Shag Point Summer Salad

Imagine, freshly caught blue cod and an even fresher salad while watching the sun set over an expansive view of the coastline and the Pacific Ocean.

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Courgette, carrot and walnut lettuce salad with a final flourish of tart black currants.

I was lucky enough to have this experience when visiting my friend Kate in the small coastal village of Shag Point in Otago. It’s only 50 minutes drive north of Dunedin and I can’t believe this is the first time I have stopped and explored this remarkably beautiful piece of coastal Otago.

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Top: the view from the bach window. Bottom left: the caravan permanently resides with a similar view and accommodates extra guests. Bottom right: fur seals are rock loungers as you walk around the rock platform.

Kate and Peter work and live in the Waitaki Valley (I profiled them in my posting Waitaki Valley Honey with Plums and Basil in March 2013) and purchased their Shag Point holiday home last year.  They enjoy the coastal life whenever the opportunity arises. Peter is a keen fisherman and Kate, being one of the best networkers I know, has already started bringing the community together with social get togethers with those lucky home owners that live in this little piece of paradise.

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Carol and Kate as members of Shag Point Residents Association are wondering where the water is coming from above. Bruno the dog is not at all interested.

Before dinner Kate and her friend Carol introduced me to the village and to meet the resident fur  seals on the rocks.  The rock platform beneath the houses on the cliff top has many places to explore.

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There are rocks that look like eggs.

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The rocks are made from mudstone and melt away leaving cavities that soon fill with rock pool life.

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The rocks are fringed with forests of bull kelp. If you take time to stop, sit down and watch, be prepared to be transfixed to see the kelp sway and wave like hair as the tide moves in and out of the rock cavities.

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Giant bladder kelp grows further out but you can see some detached and washed up on the rocks.

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Giant bladder kelp if fresh can be eaten.  Rinse and hang out the leaves like washing to dry. Once dry you can simply add to soups and stews to give your food the benefit of the good properties of seaweed.  It will still be tough to cut up so it’s best to lay in an oven dish and bake on low until you can crush the seaweed.  This can then be kept in a jar or simply eat like kale chips.

I remember as a child the fun of popping the dried pods of the bladder kelp.

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All seaweeds are edible but some are not so palatable.  After a seaweed cooking class at Portobello Marine Laboratory with marine scientist and home cook Sally Carson I tried to make a salsa using Neptune’s Necklace.  It didn’t really work but I am keen to experiment further. Next time I stay with Kate seaweed may be on the menu, but not this time.

A walk by the sea can be a great place for finding treasures. Can you guess what this is?

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Kate found this discarded wok on the beach. The seaweed has etched it, turning junk into a piece of art for Kate and Peter’s garden.

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Kate’s neighbours Phil and Jane have an impressive vegetable garden especially when I learn that Phil is only here in weekends. Kate tells me he produces new potatoes in July – outside! His secret is his compost in which he adds lots of fishmeal.

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A perfect Iceberg lettuce just begging to be eaten in Phil’s garden.

Phil told Kate to use some of the vegetables, so I decided to choose two new carrots, one medium sized courgette, some water mint, and this perfect looking lettuce to create a salad to accompany the blue cod and refried new potatoes.

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The outer leaves of Phil’s lettuce was so big that Kate said it could be a hat.

I washed and left it to dry off while I prepared the other components of the salad.

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I use a vegetable peeler to slice thin strips of courgette and place in a bowl. To this add a couple of tips of mint, finely chopped to make a heaped teaspoon. Add this to courgette with some olive oil, salt and pepper.

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Next bowl to prepare is the carrot. You can use a mandolin to do very thin slices or do as I did and make peelings with a peeler like the courgette.  To this add the juice of half an orange and about 1 teaspoon of white balsamic vinegar and some chopped parsley.

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I treated myself to a very nice white balsamic vinegar to use especially with salads when you don’t necessarily want to darken with ordinary balsamic.  For this salad I used 2 teaspoons…but always taste after you add 1 teaspoon before adding another.

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Kate introduced me to a cheaper version that she has only been able to purchase at Super Value stores locally.

The final component of the salad are nuts. Any nuts can be used but Kate had some local walnuts still in their shell.  I shelled them and quickly browned them in a skillet, sprinkled on some ground cumin seed and dampened with some olive oil. Toasted walnuts have a lot more flavour and crunch than those just from the shell.

I sliced the Iceberg summer lettuce into 2 cm strips and added one finely chopped spring onion.  I had meant to pick some of Kate’s rocket growing outside…but I got talking and forgot… as you do catching up with a friend.  You can do any mix of salad greens to go with this salad.

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I like to prepare the components ahead of putting the salad together so that the lettuce doesn’t get all soggy.  One has the oil of the final dressing (the courgette this time) and another has the acid (the carrot with juice and balsamic vinegar).

Once Kate started cooking the blue cod I put the salad components together, first the courgette, then the carrot.  Mix through the greens with your fingers to coat the lettuce in dressing then add the nuts.  As I had a bowl of blackcurrants picked that morning from our Dunedin garden my final addition was a handful of blackcurrants to add a sweet-tart punch.

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Just a few miles down the road from Shag Point is the fishing village of Moeraki where foodies flock to the renowned fish restaurant Fleur’s Place.  No need for us to go to Fleurs when we had our own freshly caught blue cod and access to an incredible vegetable garden. Thank you Peter for the fish and thank you Phil for the salad.

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