Southland Watermelon and Bottled Central Otago Apricots

It’s time for me to announce that this Southern cook and gardener is heading North. Peter and I are embarking on a new adventure in Auckland for at least a year. I am looking forward to having easy access to citrus, avocados, tamarillos, kiwifruit, and to grow tomatoes and basil outdoors!

There will be Southern fruit and vegetables that I will miss like Oamaru new potatoes, gooseberries, black and red currants, and Central Otago stone fruit, particularly apricots and cherries.

But there is one southern vegetable that is often overlooked or even disliked….the swede.  Much to Peter’s embarrassment, I have been known to pick up a swede from the trailer selling them at the airport to take up north as a gift.

I like swede and even though it’s not seasonal, I am going to feature it because I will miss it next winter and was reminded of it recently in a jewellery gallery.

Southern Watermelon, aka the Swede

Swede by David McLeod from 5+ a day series (Copper & Silver)

The swede, originally called the Swedish Turnip, and Rutabaga in the US, is actually a cross between a turnip and cabbage and is on the list of aphrodisiac foods (who would have believed that?)  

We down here jokingly call it “Southland watermelon”. You could never compare a supermarket swede to a watermelon.   But imagine it’s a winter morning in Southland, one of those mornings when you can see your breath.   A swede is plucked from the frost chilled soil, and deftly peeled by a farmer  skinning the swede of its earth and roots. You are handed a slice and may well be surprised by it’s sweet melon like quality.  If you ever have the opportunity, go on, give it a try.

The swede, if fresh, is lovely grated raw into a salad.  Make sure it’s late enough in the season to have had at least one good frost to concentrate the sugars. The swede stores well and if you manage to obtain some that haven’t had all their roots trimmed, you can pop them back into the garden soil to keep even longer in nature’s fridge.

David McLeod from Quadrant Gallery – Jewellery,
Glassware and Ceramics, Moray Place, Dunedin

I have a great Friday job working at Quadrant Gallery in Moray Place, Dunedin, with owner and jeweller David McLeod. Dave loves gardening. I bet there are not many jobs where your boss brings you lunch, and better still it’s substantially made from his garden produce. He has even made jewellery inspired by vegetables.

I have asked Dave to be a guest recipe blogger with a Swede recipe from his sister.  You can store it away until next winter.

Broccoli Tree from David McLeod’s Five+ a day series
Nana’s Big Tomato – by David McLeod from his Five+ a Day series – silver and garnet
(this piece was based on a drawing his daughter Islay did when she was 5)

Allannah’s Grated Swede

Framed Swede  – Five+ a Day series- Sterling silver
and Copper

Peel and cut into pieces that can easily be grated.
Finely chop an onion.
Melt a knob of butter in a pan, and saute the onion until golden.
Add 1 tsp of turmeric and caraway seeds (to taste -perhaps 1/2 tsp)
Then add the grated swede and cook until soft.

Dave suggests this is a great dish to serve with lamb and a salad.

I haven’t been able to try this recipe out yet but I like the idea of using turmeric and caraway to give a hint of the exotic to the humble swede.   I would also be tempted to try a little chili as well.
Grating the swede is inspired because it can take quite a while to cook in pieces.

Bottled Central Otago Apricots  

Gus’s preserved Sundrop organic apricots 

One thing I will definitely miss will be preserved apricots made by our son Gus. They taste like bottled Central Otago sunshine.

Gus put his preserving prowess to the test when he entered his apricots into the bottled fruits section of the Wanaka A&P Show this year.  He won first prize. Unfortunately they don’t run to ribbons these days and the $5 prize money isn’t quite the same thrill.    

The key to Gus’s success, as with most good food, is sourcing the best fruit he can. He has found an organic grower who grows the apricot    varieties Sundrop and Vulcan.

He produces around 100 jars of apricots each summer using the familiar Agee jars that my mother would have used (1 litre capacity).   All the apricots are processed in a commercial kitchen and he is set to do his 2013 bottling batch late January.

Gus is selling the 20 bottles he has left from his 2012 bottling.

