Monthly Archives: April 2017

Familiar Territory

My job is very special and I get to meet and work with people from all over New Zealand and it’s especially so when I get to show off my own home city of Dunedin . Since my blog last year I have co-produced a little black book with Michelle Chalklin- Sinclair called the ‘Dunedin Fonebook’.  It’s full of photographs, local recipes and food shots all taken on Michelle’s i phone. We are very proud of Dunedin and of our book and each year I love introducing a tour group  to the culture of our small city, full of galleries, cafes with excellent coffee, iconic restaurants and providing my own insiders view.

The Dunedin Fashion iD events over a week each year in March  showcase our proud, diverse and strong connection with the New Zealand fashion scene. Highlighted by the sophisticated Emerging designer competition, which brings in designers from all over the world and the now famous Railway Station Cat walk (longest in the world) which is the picture perfect platform to view the many famous southern labels.

The weather once again was amazing, clear blue skies and warm sunny days. This tour is about getting under the skin of Dunedin and Central Otago and after the first night dinner in the fine dining Octagon restaurant ‘Bacchus’  – it set the standard for many fabulous dining experiences to come in unique and beautiful settings.

Day 1. City Walk with my friend Betty from Tourism Dunedin. It is a surprise when you first hear Betty speak in a southern American accent but, she is an expert on Dunedin and our friendship goes back over 30 years. No tour is complete without a trip north of Dunedin to the sleepy hamlet of Moeraki and lunch at the iconic Fleurs place and to be served the freshest seafood by the famous lady herself. Fleur is totally amazing and I don’t know anyone that works like she does at her age. I love her and I love taking people to eat her simple classic dishes. After  a slice of the best pizza in town at the Esplanade in St Clair, our night was chilly and inspiring at the Emerging designer show.

Day 2. A visit to Larnach’s castle is another must and a chance to see the work of another famous Dunedin lady -Margaret Barker. She has developed an extraordinary garden on the top of the peninsula surrounding her own castle – built originally for William Larnach in 1871. Since 1967 the Barker family have pulled the badly decayed castle into one of New Zealand’s largest tourist attractions and developed  a garden of National Significance. A quick bowl of soup and walk around our St Clair garden meant everyone had time to visit the shops, galleries and Dunedin tourist sites for the afternoon. The Octagon is full of eateries and bars but my favourite is Vault 21 where Greg Piner provides interesting and casual food ideal for a quick bite before our night in front row seats at the Railway Station Fashion Parade.

Day 3. A slick get away is always helpful on a longer drive day. Heading to Mt Difficulty winery in Bannockburn we travel via Middlemarch, Ranfurly, (where we found the original law offices of Helens grandfather) morning tea at my friends Susie and William Cockerills ever-changing inspirational property in Ophir and a drive through the old main street of Clyde – past Olivers which Fleur originally made famous. The view at Mt Difficulty is hard to beat and sadly today was overcast and cooler so it wasn’t outside this year under sun umbrellas. Our accommodation at Lakeside Apartments is always a ‘WOW’  – the view down the lake, the huge apartments and their proximity to town makes this a very nice stay. As is dinner at Bistro Gentil. We arrived in time to sit in the sun and watch it fade on the lake in the early evening, all the while enjoying  food  from the superb menu and a choice of wines from their tasting selection.

Day 4. This year we have an extra day in Wanaka (and another night at the Lakeside apartments). I wanted it to be a more restful day and it gave me time to show everyone the Wanaka surrounds and the extensive building going on here. Our planned picnic lunch at the Hawea Camping ground at a big table over looking the lake turned out to be lunch in the apartment. Philip and I had a dilemma ….Our family gave us tickets to Adele for Christmas . So….my friend Judy spent the afternoon and an evening eating Italian at Francesca’s with everyone while Philip and I flew from Queenstown at 3.40 pm, and had a glass of wine with Hannah, James and Richard. We thoroughly enjoyed Adele’s fabulous concert,  (although got totally drenched) caught the 7am flight back to Queenstown and met up with my group and Judy in Arrowtown at 10.30am.

Day 5. Coffees all round in Arrowtown and a quick look at the shops before one of my favourite visits to Janet Blairs impeccable garden by Lake Hayes. Starting with bare land  the cutest cottage, Janet’s skill and foresight has created a masterpiece full of mature beautiful trees, immaculately trimmed box hedges and simple planting in stunning borders. This is an insight into passion and dedication and Janet’s love of her property. Two minutes down the road is Amisfield winery and as always I chose the “trust the chef” menu. Oh my! what a wonderful long lunch and I still can’t get over the starter of beetroot meringues, that were not sweet but dissolved in your mouth. Our lovely day finished booking in at the Hilton for the next 2 nights, a water taxi ride into Queentown which is a stunning arrival by water and a very small entree at the new Eicharts  Grille  – which is so lovely but hard to do justice after our massive lunch.


