I’m glad the summer is almost over.  As the days start getting chill I think about all those blood-sucking insects who won’t be dining on me.  And it’s me they always go for.

The last time we went camping I fed hundreds of millions. We were tenting in the far north, and the far north mossies are by far the nastiest, most dedicated blood-seekers I’ve encountered, and I’ve lived in the South Island where the sandflies are legend.  They were everywhere, thick black clouds of them.  In the food, in the tent – at one point I was squashing them with the bottle of insect repellent which turned out to be the most effective way of dealing with them. 

When we camp, all we take are the basics.  An inch-thick squidgy to sleep on, an old billy or two, and a patch of green to lay one’s tent on, that’s all we need.  The mossies were an added extra.

All in all, it was a cracker of a trip, with lashings of sun, surf, and even a real live kiwi, poking through the leaf litter in our torchlight.  But after a week or two, it began to pall, as these things can.  We did pretty well, all things considered, but it is so nice being able to turn on a light.  Or plug in the espresso machine. Worse, the teenager was starting to miss her computer (and possibly her friends...)

Then there’s the food.  While most of the time we ate sensible camping fodder, towards the end we were on the hard stuff – packet cuisine.  We’d ended up somewhere there were no shops, you had to lug all your gear in, but water and long drops were provided.  Heaven on earth, a secluded northland beach, but no vegetables or dairy products within rowing distance. Things might have turned ugly.

After a few days, we decamped and headed home, via Rawene, nestled at the upper end of the Hokianga harbour, and not only did they have a cafe, but it was open.

Ravenous for real food, we parked the car under a scenic pohutukawa, settled ourselves on the balcony built over the sea, and ordered a feast, as terns flittered by over the harbour.

My meal, when it came, was delicious.  Smoked chicken salad with pawpaw and a magical mustard dressing, divine.   I use mango instead of pawpaw and lashings of smoked chicken.  Even better, there’s no cooking involved.  This dish will always remind me of a great summer, but it is best eaten when the mossies are no more!

Mustard dressing

  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1½  Tbsp honey
  • 1½  tsp Dijon mustard
  • seasoning
  • ¼ cup olive oil

In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients except for the oil, which is whisked in last.  Store in a bottle and shake before using.

Smoked chicken with mango

  • 1 smoked chicken drumstick per person
  • salad ingredients – tomatoes, cucumber, fresh herbs, etc
  • 1 pkt crisp noodles
  • 1 mango, peeled and sliced

Cover each plate with noodles.  Create a salad (use whatever ingredients you favour) and place it on top.  Shred chicken from the drumstick and arrange on salad, with sliced mango on the edges.  Drizzle with mustard dressing, season, and enjoy.