If I told you I encountered a major road-block when thinking about this post, you’d probably imagine some emotional or psychological barrier about which I’m going to unburden myself.
But actually, I missed a road sign announcing that Scenic Drive in Waitakere was closed to traffic, and found myself driving towards an actual blocked road. With the car behind me way too close for a safe U-turn, I ended up on Bethells Road, heading towards the beach.
Te Henga/Bethells Beach is one of four road-accessible beaches on Auckland’s (wild) west coast. Although it’s the closest to home, I seldom visit there, probably because the next closest — Muriwai — has the twin attractions of the gannet colony and a good fish and chip shop en route.
It’s school holidays here at the moment, but the beach was surprisingly quiet. Perhaps it was just too cold and overcast.
Although I saw a few people carrying surfboards, I didn’t see any actually in the water, and the surf life-saving tower wasn’t manned.
The closest anyone seemed to get was surf-casting.
I may have missed a road sign, but I did manage to notice lots of small treasures on the beach and in the surrounding bush.
Matariki is the Maori term for the group of stars also known as the Pleiades or The Seven Sisters. Matariki rises during Pipiri (June/July) and marks mid-winter and the Maori New Year.
In recent years, Matariki has begun to be properly celebrated in Aotearoa New Zealand with many cities and communities holding festivals. This year, Auckland Council has scaled back many of the planned events and shifted others online. It was lovely then, to see the Auckland Museum lit up for the duration of the festival. The Harbour Bridge is also lit, but we’ve yet to have a clear night for me to try and photograph it.
According to Te Ara (Encyclopedia of NZ):
Traditionally, Matariki was a time to remember those who had died in the last year. But it was also a happy event – crops had been harvested and seafood and birds had been collected. With plenty of food in the storehouses, Matariki was a time for singing, dancing and feasting.
There hasn’t been a great deal of singing and dancing in the ZimmerBitch whare (pronounced like farrie and meaning house), and not many photos taken either.
But there’s been plenty of eating, so for this month’s Changing Seasons post I’m giving you a recipe.
Anyone who joined me for afternoon tea recently will recognise it, but it proved such a hit with my (real life) dinner guests that I’m confident in sharing it.
Squash, fennel and orange soup
Adapted from a recipe in Simple, by Yotam Ottolenghi (1) Serves 4-6 people
50ml olive oil
2 fennel bulbs
1.2kg pumpkin or butternut squash
1 litre vegetable stock
1tsp harissa (2)
small pinch saffron threads (3)
1 large or two small oranges
sea salt and black pepper
- Preheat oven to 200°C
- Trim fern from fennel bulbs and roughly chop
- Peel squash sand chop into small pieces (2-3cm)
- Put fennel and squash pieces in roasting dish, add olive oil, about a teaspoon of sea salt and a grind of black pepper.
- Toss to coat the veges in oil
- Cook for around 20-25 minutes at 200°C; until everything is soft and caramelised. Depending on your oven, you may want to check it before then to make sure the edges aren’t burning.
- While veges are roasting, finely grate orange (you want about 2tsp zest) and squeeze juice (4) from the fruit.
- Put stock, harissa, saffron threads and orange zest in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
- Remove 1-2 ladles of liquid and set aside.
- Remove roasted veges from oven and add to pot of stock.
- Use the set-aside liquid to moisten and scrape up the
caramelised bits in the bottom of the roasting pan. Add this to the pot (5) .
- Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat, add orange juice and use a hand blender to blitz until completely smooth.
- Serve with a sprinkle of toasted pumpkin seeds (6) and cashew cream (7) .
- There is a version of this soup — slightly different to that which is in Simple — on Ottolenghi’s website. It includes a recipe for caramelised pumpkin seeds.
- Harissa is available from Middle Eastern shops, and some supermarkets. It varies a lot in taste and chilli strength, so you will probably want to experiment with how much you add. I would start with 1 teaspoon, and perhaps add more to the stock once it’s warmed up a bit and you’ve tasted it.
- Saffron gives the soup a distinctive, earty taste, but if you don’t have it (or don’t like the taste), I wouldn’t worry — leave it out.
- In Ottolenghi’s recipt in Simple, he adds 180g crème fraiche to the soup before blending it. Because I was making the soup for vegan friends, I omitted that, and used the orange juice instead to thin the soup.I think it also adds a nice amount of acid and tastes really good. If it is still too thick, you could add more orange juice, or a little water or stock.
- If you follow my suggestion to de glaze the roasting pan with stock, you will get dark flecks in the soup from the caramalised bits of veges. These taste good. But if you’re aiming for a more elegant look you could leave this step out.
- The simplest way to toast pumpkin seeds is to put a single layer in a heated, heavy frying pan. Toss them for a few minutes until they start to colour and pop. Tip into a bowl and add a good pinch of salt (and a teaspoon of olive oil if you like). In the Ottolenghi recipe, the seeds were mixed with maple syrup and chilli flakes and roasted to make more of a praline.
- I wanted to make this a vegan dish, so as well as omitting the crème fraiche (above), I made some cashew cream and put it on the table for my guests to add if they wished.
Besides making soup
About The Changing Seasons
The Changing Seasons is a monthly challenge where bloggers around the world share what’s been happening in their month.
If you would like to join in, here are the guidelines:
The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):
Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month
Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them.
The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):
Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month
Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.
If you do a ping-back to this post, I can update it with links to all of yours.
Please visit these bloggers to see how June played out for them:
Tracy at Reflections of an Untidy Mind
Tish at Writer on the Edge
Suzanne at Life at No. 22
Sarah at Art Expedition
Ruth at Ruth’s Arc
Katy at Wanderlust and Wonderment joins us this month
Darren at The Arty Plantsman
Ju-Lyn at All Things Bright and Beautiful
Gill at Talking Thailand
Brian at Bushboy’s World
Another trip to the archives for my Friday flowers.
A while ago, T and I decided to explore the less well-known parks around Auckland and about this time last year, we discovered Scandrett Regional Park, on the Mahurangi Peninsula.
Formerly a farm owned by the Scandrett family, the park still contains the old homestead, and remnants of a once beautiful cottage garden.
Old roses growing along a fence drew my attention.
As did the Japanese Maple in all its autumnal glory.
And these pretty little wild flowers growing along the shore — that I feel I should be able to name but can’t.
Of course we needed explore the beach too.
Regional parks are currently closed due to Covid 19, so it may be a little while before we can revisit Scandrett — perhaps on a sunny day?
I’m learning how much I’ve taken for granted in life, and how easy it used to be to follow a whim.
A couple of nights ago I craved fish and chips, but as all our takeaways are closed, I cooked dinner instead. It was tasty, but contained neither fish nor chips.
This morning I woke up and thought how very much I would like to visit the Auckland Wintergardens.
The two glasshouses and surrounding formal gardens opened in 1913 and have provided generations of visitors with a chance to enjoy rare plants, spectacular floral displays and most importantly a calm, beautiful sanctuary in the middle of the city.
In recent years they have also given me a chance to practice my photographic skills and learn about plant care from the incredibly friendly and dedicated staff.
But since there is no indication that the Wintergardens will be open in the near future, I’m going to take a virtual stroll through some of my old photos.
I apologise in advance for the lack of species labelling; most of these were taken back in the days when my personal flower taxonomy went something like “roses, orchids, daffodils and tulips, daisy-like things and weird stuff.”
Maungakiekie / One Tree Hill, Auckland, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2020
Six Word Saturday, hosted by Debbie at Travel with Intent
Evening, Weona-Westmere Coastal Walkway, Auckland NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2020