we could see their fleet of boats in the port (unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of that) and then around the nice, modern office space. On the other side of the building, we could peer down into the receiving bay and he pointed out the huge coolers full of seafood that could find themselves in Japan in a couple of days.

A huge scale where they weigh their bounty

Adam told me how HBS started off in a very small section of this street corner they were on and grew into this huge outfit today. We dove right in as I watched large containers of fish sloshing around on a forklift below. Downstairs we went and he took me by the chiller room.

Hawke's Bay Seafoods cold storage
I’m shivering just looking at this

I really should’ve gotten a photo of me with “smoke” coming out of my mouth when he pulled back the heavy plastic curtain that kept the cold contained in there. WHOA…this is not a place you’d want to stick your tongue on anything…you’d never get it off of there. I swear if I would’ve thrown a glass of water up in the air, it would’ve frozen before it hit the floor. Brrrrrrrr.

We then went into a room where bins of fresh fish were awaiting the cutting board for their internet orders. They had a handful of folks working in the back, filleting fish and packing up orders to ship out that day.

New Zealand crayfish

Then I got to see the shellfish room! A huge tank of crayfish bubbled away while some clams hung out in calm water next to them.

New Zealand crayfish

tua tua clams
Tua tua clams from Marlborough

I asked why those crayfish were always so expensive here ($95/kg) and he explained it was due to all of the overhead costs of sending out the boat, paying the fishermen and still trying to make a marginal profit. They don’t have trouble selling them, though. Often they’re consumed on special occasions or by visitors to New Zealand who like to indulge on things they don’t get back home.

Hawke's Bay Seafood case

We walked over to the shop where I got to have a better look at the cabinet (hey, there are those clams up there!) and told me that people could purchase their fresh seafood and also have it cooked to their liking on the spot!

This got us talking about preparing seafood and he generously offered up some fish for me to take home. I admitted I wasn’t a huge fan of fish and I didn’t really even know how to cook it. When I had bought fish, it was either to make ceviche or give to my snakes. So we went back to the cooler where those bins of fish were and he picked up two large trevally’s.

trevally fish hawke's bay seafood

He reminded me that these were still swimming last night (then I felt kinda bad). We walked back to the processing room and had his pro cutter fillet these for me.

Having already forgotten the name of the fish, I asked again and then joked that it sounded like an Italian guy’s last name. So I kept repeating ‘Tony Trevally’ in my head on the drive home so I wouldn’t forget.

In less time than it would take to sing a Sinatra song, my fish was wrapped up and put in a chilly bin for the drive home! I told him I’d give ceviche a go and let him know how it turned out.

Thanks for the memories, Adam! The fish was really good and here’s how I prepared it…

Simply put, I love ceviche, but it’s usually reserved for when I go to the Caribbean. I had eaten some lionfish ceviche when I was in Belize last and it was time to make my own now.

No fresh jalapenos here in the winter

Ceviche is a method of cooking seafood in a citrus juice, such as lime. The acids in the juice work to literally “cook” the fish and you eat it cold. Some of the main ingredients in ceviche would be onion, jalapeno or some fiery pepper, tomato, salt, pepper and cilantro. I perused some recipes out there since it’d been a while and threw in some finely grated garlic using my planer and incorporated a bit of orange juice in with the lime. I also added cucumber since I failed to get any avocado and read that if you heavily salt the onion, it leaches out the water and makes it less bitter, so I did that.

ceviche ingredients
Pink sea salt on the onion then drained (see it sweating?)

I used the smaller fillet, which was still a ton and chopped it into small bite sized pieces, then put into a large bowl.

Then I threw in all of the veggies and covered it with the juice.

ceviche New Zealand style

Stir it up well and let the magic happen.

ceviche New Zealand style

Now, what everyone said in their recipe was to wait 30 minutes for it to “cook” and you should be good to go. Well, I don’t know what the problem was this time. Whether it was the fact that I bought NZ limes and they let them go yellow before they sell them or if it was because I had it in the fridge, but it literally took FOREVER before the fish was done.

30 minutes into it

Not even close at 30 minutes. I knew to stir it up so everything got coated with the lime and also knew it was best to be mostly submerged in it to cook evenly, so I pressed it flatter and stirred every 20 minutes or so.