If you would like to buy these prize winning apricots or make an order for the 2013 season you can contact Gus by email: Augustin_hayden@hotmail.com  They cost $22 each ($20 if you can offer a replacement Agee Utility jar.)


Apricots are an excellent source of vitamin A that doesn’t get destroyed through cooking. 
Perhaps I can convince Gus to do another guest blog featuring his preserving method late January.
Watch out for my next posting on the different things you can do with another of my favourite southern fruits, the gooseberry.

Aromatic Vegetables & Potato Fritters

Sometimes you have an odd collection of vegetables and leftovers in the fridge.   This week I had a small swede, some pumpkin, a large parsnip, a leek, some leftover corned beef and mustard sauce.   I knew Lois Daish would have ideas for this odd collection in her “Good Food” cookbook, and she did.

This vegetable stew is an ideal way to use up a number of vegetables, and you can use what you have on hand rather than sticking exactly to the recipe.   If using kumara you should dice it and cover with water otherwise it will turn brown.

Pumpkin or Kumara Stewed with Aromatic Vegetables

First stage of aromatic stew cooking up leek, parsnip/carrot, celery and herbs

(Serves  4)

The point when you add the pumpkin and water to the sauted vegetables

500g pumpkin, butternut or kumara ( I used a mix of swede and pumpkin)
1 leek or onion
1 carrot (I used the parsnip)
1 rib celery
2 cloves garlic
3 Tbsp olive oil or clarified butter or a mixture
grated zest of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
thyme, parsley and bay leaf
1-2 cups water

Cut the rind off the pumpkin or butternut and remove the seeds or peel the kumara – cut into 2 cm dice.
Finely dice the leek or onion, carrot (parsnip) and celery.   Peel and crush garlic.
Put the oil in heavy pot and add the finely diced vegetables with the garlic, lemon zest and herbs.
Season with salt and pepper.
Fry gently for about 15 minutes.
Add the pumpkin (and the swede) to the cooked vegetables and stir.
Barely cover with water and simmer until tender – about 20 minutes.
Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley or your chosen herb – coriander would be good.

I accompanied the stew with corned beef potato fritters, but this is delicious as a main on a bed of couscous, finished off with a dollop of pesto and some pickled red onion.

You could also serve it with cooked greens.

Here’s another recipe from Lois Daish that I adapted to use my leftover diced corned beef.  I usually keep faithful to this recipe because its delicious as is, but it also works with additions.

Roy Duncan’s Potato Fritters – serves 4 

Potato Fritters cooking
 recipe from “Good Food” by Lois Daish

4 medium potatoes

salt and pepper
nutmeg, freshly grated
2 egg whites
Clarified butter or oil for frying

Put the grated potato into a clean tea towel,
 squeeze hard into a jug the water from the potato
Peel potatoes and grate with the course side of the grater.  Place in a cloth and squeeze out as much liquid as possible*

Place in a bowl and season well with salt, pepper and nutmeg.   

Whisk the egg whites until snowy.  Fold gently into the potatoes.

Heat oil in a frying pan until moderately hot.  Place spoonfuls of the potato mixture in the pan.
fry until golden brown on one side.  Turn over and brown the second side.   Continue cooking until the potato is tender.  
Drain on paper towels and serve immediately while still crisp.
Variation:  dice up corned beef, a dollop of mustard sauce or 1 tsp mustard to replace the nutmeg, and a handful of rocket sliced.

* I used the freshly squeezed potato liquid as part of the water measure in the Aromatic vegetable stew.   It’s too good to throw away.   No use keeping it as stock unless you cook it because it quickly turns black but you could drink it as it has health benefits.   You should rinse out your tea towel immediately to avoid staining.


Instant pickled onion: a decorate and tasty addition to a salad or a  topping to a dish like the aromatic vegetable stew. It’s great in a simple cheese and pickled onion sandwich. Slice onion (red, brown or Spanish white) very finely using a mandolin (if you have one). Sprinkle on some sugar, salt and then a sprinkling of cider or wine vinegar to taste. It takes a minute for the onion to soften and be pickled – sweet and milder than raw. Keeps for a day or two in the fridge.