Day 6. Self driving means we can go where we want and this morning going through the countryside of Dalefield past many beautiful homes and properties we dropped in on Helens Cousin at the Lavender Farm by the base of the Coronet road. It was a nice unexpected visit and really interesting to learn more about lavender production for oils. A special afternoon was planned and it filled all my expectations.  Hosted and driven by tour guide Matt we headed up the side of lake Waikitapu to Glenorchy, listening to Matt stories of his ‘extra’ roles in Lord of the Rings and other movies. He knows the lake and its history so well but like us he had his first visit to ‘Aroha”  – a luxury private retreat overlooking the lake. My architect friend Hamish Muir helped arrange our visit which was very exciting, since this is not your average holiday stay. Beautiful simplicity,yoga,walking, specially prepared meals using produce grown on the property by the clever Heather and a sense of all round calm was the feeling we all felt. I thank Paula for enabling us to see an insight into the beautiful sustainable property. Glenorchy is now also the home of a new astonishingly sustainable project in the form of a camping ground.Camp Glenorchy is being designed, built and operated in line with the philosophy and principles of the Living Building Challenge.   Check this out. I just want to go and stay there and thanks to Steve Hewland who gave us a special tour of the still uncompleted project we now have some understanding of the complexities and features of what will be a ‘must visit and stay’ . Every tour has to have a final night and those sad farewells after a very wonderful week together.  Once again I had a the perfect group and we had so much fun. It was my first visit to Rata and I wasn’t dissppointed  – again a “trust the chef” menu with a delicious array of starters followed by monkfish, chicken and another delectable lamb shoulder – all served in their own creativeness  (is that a word?).

Day 7 . All I can say is thank you to Jan, Helen, Raewyn, Florence and our only special man Russell. I am so happy to have met you all and to show you my backyard which is about to change colour for Autumn and hopefully you will make is down here again soon.


April Already

As I spent time putting my photos in collages today I look back on a few weeks with more settled weather after the unfortunate (actually horrible) summer. We have spent time doing some major cutting back in our garden and shifting those poor plants that don’t seem to like their home in the garden so go for a little trip to another space, hopefully more suited  to growing robustly and looking good. I think I have a ‘Buying Plants’ addiction and  I can always find a space for something new.  Of course I’m always inspired after visiting stunning gardens like “Maple Glen” , Larnach’s Castle and  Janet Blairs inspirational property near lake Hayes.

Living at St Clair in Dunedin, walking the beach and eating at our favourite local ‘Esplanade’Italian restaurant means its easy to stay in our comfortable environment. However,  I did play my once a year round of golf for the Otago Polytech fundraiser and entertained a group of Swedish Rotarians for a couple of nights . Plus, I have been involved in many fun events: Here we go …

Road Trip

Within a few hours drive of Dunedin we have a vast number of destinations all worthy of the “Day Road Trip” My husband Philip and I headed south along the coast heading for Kakapoint . Our first surprise was a sign on the side of the road just over the bridge at Taieri Mouth saying ‘ ‘Occasional Baker’ – fabulous delicious bread, little pies, biscuits and divine brioche scrolls ….plus a huge cake were spread on a table in baskets for sale under a sun umbrella. This is a must Sunday morning treat and perfect picnic food.

After Taieri Mouth we needed to head inland through Waihola and Milton and then back to the coast and passed some of the cutest real New Zealand iconic batches at Toko Mouth. Life looked simple here and apart from the Caravan club having a weekend gathering I believe this place would be very quiet. Kaka point is also on the coast but we needed to make another inland trip via Kaitangata and Balclutha, necessary to cross the Clutha river which has meandered its way from Wanaka.

If you want to see a village under revival then Kaka point is it. New subdivisions, lots of renovations, including the old school which is now a gorgeous Wedding Venue and a very busy pub and cafe all full  of tourists visiting Nugget Point and the old Lighthouse on this beautiful Sunday. Our pie was a delicious lunchtime treat. Sitting looking at the waves, it was the perfect spot for spectacular views of the southern coast and Kakapoint comes with a very lovely beach perfect for a long walk.

A quick rash decision found us heading inland once again. We decided we had enough time to visit one of our favourite gardens ‘Maple Glen’. We took the first sign that said Wyndham which sent us driving for the next 45 minutes on a  metal road, something our Alfa is not made for and didn’t like but, the farms and countryside were beautiful. A patchwork of multi coloured greens sat in front of the most beautiful native bush. Here was  a road we didn’t mean to be on and probably won’t be on it again but, was unexpectedly beautiful. As was ‘Maple Glen – now 42 acres of garden, complex plantings head away and down from the house and nursery, its extensive planting seems to be always growing. There were masses of Autumn crocuses in flower, draped around many ponds full of bog plants and drifts of huge trees underplanted with all sorts of treasures. This Garden of National Significance  is as good as it gets and could be anywhere in the world.



