Food named after the geographical location where it is created: Wangapeka Valley, South Island, New Zealand. Where there’s mountains of love, rivers of milk and honey, purple flowered thyme and succulent lam. I haven’t come across anything more stunning, ever.
We’ve parked the 1973 Toyota Land Cruiser with on top of her our little mobile home at the side of the Wangapeka River. This spot is designed for fishermen and other real basic off the grid happy campers. There’s one toilet and a money box where you put in NZ$ 6 per person to camp overnight. We are at a place called Siberia Flat at the last day of the year 2019. The sun is shining. The river flows. The birds chirp. We make love. Interrupted by making lam and date balls. I’ve discovered that the soft sound of a strong monotonous flow of a river makes a deeper impact on both the spiritual and the physical body then sea waves breaking up and down a shore. It’s healing like a magical forest and empowering like climbing a mountain top. Riptide I’ve experienced as a mantra, pacifying and hypnotizing both the spiritual and the physical body. But here water seems to flow relentlessly; straight down from the eternal source of harmony.
A conjunction of purple flowered thyme, orange citrus zest, Mexican smoked chipotle pepper, simple ground black pepper and mineral salt is rubbed in the lam with oil and mixed into chopped dates for the balls. It breaths the Wangapeka Valley: silent, lush, wild and harmonious.
Place 500 grams of lam chops in a container. Poor 1/3 cup of olive oil over them. Pluck 20 fresh thyme sprigs. Zest 1 orange, clementine or grapefruit. Add 1 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper, 1 teaspoon black pepper and 1 teaspoon salt. Rub all of this into the meat. Cover the container. Place in fridge for 2 days. When you’re ready, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet or non stick frying pan or whatever your preferred pan is, on a high flame. Place the chops in the hot oil. Fry 3 min on each side. Lower the heat. Fry for another 2 to 3 minutes. Take out. With half a glass of wine or beer rinse out the marinate-container and poor the contents in the pan. Bring it to a steaming sizzle and poor over the lam chops.
The date balls are served afterwards, with cheese. Or the next day as healthy snack food.
200 grams pitted ‘normal’ dates. That’s to say, the non Medjool ones. Because the latter are a bit too sweet and sticky, I prefer the more caramel flavored and sturdy ones for my date balls. Chop the dates roughly with a sharp knife. Put in a large bowl.
3 generous table spoons of tahini
3 generous table spoons desiccated coconut
Leaves and flowers of 20 fresh thyme sprigs
1/2 tea spoon ground chipotle pepper or 1 dried chipotle chopped finely
zest of 1 orange, clementine or grapefruit
1/2 teaspoon mineral salt
50 grams pumpkin seeds
Mix well with bare hands. Take a ping pong ball sized scoop in your left hand, form a ball. If the mixture is too dry to form a ball, add some squeezed orange juice or water. Roll the ball between the palms of both hands. If you like you can put the ball in a little Chinese bowl or low teacup filled with desiccated coconut or sesame seeds, to swirl it around until it’s fully covered and decorated. When all balls are done, place them in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving.
Keeps a couple of weeks in an airtight container in fridge or freezer and can be taken non cooled on a day trip.
With lots of love from Wangapeka