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Monday, November 16, 2015

Travel: Discovering The Norfolk Way of Eating

Discovering the Norfolk Way of Eating - Traditional Food and Culture in Norfolk Island

Find all of the posts from our Norfolk Island Adventures here.

"You'll notice while you're here that there isn't any fresh fruit or vegetables at the supermarket" Jesse from Tintoela tells us. 

"You see, most people grow them in their backyards - and what they don't grow, their neighbours do - or they buy things from the Farmer's Market on Saturday... it's the Norfolk way". 

The Norfolk Way. A term I heard again and again during our stay in beautiful Norfolk Island - but the perfect way to describe it. 

You see, whilst in the big cities around the globe it's trendy to eat seasonally or follow that paddock to plate approach, that's just how life is in Norfolk Island. The locals have always eaten seasonally and locally because it's all they have access to. The only fruit and vegetables imported onto the island are garlic, onions, potatoes and ginger which haven't grown successfully in the past. 

But there's lots more to the "Norfolk Way" of eating than that, so let me take you on a foodie adventure as I share our very own foraging feats >> 

Coeliac Friendly Gluten Free Eating in Norfolk Island - Restaurant Review The Olive Cafe
Breakfast at The Olive Cafe, Norfolk Island

Coeliac Friendly Gluten Free Eating in Norfolk Island - Restaurant Review The Olive Cafe Saturday on the island was going to be our foodie adventure day. We got up bright and early (I mean early - the sun rises in Norfolk Island at around 4am at the moment!) and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at The Olive which is just off the island's main road.

We ordered inside and chose a table outside in the sunshine where we sipped on tea and soaked up the sunshine whilst waiting for our breakfast.
Grey Fantails join us for breakfast at The Olive Cafe Norfolk Island
A pair of Grey Fantails (one of the island's native birds) join us for breakky!
We thought it'd just be the two of us for breakfast, however, some friendly locals of the feathered variety decided to join us for a chat. Unfortunately we couldn't understand their accents so their visit was fleeting and before we knew it they flew off to meet with someone else. 

Coeliac Friendly Travel Reviews - Gluten Free Breakfast at The Olive Cafe Norfolk Island
The Olive's Big Breakfast and a Cheese Omelette
For breakfast Jesse opted for The Olive's Big Breakfast where I decided on a simple (and safe) option of a Cheese Omelette to start the day.

The Olive have a great selection of gluten free options on the menu - as well as gluten free breads and cakes. Any of the sandwiches or breakfast options featuring bread can have gluten free bread swapped in - just be sure to check the other ingredients are gluten free too!

Saturday Farmers' Market on Norfolk Island - Coeliac Friendly Travel Reviews Norfolk Island
The weekly Farmers' Market on the island is small but a must-visit!
After breakfast we headed just up the road to the weekly Farmers' Market. Each Saturday morning from around 7:30am some of the local farmers and producers bring their trucks up to the park next to the Tourist Information Centre to sell fresh fruit and veggies to the locals and visitors. 

The market is small with only three to four "stalls" in total, however, all of the produce is fresh, in season and absolutely beautiful. In addition to fruit and vegetables, there's also freshly caught fish, local pork and (if you get there quickly!) local bacon and ham which is smoked over Norfolk Pine.

Saturday Farmers' Market on Norfolk Island - Coeliac Friendly Travel Reviews Norfolk Island
Fresh veggies from Farmer Lou who's been farming on the island since 1976.
We purchased some beautiful carrots and bananas from Farmer Lou's stand to snack on at the cottage.

Just like all good veggies should be, they were a little ugly but once you peeled away the skins they were some of the sweetest most delicious carrots. Island bananas are always a winner as they're sweet and perfectly snack-sized - a definite must try whilst on the island!

Norfolk Island Cottage Pottery and Gallery
Norfolk Island Cottage Pottery on the Hilli Goat Farm
After the markets we drove over to the Hilli Goat Farm to meet Emily, a local and daughter of local artists Steve and Alison Ryves. We met Emily at the Norfolk Island Cottage Pottery, which is also on the property, where you can buy Steve and Alison's beautiful handmade stoneware and porcelain pieces - as well as wander through their gallery. 

The gallery features Alison's one off art pieces as well as a variety of different photography prints (taken by Emily) and art pieces, most of which are available for sale.

Emily Ryves from Norfolk Island's Hilli Goat
Emily with some of The Hilli Goat Farm's latest additions
We were at the farm to learn more about one of Emily's newest projects; goat cheese! 

Emily introduced us to some of the newest members of the Hilli Goat family, a bunch of cute little baby goats (which, from memory, I think were all little boys) who were between 6-8 weeks old at the time.

The Hilli Goat Farm Norfolk Island
Fields of vegetables at The Hilli Goat Farm
Emily took us for a walk through the property where she explained that the farm is pretty much self sufficient. 

Growing an incredible variety of fruit and vegetables just moments from their front door, the family really live the paddock to plate lifestyle. There's little to no waste as everything is either by eaten by them or given to the goats or cows as food (for example; the tops of beetroots and carrots are one of the goats' favourite treats!).

Artisan Goat Cheese at Hilli Goat Farm Norfolk Island - Nectarine, Goat Cheese and Fejoa Jam
Emily's fresh goat cheese on nectarine slices with homemade fejoa chutney
And if there is any fruit or veggies left over, it's often pickled or made into jams or chutneys; just like the fejoa jam Emily served us when we got to the cheese shed so we could try her delicious goat cheese!