By 8.30 we were back at the Esplanade with our favourite neighbours Carmel and Mark eating pizza and enjoying a good Pinot  Noir. Great day. Very Memorable. Must do it again!!!

Dunedin Fashion iD / Central Otago Tour 

This was such a fabulous week I have written a separate post …

See next Post

Harbour Fish Oyster Night

The Cooper boys and soon their sister Rachel run the very successful Harbour Fish in Dunedin. Passionate about fresh seafood they operate fishing boats, sell and market seafood to restaurants, supermarkets, plus their own great stores in St Andrew St Dunedin and Queenstown. They know how to put on a good event and best of all they raised money for the Otago Rescue Helicopter . I love raw oysters and I have been hassling Aaron to have someone shucking oysters at the Harbour Fish every Friday afternoon. I am embarrassed to say how many raw oysters I ate last Friday night. With good wine and more food on offer they successfully raised $38,000 with an auction, which is a marvellous effort for the Cooper Family and their partnership with Vault 21 on the night.

Balclutha  Inner wheel ‘Look Good Feel Better’ Fundraiser Afternoon Tea

I was asked to talk about ‘Judith Cullen’ along with  ‘What’ and ‘How ‘did I get to do what I do….So over 50 women came to support the Cancer Foundation ‘Look Good Feel Better’ programme. I chatted about  all the ‘stuff ‘ I get up to and talked about my values of strong family, good food and my work ethic, ending with a powerpoint of my tour collage photographs. The Inner Wheel committee had turned a very ordinary hall to look like a tearoom, complete with white linen covered tables, set with china cups, saucers and plates and colourful posies of flowers. Tea was poured from gleaming silver teapots and a table groaning with the glories of afternoon tea food was very much enjoyed by everyone. From, little sandwiches, a huge variety of cubed squares, orange sponge cakes, meringues and little savouries. These ladies embraced the fundraiser aspects by buying raffles and our little ‘Dunedin Fonebook’  – which Michelle and I donated $10 per book for The hard work and initiative of the Balclutha Inner Wheel committee not only provided a special afternoon but made over $1,200 to aid women suffering with cancer to take part in the ‘Look Good Feel Better’ programme.


Cooking, Boiling and Baking

It’s a busy time of the year as Autumn fruits mature and all need dealing with. My friend Rebecca from Nelson sent down the best Red Capsicums, grown out side (they had so much flavour) and Tomatillos from her garden. (new for me) I turned many of the capsicums into a Red Capsicum, Tomato and Fennel soup and made a rather nice  Corn and Tomatillo Salsa to accompany roast pork. My shelves are filling up with Chutneys, Jams and Jellies  made from seasonal Red Currants, Raspberries, Apricots, Peaches and Plums. Im about to deal with Pears, Quince and Apples. The Quinces have been boiled and will be made into jelly and quince paste tonight. This year we had our first crop of Damson Plums and they made the best Plum paste ever, perfect with cheese.

My friend Hilda who has a gluten intolerance gave me this biscuit recipe  – the key is pressing balls of mixture in a tortilla press . It made the biscuits all the same thickness and their deliciousness means you can’t stop eating them.

1 1/2 cups sunflower seeds . 1/2 cup ground almonds. 1/4 cup sesame seeds . 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons linseeds, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 tablespoons water.

Place all the ingredients in a food processor. Blitz until fine crumbs and slightly sticky. Gather the dough into balls . Place in a tortilla press lined with baking paper. it will make lovely rounds. score into quarters. Bake at 180 C for 15-20 minutes.Once Cool . Breakup and keep in a airtight container.

The best vegetable in our garden this year apart from the Florence Fennel has been Curly Kale . I have been making crispy Kale – perfect to eat by itself or as a garnish on vegetable dishes. Cut out the stalk of the Kale . Place in a baking dish on a single layer. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. Bake at 200 C for 8-10 minutes until crisp. With such quality produce in your own vegetable garden meals require little effort and can be as simple as roast chicken accompainied with a  cherry tomato and avocado salad tossed in basil pesto.


So thats what I have been getting up to . My first Tour to Normandy and Scotland departs on the 15th May and the Italy / France tour is full. We have our Melbourne son Matthew and his partner Kara home for Easter and get to visit Hannah, Richard and Holly in April to celebrate Hannah’s 25th Birthday and give Richard and Holly a day in their garden planting a new hedge.

Lucky for us we love to live in a climate with four Seasons. Not only so we can change our wardrobes and have a reason to buy new clothes !!!, clip, trim and tidy gardens to be put to bed for the winter, but to eat and cook with a new range of produce and inspire lovely long slow casseroles suitable for cooler weather.

Good Luck Everyone and Best Wishes Judith