Over an hour into it. This was supposed to be lunch.

The magic was working, albeit it very sloooooowly.

Dinner time

It was pretty much done by dinner time, when I had already made something else entirely! You can still see some raw parts so I just picked out the pieces that were done and had them with corn chips as an appetizer. The takeaway here: don’t count on a specific amount of time…eat it when it has turned white. It was really good…I couldn’t wait until (breakfast?) the following day and put them on corn tortillas for some fish tacos!

As I had been drifting off to sleep, I realized I wanted to drain most of the juice so it wouldn’t be a huge bowl of fishy mush by morning but I couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed.

Morning arrived and it was the first thing I did and it seemed to be just fine. For lunch, I heated some nice corn tortillas up and made tacos. I couldn’t believe how much I had in that bowl and felt like I was back in the tropics again! My boyfriend, who can’t stomach the idea of eating cold fish, left it all for me to have and it was even fine the day after that as well.

So thank you, Adam, for introducing me to the Trevally family. I froze the other large fillet so I may end up baking or pan frying it. By the way, the website is looking great…kudos to your team over there!

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A Taste of Home – South Texas Kolaches

Texas sausage jalapeno kolaches

I’m not sure what got me on the subject, but when I was in the States recently, I failed to eat any kolaches. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, these are sausages with various fillings (or none at all) wrapped in a sweet dough, introduced to Texas by Czech immigrants (and we thank them for that).

The bakery in San Antonio that made me fat

Just about any bakery or doughnut shop will have these and almost anyone will gladly accept one or two when they’re brought into the office to share. My favorite was jalapeno and cheese. I would pick one up at a bakery I’d frequent on the way to work once or twice a week. When I started gaining weight, I knew what to blame (it never occurred to me that could REALLY happen). I had to cut back. They were pretty huge sausages in there and mighty greasy but boy, did they go down easy and kept me from getting hungry for lunch 6 hours later.

Oh, I know what got me on this kick…I made my boyfriend an omelette with chorizo in it and that’s what reminded me of kolaches. I searched a few places for a recipe and they all looked involved and messy. One suggested using Crisco (which we don’t have here) so I bought some from the American store (a one pounder for $8.50nzd), which I didn’t even use. Found another recipe using butter which appealed to me more. Of course, this came from the Homesick Texan site, which I’ve frequented in the past.

Anyway, there was a small package of sausages which were NOT chorizo, but thought they were as close as I could get to ‘Lil Smokeys (also not here). Seeing that the recipe was going to make quite a few, I cut up one of the chorizo sausages into 3 pieces (I’ll probably regret not doing more) and set off to work.

The first part wasn’t so bad…simply mix together warm milk, sugar, a bit of flour and yeast, then let it rise until doubled, which happened just like it said it would. In the meantime, I cut up some jalapenos and grated some cheddar cheese.

Letting the magic happen

Now the fun part, which was to stand there with a mixer for 20 MINUTES. No way….I have a hand mixer and I just didn’t see this happening. I’m extremely lazy when it comes to making dough of any kind. I hand mixed the rising dough with eggs, butter and salt until it was ready to be given over to the mixer. Dough hooks attached, I checked the time. It was 18 after. I added some flour, mixed and mixed then tested the tackiness of the stuff. When it stuck to my finger, I added a bit more flour….then a bit more…then more again.

kolache dough
Still a bit sticky
My favorite line from Kids in the Hall
kolache dough
At least a cup of flour more added until it felt “right”

It was becoming ‘pillowy’ as it said it would and no longer stuck to my finger. They said, ‘Do the windowpane test,’ which involved taking a little bit of dough and stretching it until you could see daylight through it without it breaking. Well, good enough for me. The clock now read 32 after. Amazing.

Let’s see if we can find yet ANOTHER bowl to oil up and put this doughy beauty inside of. As that did its thing, it said to fry up those sausages in a bit of olive oil and drain. Well, folks, this isn’t the prettiest sight, I’ll admit. Thankfully they’ll be hidden in some yeasty, sweet bread!

