Vibrant Vietnam...

Vibrant Vietnam...

I know it's boring to always be banging on about how sterling my gastronomads are but once again, on my Vietnam tour, they were sterling to a person. Obedience levels were very high, interest in selflessly tasting their way through Hanoi, Hué, Hoi An and Saigon was exemplary and everyone was at one with the universe regarding the heat. They just carried on regardless. We ate fresh spring rolls, happy crepes (banh xeo), bun cha (grilled pork & noodles), pho (beef noodle soup) and lots of nuoc cham (fish sauce dip).

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Shedding some light on Shed Couture

Shedding some light on Shed Couture

For those of you who follow my Facebook page you'll know this Summer I've been going through my garden shed, trying to thin it out, make it look like less stuff, asking myself if I didn’t remember what was in it, did I really need it? The answer is yes! I did throw some things out but the deeper I delved into the shed, dragging out sealed plastic boxes and looking through them, the more I realised I had a shed full of valuable beautiful clothes, long forgotten.... and too lovely not to share.

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Tales from Tamil Nadu

Tales from Tamil Nadu

Back home in Auckland again and full of the joys of temples in trees, children on knees, flowers with bees and lunch on leaves. It's been hotter here than it was in South India! This year we had no acts of God in the guise of storms, strikes, deaths (not a guest I should add) and bans, mainly because I spent a lot more time praying in the temples. The gastronomads totally got what Tamil Nadu is about and were paragons of time keeping and openness to new experiences.

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Are you ready for Rajasthan?

Are you ready for Rajasthan?

You wouldn't usually hear from me twice in a month but I have BIG news!  You know how I've told you travel not only broadens the mind, it makes the mind? I am here to keep you healthy, happy and adventurous in 2018.  To that end my wonderful Rajput tour manager Diggi and I have put together a brand new RAJASTHAN tour from 8-18 November 2018. Rajasthan is staunch, seeringly colourful, a mecca for decor and art and has the most luxurious, classy food in India.

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Joyeux Noël Gastronomads

Joyeux Noël Gastronomads

I've recently returned to New Zealand from India where 14 lovely gastronomads helped me access my inner spice goddess on my tour of Jaipur, Goa, Kolkata and Darjeeling. We block printed our own scarves, received blessings in temples, bejewelled ourselves and gathered vegetables on a farm before learning how to combine them with pomegranates, pistachios and coconut into fabulous Rajasthani batis (deepfried unleaven bread balls). 

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Sea Food & Eat It

Sea Food & Eat It

Kiwis – this is the time to get on a plane and go down to a river on the Westcoast, make friends with someone up north who has a launch and reacquaint yourself with your Maori cuzzies. Westcoast rivers like the Waiau, in late September when the water is warm and the moon is full, mean whitebait. These heavenly mini-fish spend part of their life cycle in fresh water and part in the sea. Tiny fish hatch in late autumn and are carried along rivers out to sea where they live and grow over the winter. In the late winter and early spring whitebait migrate back up rivers and streams, finally settling and growing in bush covered streams and swamps. 

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Sweetness and Light

Sweetness and Light

Honey is an elixir of sex. Flowers use bees in their surreptitious sex dance. They can’t get together and hold hands themselves and sometimes the wind doesn’t prove a very good carrier of pollen so bees do the job. Flowers produce nectar to attract the bees who, while diving into the flower to suck up the sugar, get pollen stuck on their hairy bodies and transfer it to the next flower, thus fertilising it to reproduce. The reason flowers are colourful and beautiful in shape and form is not for your dining-room table, it’s all for the bees – to attract them. Just as in a café, a woman will wear a pretty dress and lipstick to attract the male, flowers do the same thing.

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Perfect Puglia

Perfect Puglia

Another Puglia tour has sadly come to an end. The gastronomads started weeping and gnashing their teeth from day two at the terrible thought of leaving Puglia. As soon as they saw Lecce they said, but surely we are in Baroque heaven? Our fabulous manager Ali directed us through sunshine, ancient olive groves, Susumaniello vineyards, sailing on the high seas to Monopoli and wandering around the cave dwellings in Matera. 

