A keen 'bloke' in the kitchen

Community cook

SVEN HERSELMAN
Last updated 08:47 08/11/2012

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He might do all the cooking for the much loved River Queen floating restaurant but Peter Makin doesn't consider himself a chef.

"I'm just a bloke who loves to cook," said Peter, who has owned the unique eatery for five years and been directly involved in its running for the past two.

A psychologist by profession, he moved to New Zealand, living in Nelson, 12 years ago with his family for a year holiday, but they loved the country so much they chose to stay.

Peter grew up in Sevenoaks in Kent in England and was educated at the University of Wales, later opening his practice in Oxford.

He closed his practice for what was meant to be a year, but never returned to Britain.

A year after arriving in New Zealand he bought the River Queen with his brother, Chris and left the running of the business largely up to him while Peter moved to Gisborne where he worked with the polytechnic.

"My background is in how adults learn and I was helping out the lecturers on how to teach adults successfully."

Two years ago he took over the running of the River Queen, moving his family to Blenheim.

In that short period he has developed a strong love of the Marlborough region, it's history, people and produce.

The cruises on the Opawa become more than just a dining experience as Peter loves to educate tourists and residents alike on the rich history of Blenheim and how it began as a river port.

Fittingly, the River Queen is berthed next to the old wharf buildings around which the town grew.

The boat itself, although not nearly as old, was built in a boatyard next to the Opawa River.

The running of the floating restaurant is a dream job for Peter, but things didn't start off as smoothly.

"When we bought the boat we found out that it had a rotten hull, so we had to do some major repair work - that was a nasty little surprise."

Owning a business that floats on water has also brought other issues that most don't have to worry about, such as the flooding that Marlborough is known for.

This puts the River Queen out of business for its duration, but Peter has found a solution by berthing the boat just down and around from its usual dock where the Opawa River is joined by the Taylor River.

Unlike many men, the kitchen is where Peter loves to be.

"My wife isn't allowed into the kitchen," he jokes.

He developed his love of cooking during his university days when a small allowance meant that to eat well meant being creative with his ingredients.

Today, he spends most of his working hours preparing delicious meals, making every effort to use Marlborough-sourced ingredients.

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"I want this to be a totally Marlborough experience, from the scenery to the history and the produce that is used in the food."

 

PUMPKIN AND ROAST KUMARA SOUP

(Peter points out that he seldom follows recipes, rather adding ingredients to his taste. His recipes are therefore fairly flexible.)

Half a pumpkin One large onion One or two potatoes (to taste) Celery (amount to taste)

One kumara (roasted beforehand) One carrot, or tomato for colour

Peel and chop the vegetables and throw into a pan with some butter and mix around to glaze in the butter. If you want, add a pinch of a favoured seasoning like nutmeg or chilli.

After a couple of minutes on a light heat, cover the vegetables with stock - either home-made or water and the best dried stock from the supermarket.

Bring to the boil and lightly simmer until cooked, but not boiled to a pulp.

You should be able to just about crush the vegetables with a wooden spoon.

Take off the heat and allow to cool before blending, then pour through a sieve to catch the bits and reheat.

Add a fair shake of white pepper and salt to taste, and perhaps a squeeze of lemon to help bring the flavour out.

Add a little cream at the end for that extra smooth finish.

- The Marlborough Express

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