If you hate cleaning up, this recipe is not for you

Sure enough, the dough rose nicely and as I formed them into rectangles (instead of triangles since that seemed like way too much work), the dough was indeed pillowy and due to all of the butter, didn’t stick to my fingers AT ALL.

I’m ready to take a nap right on top of this
Five finger punch that thang

I managed to use about half of the dough and all of the sausages which filled up the pan.

I’m not obsessed with making these perfect

kolaches ready to bake

In my infinite wisdom, I thought I could do some fruit ones with the leftover dough so got out the brambleberry and boysenberry jams and did another pan with those (with a couple left plain to turn into rolls).

The moment of truth was 15 minutes away. The kitchen started getting that yeasty, bakery smell and the little guys looked great in the oven! Puffing up and turning brown on top due to the egg wash they got.

And what, only 3 hours later, I’m happy to report that this homesick Texan is happy with the sausage kolaches and stuffing my face as I write. The dough turned out perfectly light, slightly sweet and tender. Now the sausages could use some work…I haven’t found the chorizo ones yet, but hey…this is progress! Not to mention, lunch.

By the way, my boyfriend came home from work and picked out two of the three that had chorizo in them! How’d he do that?? They were much spicier and didn’t even need jalapeno in them. I think I’ll stick with that if I ever summon up the energy to make these again.

I think Kiwi’s would probably go nuts over these, being such sausage fans. If only my bakery guy was still in business! Maybe one day I’ll finally open that bakery I’ve always dreamt of. Although the hours turn me off. I’m a danger to myself and others before 10am.sweet kolaches

Well, it’s now time for dessert! These came out pretty well, too. I took a few to my Kiwi neighbor to see her reaction. I caught her as she was home for lunch and about to stuff a lamington in her mouth. She put it back and tried the sausage kolache. I got the seal of approval from her, so that’s promising.

The bonus is that the house smells great now. I’m willing to bet there will be 1 or 2 left by tomorrow morning. This isn’t something I’ll be making often, but glad I did. I guess another batch of flour tortillas are in order which is another 3 hours of labor for not much reward. Once again, you guys in Texas are seriously blessed (and don’t you forget it!!!).

sweet kolaches

 

Back To The Stomping Grounds: Part 2 – Virginia & Texas

BBQ at last!

Virginia: the place I spent my formative years until I left in 1989 (or was it ’90?). Although I couldn’t wait to leave, looking back, I’m glad I grew up there. A place rich in history and no end of interesting museums to visit in Washington, D.C., it was a melting pot of ethnicities which shaped who I am today.

My mother, knowing full well my love of BBQ (and specifically, Blacks BBQ from Lockhart, Texas) placed an order of my favorite ribs and brisket for a post birthday celebration. These Flintstone sized ribs easily make for a few meals and are fall apart tender.

blacks bbq ribs

Since I only get these when I come to the States, I try to get my fill as much as possible. Having quite a few things on my foodie wish list, a couple of things fell by the wayside so I could eat these ribs as much as possible (it wasn’t easy).

Camille enjoying the friendly banter

Bob and Camille arranged their trip up north to coincide with my arrival in Virginia and we played catch up after 4 years. We had met at mom’s while we hashed out our book together. Although it was too chilly to go for a walk around the lake (she was hoping I’d encounter another snake), we snuck out for a short walk up the street.

Cute as a button mushrooms

After a lovely dinner (and chocolate souffles), Camille unwrapped birthday gifts ranging from New Zealand honey products to an assortment of flavored lip balms (something she’s never without).

Bob and I exchanged stories of Belize and reminisced of how it used to be which gave me the warm fuzzies. Maybe someday we can all go back there together!

Here’s to our 12 year friendship and many more!

Another thing I look forward to when visiting is going to the grocery store. While you guys take this for granted (and see it as a chore), my eyes light up like it’s Christmas and I could spend way too much time seeing the amount of STUFF available for purchase.

I was absolutely blown away by the different kinds of fruits I saw in the store in my mom’s small town. A testament to the amount of immigrants who want a taste of home. I had never before seen jackfruit anywhere but Central America, yet here it was, among dragonfruit, huge aloe leaves and many other fruits. I love the idea of dragonfruit and always want to buy it when I see it, but forget how it can often be quite bland. Mom told me to get it since she had never eaten one. We weren’t impressed. With a name and look like that, it should be extremely exotic tasting. I combined it with a mango for breakfast and the colors looked great together.