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Chez Bob

Chez Bob

‘Chez Bob’ is a very famous restaurant in the Camargue – land of marshes, mosquitoes, pink flamingoes, bulls and white horses. This area is rather romantic and steeped in staunch fusion gypsy/Spanish culture. They have a particular style of cooking which is simple but strong, colourful and uncompromising in its nature. You’re not going to get anything subtle or sophisticated – you’re going to be drinking Pastis and sucking on dark salty/sweet olives. The restaurant was created in 1971 by Bob whose two passions in life were friendship and partying. When he died, Jean-Guy (pictured with Peta) and his wife Josianne from Arles took it over...

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Banging on...

Banging on...

Snarlers. They are just one of life’s basic, non-negotiables like lipstick, sex and shelter. The secret to making a good sausage, like a good terrine, is in the perfect combination of meat, fat and salt. I like bangers coarsely not finely minced, they should have a bit of fat, some onions or shallots, maybe some spices and herbs if you want and crispy skins made from gut.

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Perfect Peugeot

Perfect Peugeot

When I’m in France I drive a Peugeot which I lease from Peugeot EuroLease in Auckland.  I have been doing this for years so this is a shameless plug for EuroLease and the lovely Delwyn who is the person you call in Auckland, should you fancy zipping round Europe in a Peugeot of your own. If you're going to be in Europe for any length of time, I honestly can't see why you wouldn't lease – so much more convenient than public transport and so much cheaper than hiring a car, the cars are practically brand new and most of all the service is so fabulous, should you need it.  Think seaside, sunshine, oysters and fast cars!

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Hola Barcelona!

Hola Barcelona!

Keeping in mind that travel doesn’t merely broaden the mind, it makes the mind, my friend Petra and I jumped on the train to see what we could see and eat what we could eat in Barcelona, capitol of Catalonia. We went mad and strolled (dripping with sweat in the heat wave right now) to cooking classes, food tours, fashion tours, cheap tapas bars and expensive starred restaurants.

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'Tis the season...

'Tis the season...

It’s hard these days to actually know what a vegetable’s true season is, as lots of our food is imported. The best way to find out which vegetables are in season in New Zealand is to go to a farmer’s market because they only sell what they are growing or making themselves. Why bother to eat seasonal food? Because it tastes better if it is eaten in its true season e.g. carrots taste best in autumn, tomatoes taste best in late summer, strawberries taste best at Christmas and all the great vegetables like pumpkin, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, silver beet, swedes, cabbages and onions taste best in winter.

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Why I Like the French

Why I Like the French

‘Bonjour Messieurs/Dames’. ‘Au revoir Messieurs/Dames’. Or in most cases, just 'M’sieurs/Dames’ on entering a shop and the same on leaving. The French, especially provincial French, would rarely walk into a small shop like a boulangerie without politely greeting everyone there.  Shop assistants in large shops expect you to greet them correctly and not just launch into ‘do you have any red frocks?’ If you make the mistake of forgetting your manners, they will restart the conversation properly by answering you with, ‘Bonjour Madame’. This not only forces you back into the place you belong but teaches you how to be Francais.

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The Heart of Darkness

The Heart of Darkness

I love chocolate and the best chocolate guy I ever came across in New Zealand was Murray Langham of Schoc Chocolates. Talk about Schoc therapy. You walk into this deceptively quaint chocolate shop and the place is a den of iniquity for crying out loud – a haven of good vibrations, a sex shop of pre-traumatic chocolate syndrome. Schoc chocolates are not only the best and the most unusual chocolates I’ve tasted in NZ...

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Blessed Be The Cheese Makers

Blessed Be The Cheese Makers

Living in France for ten years in the 1980s and still spending half my time there each year, I have developed a love of cheese. It is culinary sabotage to serve cheese as finger food before a meal because anything high in protein cuts the appetite. In France, all the liberal people who voted for Macron serve cheese as a course between the main meal and the dessert, the reason being that you don’t go from savoury to sweet then back to savoury again. The problem with this system is that by the end of the meal I am losing the will to live and am too full to appreciate cheese. 

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The road less travelled

The road less travelled

Travelling is like being in love – you’re under the influence. The normal rules don’t apply ... you’re more open, more tolerant, more reckless. You have no past and no future because no-one knows you. You can reinvent yourself. Travel cracks you open and pushes you over all the walls and low horizons that habits and defensiveness set up. The best way of discovering things is to get lost, a technique I have cleverly taken advantage of many times. Oliver Cromwell said, a person never goes so far as when he doesn’t know where he is going.

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