Emily has only been making goat cheese for the last year or so and has focused on perfecting her techinque, rather than making huge commercial batches. Now that she's got the basic technique right, she's started selling her goat cheese at the Saturday markets as well as selling it to local restaurants to feature on their menu. Next on the cards for Emily is to try her hand at some different cheeses - playing with different textures, flavours and techniques to expand her offerings. 

As well as making the goat cheese, Emily also runs a variety of tours on the property which you can find more about here.

Foraging in Norfolk Island with Rachel Nebauer
Foraging for native spinach with local chef Rachel Nebauer
After leaving the goat farm, we met up with local chef Rachel Nebauer who was born and raised on the island and who loves the traditional food and recipes of the island which have been passed down for generations. 

Rachel and Brett took Jesse and I out to forage for some local ingredients to cook up a delicious traditional feast. We started at Kingston, picking some native spinach (also known as tetragonia tetragonioides) which we would later use in a salad. 

The trick when picking native spinach is to go for the smaller, softer leaves which aren't bitter and tough like the older leaves. 

Foraging for watercress at Bloody Bridge Norfolk Island with Rachel Nebauer
Foraging for watercress in the river below Bloody Bridge
After picking enough native spinach, we drove over to Bloody Bridge (read the story below to learn why it's called this) and hopped the fence to walk down to the river below. 

Growing by the river was an abundance of native watercress which we picked to put into the salad as well. 

The Story of Bloody Bridge Norfolk Island
Bloody Bridge, Norfolk Island
The Story of Bloody Bridge: Whilst we didn't know that we were at Bloody Bridge at the time, I was reading one of the local books back at the cottage the next day when I realised that's exactly where we were!

The story behind the bridge is a little unclear, however, it was built by convicts during the Second Settlement on the island. The story goes that the convicts became quite mad at their overseer and plotted to kill him whilst they were away working on the bridge. 

According to the story, the convicts murdered their overseer and buried his body within the walls of the bridge. The next day the replacement overseer for the project noticed that blood was oozing from the mortar of the bridge and the gang was found out!

Collecting Hihi at Slaughter Bay, Norfolk Island
Collecting Hihi at Slaughter Bay, Norfolk Island

Collecting Hihi at Slaughter Bay, Norfolk IslandAfter collecting our watercress and salad ingredients, we headed back up the hill and hopped the fence ready to drive to Slaughter Bay to collect some Hihis. 

Hihi, also known as periwinkles, can be found in all of the little rock pools and are a local delicacy. They're a type of edible sea snail or mollusc which you boil in seawater (as it's naturally salted!) to cook before extracting the soft insides with a pin or toothpick and removing the hard outer part before eating. 

Jesse said the hihi tasted almost like crawfish or yabbies with a shellfish like flavour and he really enjoyed them - but being so tiny, you'd have to pick and eat a lot to get your fill ;) 
For my fellow health nuts, periwinkles/hihi actually have some pretty impressive nutrition stats - the meat is high in protein, omega 3 fatty acids and low in fat. Just don't eat them if you're allergic to shellfish though - as chances are you'll react to them too!

A traditional feast at Norfolk Island's Slaughter Bay
A feast of traditional favourites, including coconut bread, mada and banana pilhi
Rachel had already prepared an incredible feast of local delicacies (all of which she adapted to be gluten free!) which we tried on the rockwall in Slaughter Bay. You really cannot go wrong with that view, can you?!

Above you'll see Coconut Bread, Mada (grated green banana which is simmered in coconut milk and formed into dumplings), Banana Pilhi and I can't remember what was in the bowl on the left (this bad blogger was too busy chatting!).

A traditional feast at Norfolk Island's Slaughter Bay
Some of Rachel's favourite possessions and some local delicacies
Rachel also brought a collection of treasures and traditional kitchen bits and pieces to show us.

On the left are pipes which were made out of dried corn husks, below are a collection of seashells and anenomes as well as mutton eggs which can be found on Phillip Island (and have a dark yolk and an acquired fishy taste). In the middle is a cooking tool carved from a whale bone (as the island was home to many whalers in years gone by) and on the right are two local favourites; coconut pie (as sweet pies became a local favourite after they were introduced by the American whalers) and Pilhi Pumpkin; a baked dish made from grated pumpkin and coconut meat. 

Rachel tells me that she uses banana leaves as "nature's baking paper" to stop things from sticking during baking or cooking and that's just another reason why I love Norfolk's food culture - absolutely nothing goes to waste!

Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand flies to Norfolk Island from Sydney and Brisbane; starting at around $270 per person one way from Sydney to Norfolk. You can find the latest flight specials here.

Norfolk Island Tourism

The Hilli Goat & Cottage Pottery
Find out more about Emily's tours here
Taylors Rd, Norfolk Island

The Olive Cafe
Find out more here
The Village, Norfolk Island

Saturday Farmer's Markets
From 7:30am, next to the Tourist Information Centre

But tell me, have you ever been foraging?
Or have you ever grown your own fruit/veggies?
Growing up in Australia, I've been "foraging" before on different school trips where we went looking for Aboriginal "bush tucker" (edible plants and bugs), however, I don't think I actually ever ate any of it. As for growing our own fruit/veggies, we have our own little veggie patch at home which Jesse wishes was as big as Steve's at Hilli :P 


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