Now here’s a little example of the difference between the U.S. and New Zealand:

Ice cream aisle in the U.S. (yes, it goes all the way to the end)
Ice cream section in New Zealand
Cheese selection in the U.S.
Cheese selection in New Zealand

Now some may say, “How many choices do you really need?” And honestly, I can say I miss Monterey Jack, Velveeta on occasion and some types of swiss cheese. But other than that, I can’t complain too much. Plus, I rarely eat ice cream so that doesn’t bother me. But when I want a decent cheddar, a very small piece can cost $12 here which doesn’t thrill me.

This display, however, stopped me dead in my tracks:

Ohhhh yeah

Being that mom lives far from a major town, a lot of driving was done and we visited some smaller towns nearby, like Woodstock.

It was fun looking at the antique shops and I even picked up a “new” computer from my childhood days!

A “computer” from 1972 which worked in mysterious ways

We popped into a vineyard one day and immediately found #48 row to mark my current birthday. I’m still getting through 48 therapy.

There was a crazy Trump house along a road we’d pass by often, so I just had to take a photo. I’d be mortified to be a neighbor.

I also spent a lot of time going through my stuff in storage. Mom was great about keeping things that were important to me as a child; one of them being this giant teddy bear I received from my Great Uncle when I was a few years old.

Not as plush as he used to be, but heck, he’s as old as me (and I’m not as plush either!).

Unfortunately, the time went by quickly and I was off to the great state of Texas to visit with dad at his lakehouse.

7 out of 10 people prefer a truck

BBQ was first on the list so we went to Opie’s and parked right next to the meat smokers….YUM!

Upon entering, you’re presented with the board of choices and a big pit where they kept a selection on hand.

I opted for the ribs as usual. That pork loin at the top puts NZ’s to shame.

Although it doesn’t look like much, it sent me over the edge as far as getting hungry again anytime soon. We took a lot home (other stuff not pictured).

The lake was lovely and buzzing with animal activity! Things I used to take for granted like lizards, birds, fish and deer all caught my attention as if I had never seen them before. I’m really deprived in NZ of this stuff.

No room for you!

Too many turtles to count! I liked feeding the little fish off the dock and seeing all varieties of water birds and hummingbirds go about their day. The deer were all over the place with little Bambi’s running around with them.

We took his boat around the lake for a tour of the upper 3% and pretty much found nobody to be home.

We visited a nice winery with the most immaculately manicured vineyard I think I’ve ever seen. A gentle reminder not to carry your gun inside was present at the gate.

A fat lizard chased ants around the patio and sat still long enough for a shot.

Cashing in on my recent birthday, Dad arranged a dinner at the old Chainsaw Massacre house for me! My friend and I had gone there a long time ago to meet the cast, have dinner (not THAT kind of dinner) and watch Chainsaw Massacre outside on a big screen. We even spent the night in one of the railroad cars on site. It was nice going back. They had added on and there was a large bar area, separate from the house itself.

The original Chainsaw Massacre house in Kingsland, Tx.
Me being choked by Leatherface on the first trip there

Craving seafood, I got the fried shrimp and huge baked potato and was surprised by a chocolate brownie cheesecake with amazing mascarpone cheese topping.

With my time nearing an end, we drove into San Antonio on a typical 100 degree day.

Ahhh it was already feeling good to be back home. It had been five years since I was there and where my new life began in Costa Rica. I hardly recognized 281 when approaching the city limit due to the amount of stores and housing going up. We passed by the Thousand Oaks exit near where I used to live and work and the memories came flooding back.

Seafood fondue at Bourbon St. Cafe

My friends indulged me and my craving for seafood fondue at a restaurant that was down the street from my old house. This is my “death row” meal, consisting of shrimp, crawfish, mushrooms and plenty of cheese and garlic bread. Far too much for me to eat this time around for a mere $12.

Fondue at the Melting Pot was another place on my list and was just as good as I remember it. We could’ve used more chocolate (although my thighs were screaming NOOOOOO!).

