Big day arrives for feast of totally Taranaki tucker

Matt with his catch of muscles which will be turned into fritters for his Taranaki sourced BBQ tonight.
Matt with his catch of muscles which will be turned into fritters for his Taranaki sourced BBQ tonight.

Murky water put the kibosh on collecting paua and kina from my secret spot so my last day of food gathering came down to a sack of mussels from Wai Iti.

I had saved the shellfish collection for the eleventh day of 12 living off the land so they would be fresh for the fritters they will become at the barbecue finale tonight.

Collecting mussels and cooking them over a fire on the beach was something I did regularly growing up in Oakura, but since the farmed ones came along it's been easier to nip down the shop and get a bag for just a few bucks.

This is a shame because once you've let them spit their sand wild mussels are softer and sweeter than farmed ones, albeit significantly smaller.

Following the mussels I made the all important trip to Mike's brewery near Urenui for some local beer to go with the local food I had gathered over the past 11 days.

"This will go with your wild pork," said apprentice brewer Jesse Sigudsson, handing me a Taranaki Pale Ale to taste.

"It's an Indian Pale Ale. It has a full malty body and is deliberately overhopped. It's bitter so I think it would match your pig," he said displaying some unexpected insight.

My pig, shot 10 days ago by hunting guide Ray Potroz, was indeed bitter. It was still a piglet when it met its end and I suspect was miffed about its early demise.

"It's good," I said, taking a sip. "It's very good. It's complex. Very complex indeed."

I said the same thing about the Great Wit IPA because when it comes to beer there is a break in the link between my tastebuds and my brain.

While my tongue might be saying "herbaceous blends of passionfruit and gooseberry on a chocolate bed of gooey caramel", my brain cannot get my mouth to speak those words.

"Yeah. This one is good too," I said to Jesse. "It's different from that other good one but still good, in a good way."

As well as those two good beers I also bought some bottles of the beer that started Mike's off to boutique fame and fortune some 23 years ago: Mike's Organic Ale.

"I'll use this to rub my pork ribs with," I told Jesse, who looked confused as to whether I was talking about cooking or my personal grooming habits.

The sticky pork ribs I have planned will join the tuna kebabs and smoked eel blinis I intend to serve at the barbecue tonight.

Following that will be venison steaks, slow roasted goat and pig legs and a shoulder of wild sheep (care of Stratford's Steve McEwen) and mountains of goat curry.

For the greens I've raided some of Taranaki's finest gardens for beans, capsicums, tomatoes, lettuce and avocados. Hopefully, before the day is out I will find some Taranaki grown potatoes to boil up with a sprig of mint currently growing in my chicken run.

My two gormless hens Dorothy and Whitey are also contributing. At least two of their eggs will go into a mayonnaise and more will be used to make some custard to accompany the blackberries I picked at Alistair McColl's Ahititi farm on Wednesday.

There is no doubt about it. This will be a feast.

Today: Wild Appetite grand finale BBQ.

Tomorrow: Clean up and sleep. It has been an exhausting 12 days.

Taranaki Daily News