Larnach Castle Cuppa.
28th February, 2012.
Life’s not all shortbread and thistles – Larnach Castle mid-morning tea at the Ballroom Cafe……
I couldn’t think of anything more bizarre than visiting a Scottish castle in New Zealand – the only one in New Zealand as the claim goes. Of all the countless old English country houses, Scottish castles with moats and grand mansions of Europe I’ve dragged the kids around during family travels overseas over the years, I was curious to see a Kiwi version!
Larnach Castle is a slightly gloomy oddity set in the heart of the Otago Peninsula, 20 minutes from Dunedin – a city with strong Scottish ties. Whilst himself of Scottish descent, the castle’s original owner/builder, William Larnach was actually born in New South Wales and made his fortune on the Australian goldfields.
Currently in private hands, no expense has been spared in the Castle’s renovations, including the gardens – a mixture of formal hedges, pergola’s, a gazebo…..…..rock garden, rainforest and native plant trail.
It was in the garden that I found the most interesting specimen that led onto my next culinary discovery. The fiery colours hidden throughout the garden heralded both the poisonous…….….and the palatable……The Pōhutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) is a coastal evergreen tree related to the Myrtle, that produces a brilliant display of red flowers made up of a mass of stamens. It’s a great survivor, thriving almost anywhere and is an important part of both Kiwi and Māori culture. Because it flowers so spectacularly in December, it is commonly known as the New Zealand Christmas tree or Antipodean Holly.
In more recent times however, it has become even better known for its unique flavour in the form of a single flower honey produced by dedicated organic apiarists…………This little pot of pure gold (or Pohutukawa Honey) has apparently been hard to produce this year, but despite this, it still managed to pick up a major award.
J Friend and Co have, according to Cuisine magazine, transformed the honey landscape of New Zealand. Whereas once all that was on offer were clover honey blends or manuka, J Friend and Co specalise in a range of organic, artisan honeys as diverse as wild thyme; vipers bugloss; beechwood honeydew; and pohutukawa.
Earlier in 2012, J Friend and Co’s Pohutukawa Honey won the supreme Cuisine award, an award sponsored by the iconic Caffe L’affare, New Zealand’s very first coffee roasting establishment.In a true sense of the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) tradition – that day every 25th April when Kiwi’s and Ozzies celebrate their alliance during the first World War – I thought it appropriate to tout our ongoing and enduring friendship with J.Friend’s recipe for that great culinary legacy of the same name……….
Anzac Biscuit recipe with a J. Friend and Co twist!
These ANZAC biscuits are from J.Friend & Co’s website, and use their pohutukawa honey – they also suggest the dough mixture can be used as a crumble topping or crunch base for any fruit crumble type dessert.
1 cup plain stoneground organic flour
1 cup fine rolled oats
½ cup Sugar
½ cup brown soft sugar
1 cup fine coconut
½ cup diced dried apricot
½ tsp salt
½ cup butter
2 Tbsp J. Friend & Co Pohutukawa honey
Zest of one orange
2 Tablespoon boiling water
½ tsp baking soda
Preheat oven to 180 degrees – line two baking trays with baking paper.
Combine the flour, oats, sugars, coconut, apricot and salt in a bowl- set aside.
Melt the butter, honey and orange zest in a saucepan.
Stir the soda into the water and add to the butter mix, add the liquid to the flour and stir until combined.
Mould the dough into a ball, (approximately 1 tablespoon amounts) place on the baking tray and flatten with a fork.
Bake for 12 minutes or until lightly golden- remove from oven and allow to cool.
These biscuits keep well stored in an airtight container and have a delightful chewy texture!
Once again, in the spirit of things military (and later in the great outdoors Kiwi tradition of camping and picnics) I couldn’t resist adding this image of the Thermette or the Benghazi boiler). Featured in an article by Dianne Bardsley, in The Dominiion Post, read over a leisurely breakfast in Wellington, this article highlighted the unique design of this portable fire-eating kettle. An efficient portable device for boiling water outdoors using twigs etc., the Thermette was first manufactured in New Zealand in 1929 and was standard issue for the New Zealand Army during World War II. I’ve never seen one of these before, and for a pyromaniac, figured they were a pretty neat devise……