Monday, August 20, 2012

Fine dining at its best / Tararua tramping

As you know I love cooking and trying out new recipes. From time to time I come across something that I like to share with others. I'd like to share this particular recipe as it's the meal I've most enjoyed in recent times.

Now, to enjoy this recipe to it's fullest, you need to tramp for 9 hours ensuring that you ascend at least 1200 metres and then descend back down 1200 metres. Make sure the last few hours are in the dark and that there is no clear track to travel on. And, just to ensure you've worked up an appetite, the last 200 metres should be through impenetrable bush with loads of supplejack.

Once you've got to the hut you can then prepare the following meal :

Cook up some onion, garlic and chilli in a little oil. Put aside.

Lightly boil some broccoli, cauliflower and carrot.

Add dried mashed potato to the vegetables. Stir well. Add onion, garlic and chilli and stir. Add a tin of tuna. Serve and eat immediately.

I forgot to mention, try turn up to the hut late in the evening when all other trampers are tucked up in bed sleeping. I'm sure they didn't mind us arriving then cooking our dinner.

This trip was an overnight into the Tararua Range. We parked at Holdsworth road end and then headed up the Gentle Annie track. We stopped for a lunch snack at Mountain House Shelter then carried on up to Powell Hut for another quick break. From there we climbed another 100 metres or so (a total climb for the day of 1200 metres) until we reached the turnoff for High Ridge. That's the signpost in the photo below.

This photo is the start of High Ridge. You basically walk along the top of the ridge. At first it's open tussock and then further along the ridge you get into bush. It's a little rough in places getting into and out of the bush but not bad once you're in it. We walked along to Flaxy Knob which is the bush covered rounded bit in the distance on the right of the photo. From there it's a descent back down to 200 metres to Totara Flats Hut.

The following photo is looking back up the ridge to the start point.

From Flaxy Knob the route is less easy. There was a lot of windfall and, of course, it got dark soon after we started descending. We lost the route a few times but managed to get back onto it with a bit of scouting around. Finally we were about 200 metres from joining up to the main Totara Creek track when we lost the route again. At this stage some bright spark put forward the idea that it would be quicker to make our way through the bush than it would be to spend time finding the route again. That was one of those statements that I wish I'd never made!!!! It took us an hour to travel the 200 metres. The bush was pretty thick, the ground was quite rugged in places and the supplejack was rife. For those that haven't experienced walking through supplejack it's like some awful nightmare where you are constantly trying to climb over vines, duck under other vines, getting vines stuck on the top of your pack etc. Not a lot of fun and certainly slows down forward progress.

Once we joined onto the main track it was a matter of minutes to get to the hut over the swingbridge. By now it was after 9pm. It had been a long day. But, that meal was divine! And the whiskey in front of the fire went down pretty well too.

The following morning we woke to a little bit of mist but the weather remained calm and dry - both important when out tramping in the Tararuas. Makes for a much more enjoyable day. 

Soon after leaving the hut there's an impressive swing bridge across the Waiohine River. The walk out to the carpark was a lot shorter and more straight forward than the previous day. Basically a walk up the Totara Creek track which joins back onto the Gentle Annie track. The walk out took us three and a half hours all up. The climb was only about 500 metres or so. A lot easier than the day before.

That's another corner of the Tararua's that we can tick off. If you're thinking of doing this walk it would be prudent to get down off High Ridge in daylight hours. Oh, and if you lose the route, find it again!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

At last - a great gluten free bread recipe

After many attempts at baking gluten free bread and producing bricks that could be used to build a fortress, I've found a recipe that makes a really nice loaf. The recipe has quite a list of ingredients but the method is pretty simple so don't be put off. I found the recipe on the blog in an entry that was published in April 2010.

Anyway, I make this bread several times a week. It's great toasted but also really nice as fresh bread for sandwiches. While I am sure the original recipe works absolutely fine I did make some minor modifications (some deliberately and some by accident). I use organic molasses instead of the honey / syrup, simply because I had some on hand. I also make a single loaf rather than two (because I only have one loaf tin) and I don't let the loaf rest before I bake it (because I didn't read that bit in the original instructions. I also managed to omit the almond meal the other night by mistake but the resultant loaf was fine. That was useful to find out for those times when I've run out of almond meal.

Here's the recipe with my modifications :

1 1/4 cups warm water
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
5 tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with cold water to equal 3/4 cup
3 tbsp oil
3 tbsp organic molasses
1 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup quinoa flour
2/3 cup potato flour
1 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup almond meal
1 tbsp xanthan gum (or guar gum)
1 tsp baking soda

Add warm water and yeast in a mixing bowl and leave for 5 minutes.

Grind the flaxseeds and add cold water to equal 3/4 cup of a flaxseed-water mixture.  Stir and let sit while the yeast is proofing.

When the yeast and water mixture has proofed, add the oil, molasses and the flaxseed / water mixture. Whisk lightly to combine.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the dry ingredients and whisk lightly.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and combine.  Stir for a couple of minutes until well mixed. Place the batter into a loaf tin - wet your hands to smooth the loaf.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Bake 60 - 70 minutes. Use a skewer to check the loaf for doneness.