When I left home at the tender age of 16, it was to pursue a subsistence life with two friends (one my boyfriend) in the wilderness up the Whanganui River.
We lived off the land, helping out on farms, assisting the various marae up and down the river by painting their old meeting houses and clearing out old cemeteries. We planted a huge vegetable garden down on the old marae at Ranana, which fed the local community all around us, and all our cooking was done over an open fire (even my preserving).
Each day I would bake an amazing potato bread in the camp oven – it was so magnificent it lifted the lid of the oven as it cooked. The recipe came from the Tassajara cookbook, and to this day it’s hands down the best bread recipe you can ever bake in a camp oven – light and crusty, with the potato yeast giving it a lovely moist texture.
Visiting picturesque Tauroa Estate in Havelock North for my new TV series felt just like a blast from the past. Heather Smith Martin and Nick Radly have been farming this certified organic and biodynamic farm since 1997. Dedicated to organic and sustainable farming, habitat restoration and education, its focus is on producing healthy, abundant food in a sustainable and ecologically friendly manner – good old-fashioned hard work with no chemical intervention.
Tauroa Estate produces high-quality free-range beef, lamb and eggs together with grains, herbs and vegetables. A cultivated orchard contains 1900 feijoa trees. There are also a variety of other fruit and nut trees on the property including apples, pears, plums, lemons, peaches, quinces, pomegranates, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, olives and figs. Linseed is grown for oil and lentils are supplied to the organic wholesaler Chantel Wholefoods, while barley, wheat and oats are grown for feeding poultry. Many of the activities that happen at Tauroa are simply restorative and regenerative (ecological restoration), which doesn’t pay the bills so the help of Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOFers), students, interns and other volunteers is key. WWOOFers spend their time helping weed, feed and mulch plants, doing property maintenance and looking after animals, amongst a lot of other activities.
In this episode Heather and I head out to forage for fresh watercress for a wonderful salad that I serve with a Cashew Mustard Dressing. Sadly we couldn’t fit the dressing demo into the series, so I’ve put the video up on my YouTube channel instead.
I’ve always made compost with my kitchen scraps, it's so satisfying to turn your household waste into dark, rich, compost that will nourish your garden. With a Tumbleweed compost bin it’s easier than ever.
Next week I meet an artisan chocolate maker, plant citrus trees and combine the two in rich Chocolate Orange Creams with Chocolate-Dipped Orange Peel. Don't miss it!
find out more
Want to find out more about this episode? Check out my TV pages 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 and hitting 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
- Find out more about Season One of The Free Range Cook
- Find out more about Season Two of The Free Range Cook: Simple Pleasures