Dad was staying downtown at the Emma hotel near the Pearl, which was pretty unrecognizable to me with a lot more buildings having gone in since I was there last.

Pool at the Emma Hotel

I went back to this area of the riverwalk over the next couple of days and took advantage of the river taxi to take us down to the original section of the river and save my feet.

Little duckies look like bumblebees

I also made a visit to the Witte museum and saw these animatronic dinos.

My last day in San Antonio provided a final lunch of BBQ across the street at the Smoke Shack. The line was out the door so you know it had to be good.

I can still taste those ribs and that mac n cheese with brisket was brilliant. What I’d give for this again.

As I was being driven to the airport to begin the long journey back, I became a little misty. Feeling like I didn’t have enough time to do everything I wanted and the memories of leaving five years ago only served to remind me of where I am now. I still don’t regret any of my choices I made back then and know that San Antonio will always be there when I want to come back. I miss the people and places I knew so well and will try not to stay away so long.

Thanks to friends and family for making my visit the best ever! It means so much to me that you took the time and indulged me in my culinary desires. You’re welcome any time to this side of the world (just be sure you eat plenty of Mexican and BBQ before you come)!

 

Strange Cucumber Fruits

horned melon new zealand

I’ve seen these things in the store recently but with a price tag of $5, I wasn’t about to try it out. However, yesterday my boyfriend wanted to go buy some ‘treats’ and happily threw it in the basket. I had no idea what to expect. I figured with those spines on it, whatever was inside HAD to be delicious. It sort of reminded me of the dragon fruit I had in Oz that I liked a lot. It also reminded me of a microscopic germ on steroids.

microgerms

This fruit goes by many names. The label said ‘Kiwano’ and claimed it was from here. Seemed to me it was probably not a native and a quick search confirmed it was originally from Africa. Also called a horned melon, jelly melon, African horned cucumber and hedged gourd…native to the Kalahari desert. It apparently contains a lot of water, which comes in handy when you’re in the desert! It grows as a vine and is a member of the cucumber and melon family.

What I saw inside was not what I had expected:

seeds in horn melon

I can see the resemblance to a cucumber as far as the seeds go and it certainly was juicy! I tried to dig a spoon in it to get it out but that wasn’t happening…it was too tough. So I took a knife around the edges and it still didn’t want to release until I cut all the way around it.

inside horned melon

horned cucumber seeds

I scooped around the edges with a spoon so I could get a taste of this and was not pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t sweet at all and as you can see, was very gelatinous. The seeds were tough…more so than a cucumber and the flavour was reminiscent of one. After reading that it was quite nutritious, I felt like I should at least slurp some down. My boyfriend was NOT having anything to do with it. Visually appetizing, it was not. It reminded me of something from a Ridley Scott movie.

jelly melon seeds

So I drank/ate a few spoonfuls because I hate throwing away $5, even if it wasn’t mine. I put the rest in a container and will figure out what to do with it. The guilt is taking over if you couldn’t tell. I would’ve felt better about buying the $8 raspberries…at least I would’ve enjoyed them!

A day or two before, I was in an op shop which often sells local fruit that people bring in as a donation when they have too much of it. As I was paying for my item, I noticed a basket that had some odd looking things I had never seen before so I asked what they were. She said they were apple cucumbers.

apple cucumber new zealand nz

“Do they taste good?” I asked.
“Yes, they’re sweet. I’ve seen people start eating them as they’re walking out of the shop.”
“So you don’t have to peel them or anything?”
“Nope…just eat them as is.”

Well, the skin didn’t look too appealing to me so needless to say, I took it home and let it sit until today. I figured maybe this would make up for the kiwano. So, I cut into it, as my stomach rumbled.

inside apple cucumber nz

The first thing that hit me was the smell of cucumber and look at those seeds! Vaguely familiar, I’d say. Ok, so this should be sweet then. I went ahead and bit some of the skin off along with a chunk of the seeds and jelly inner. Not sweet. After a few chews, I got that drying, bitter banana skin taste and I made a face. I dug into the center and had another go. Bleh. Well, for 50 cents, I suppose it was worth a try.

Now to find something substantial for lunch!