Sunday, July 28, 2013

Weekend away

It’s not often that we go away—in fact, it’s rare enough that it deserves a post all its own. So, this is it.

This weekend, we went to Paeroa to help celebrate Nigel’s Mum’s 78th birthday. We left not long after sunset on Thursday, arriving in late evening. We came home today. In between was a lot of family time, good food, a bit of wine, and more laughs than I could possibly hope to count.

Friday, we took Nigel’s Mum and our two young nieces for lunch at the Ohinemuri Estate Winery Restaurant, which is located in the Karangahake Gorge between Paeroa and Waihi. I had the Spinach Gnocchi, which the menu described as, “kitchen made spinach gnocchi - pan fried, tossed in tomato and basil sauce gratinierd with feta cheese and basil pesto.” Our 12-year-old niece had the same, while her younger sister had the kids’ pizza (ham and pineapple). Nigel and his mum had the soup of the day, a creamy vegetable with a hint of curry. We all enjoyed our meals, though I could have skipped the apple strudel I had for dessert.

Later, Nigel and I went to the grocery store to pick up a few things for the dish we were taking to the family potluck dinner that evening at the house of one of Nigel’s sisters. At the grocery store, we ran into someone we knew. Typical of small towns. Of course, we did live there for a few years, too.

We relaxed for awhile then headed out to the party. After dinner, and when dessert was already winding down, I suddenly thought of snapping a photo to post on Facebook for the benefit of Nigel’s sister and niece who couldn’t be with us, as well as family overseas. That photo is above.

After an evening of good family time (and a few wines…) we went back to Nigel’s Mum’s house and were in bed by around 10:30pm.

The next day, Nigel’s brother went off in search of brisket and watercress to make a common Kiwi (largely Maori) dish of the same name. It’s often called “boil up”, but that can also refer to other dishes in which everything is boiled together. Brisket is an inexpensive meat and can be quite fatty, so Nigel’s brother was searching for some that wasn’t.

NZ watercress (Kowhitiwhiti) can be found growing around clear running streams, but the stuff sold in stores is almost always hydroponic. It has a mild mustardy sort of taste when raw, and is often used as a garnish. But it can also be used in place of spinach or in soups and casseroles, and cooking makes it milder.

Some people use another plant, puha (also known as sow thistle), but I think it’s far too bitter (some people confuse puha and watercress, but they’re very different plants). It’s common in another “boil-up” dish called puha and pork, made with pork bones. I’ve never had it, but since I didn’t like puha with brisket, I doubt I’d like puha and pork.

Our family’s version of brisket and watercress doesn’t have potatoes (it often does), but includes small, dense dumplings called “doughboys”. Doughboys are sometimes added to puha and pork, too.

We took that to our niece and nephew’s house that evening, where we also had leftovers from the night before. Once again, I forgot to take a photo, so the photo at right is of our nephew’s second helping of brisket and watercress, since I was already done. I also posted that photo to Facebook for the benefit of absent family. Next time we make it, I’ll take a better photo.

We were again in bed before 11.

Nigel and I  left this morning to beat the traffic (school holidays end today, and we thought there might be more traffic on the roads later on). Plus it gives us time to relax a bit at home before the new work week starts.

Jake and Sunny seemed to enjoy the trip and seeing human family and their dog cousin, Boy. Meanwhile, Bella’s human cousin checked on her while we were away, making sure she had enough food and got some cuddles and pats. Bella seems very happy we’re home.

And that was our weekend away. Most of our leisure time is spent with family, either local family or those who come up to visit us. It’s great to be able to go and visit them, sometimes, too. It’s also nice to be able to work into a post some things about New Zealand, too (as I did the last time I did a post like this).

Sneaking in some things about life in New Zealand in what may seem like a “dear diary” sort of post—I just can’t help myself. I guess it’s what I do, weekend away or not.

But, this was a good weekend away!


rogerogreen said...

Oh you can diary all you want. SPINACH!

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

When I was a kid, I was the only one I knew who actually liked spinach!