Mia with the heart of palm in Royale Taikitumu Villas, Rarotonga May 2011 (photo author)
Tasmanian salmon with aioli (photo author)
Then to my arrival in Rarotonga where I scoured the markets for some beautiful fresh produce, and where I encountered for the first time the wonderment of real “heart of palm” which can only be extracted when a coconut palm tree has to be cut down…a tragedy perhaps but a privilege to be able to eat its heart with a light vinegar dressing in which to dip it before welcoming its texture and exquisite taste….a true taste sensation. And enjoying such a morsel while at the same time winning, with my companion as my partner, the boules competition at the Royale Takitumuu Villas Resort with an amazing sunset in the background captured the nature of the Southern Cook Islands perfectly.
Market stall in Rarotonga, Cook Islands (photo author)
And then we departed on the heaven and hell voyage through the Northern Cook Islands where I had the opportunity to “cook”, or within the confines of this rusty old tub actually it was more preparing food with the most rudimentary of ingredients, as many of the other passengers/cooks were confined with seasickness.
Not much food on board and most of it at the bottom of a rusty freezer May 2011 (photo author)
To then reach Palmerston where we were feted with beautiful local produce and shown the endless means in which coconut can be prepared with local fish from the reef caught by the children of our hosting families.
Reef fish on Palmerston Island, cooked under pandanas and coconut leaves on the beach. May 2011 (photo author)
And then Suwarrow where we feasted on tuna caught by fellow intrepid travellers, Philip and Steve and prepared in a variety of ways by Tai Chi.
The "galley"onboard (photo author)
The next stop was Nassau where we were welcomed ashore for the morning to tour the lovely little island, be welcomed at its school and given fresh coconut water and where we were shown how a tiny island can be so self sustaining....
Ben showing the taro, sugar cane and banana family plots May 2011 (photo author)
And then Puka Puka where we stayed with Teresa and her family. Such simple, lovely people who gave us literally the best room in the house, actually a separate house, and a supper of bread, a rare commodity with almost no flour supplies remaining on the island, and jam and tinned butter, with rainwater tank fresh water for tea.
And then as it was a feast day, the luxury of mud crab which, along with chicken can only be “taken” on special days…fish is plentiful, everything else, other than coconuts, rationed. These islands are so remote they are visited by freight carrying vessels only every 3 months or so.
Teresa showing her personal taro plot on Puka Puka May 2011 (photo author)
The next morning Teresa arrived with hot water for tea, as we were sharing the family’s only rainwater tank. Some local donuts, fish and mud crab and more jam…a feast for us on a remote island. We were truly privileged. When we asked Teresa and her mother what we could send from Australia they requested vegetable seeds. They were sent on our return with photos for the family. When will they arrive in Puka Puka...it is in the hands of the 3 monthly ships...we hope the seeds will ripen and give growth as our way of genuinely saying thank you to these people who have nothing, but share everything.
Fresh fish was the one component which had a commonality throughout the last month or so...albeit in the Pacific Ocean or now the Indian Ocean. Last night my 25 year old son arrived back to live with me for a few months. And in between settling in with each other we devised a recipe to cook a Pink snapper with herbs from my garden.
Pink snapper with tomato, leek, fennel and mixed herbs (photo author)