In episode two of my new TV series we headed up to Closeburn Station, off the road to Glenorchy in the heart of the South Island high country, to see the winter shearing in action.
Walking into the shearing shed was like stepping back in time – nothing much seemed to have changed from when I was a kid. Muscled young shearers bent over the merino sheep, their handpieces easing off swift, clean arcs of fine wool into pillowy piles on the stand, the rousies clearing and sorting the wool and, in the middle of the room, the press, which always terrified us as kids – something to do with the thought that we might get stuck in there!
When we were growing up, my aunt and uncle owned a big high country station up the Waimate Valley, near Lake Benmore. Both my mother and my aunt were home economics graduates from Dunedin University and, as such, highly proficient and organised in all matters food. I used to marvel at how much food my aunt had to prepare for the shearers each year.
In those days the farm provided all the meals for the shearing gang – massive morning and afternoon teas and huge plates of hot food for lunch. It was by necessity both economical and filling, and also, perhaps surprisingly, remarkably healthy, with the station garden providing big bowls of veges and vege-based soups to go with the roasted lamb or meat pies whipped up in the farm kitchen. Back then potatoes were the filler of choice, but today we have lots of interesting grains and pulses at our fingertips to provide those nourishing carbs in our diet.
No matter what your budget or income, the idea of being resourceful and economical is always appealing, and for my dinner back at the cabin after our trip to Closeburn I made a Tender Lamb and Chickpea Tagine and served it up with a simple side dish of Israeli Couscous with Currants and Mint. This couscous is a terrific recipe to take along to a party or pot-luck meal at any time of year.
Another great way to make tasty food on a shoestring is to get smart with your spices. A spice paste has the ability to transform vegetables and cheap cuts of meat and my Kickstarter Chilli Paste is a useful starting point for so many dishes. It’s such a simple thing to make and it keeps in the fridge for weeks.
The power of bitter greens is something I discovered when I was living in Sicily when our kids were little. They are so useful for your liver, especially when it comes to processing fats. I love to serve bitter greens, such as radicchio, watercress and endive, throughout the winter and, as luck would have it, this is the season when they flourish. My Radicchio, Blue Cheese and Pine Nut Salad makes the perfect starter before the rich, hearty lamb shanks and it’s a snap to put together.
In the next episode I’m heading to Hawkes Bay to find out how to grow the best strawberries. Until then happy cooking!
find out more
Want to find out more about this episode? Check out the TV pages of my website for videos, bonus recipes and behind-the-scenes photos.
My new book containing all the recipes from this episode and the rest of the series is available now at all good book sellers nationwide or via my website shop. Buy it at Paper Plus to receive a free biscuit tin – while stocks last!
- Want to meet me in person? I'll be taking my trusty yellow truck on the road between now and the end of December, demonstrating Tui Garden projects from the show, signing books and cooking up a storm throughout New Zealand and also in Tasmania, Sydney and Melbourne – see my full schedule
special thanks to
- Grant and Maureen of Closeburn Station