NZ Roadtrip: 1. The land of kiwis and a recipe for berry scones

The roadtrip around New Zealand's South Island was done in September 2016. Weather-wise, it's the perfect time of year.
This is a 6-part series. As with all my travel posts, I have a recipe at the end of each part.

The Māori name for New Zealand's South Island is Te Waipounamo; pounamo is a greenstone, a kind of jade, highly prized by the Māori.

It's a 10 hour flight from Singapore to Christchurch, South Island's largest city. In the arrival hall at the airport, our group of 4 was greeted by a sign that read Kia Ora - the Māori phrase of welcome.

Map of South Island (pic courtesy

We were on a 12 day road trip (11 days of driving) around S. Island but first, we had to go collect the rental car. The agency, Go Rental sent around a van to collect us and our baggage and took us to their office a couple of kilometers away. Everything was well organised, paperwork done quickly and in no time, we had packed our stuff and ourselves into a roomy Hyundai Santa Fe. GPS showed the way to the Airbnb we had booked at but on the way, we stopped at the Christchurch Farmer's Market at the historic Riccarton House and Bush.

Trees, bushes, a stream and ducks!

The grounds the market was situated in were beautiful, a gurgling stream flowed by and there were ducks swimming in it. How idyllic! Stalls had been set up selling the freshest of greens, artisanal cheeses, nut butters and tubers. There were also stalls selling Japanese food, grilled meats, bakes and bread but we settled for coffee which was the best thing for the 11°C temperature.

Farmer's Market produce - lettuce; apples; shallots, carrots & oca yams
Home made cakes; salami; rolls & bread; cheeses; Manuka honey

Stalls selling Korean noodles, sausages & coffee

Comfortable room at the Airbnb; train tracks behind the house

The house we had booked to stay in was easy to locate and we had the whole top floor to ourselves. Neat and cozy, it was a relief to see electric blankets and room heaters ready to be switched on. Behind the house, there were train tracks and our host Rosie told us that a tiny train passed by 5 times a day! And that was the only noise we would hear when indoors. I didn't see the train but heard it trundling along sometime late in the night!

The damaged Christchurch Cathedral

A quick freshen up and we were soon driving around the streets of Christchurch. Several of the streets in the central business district had been damaged in earthquakes and work was on to repair them and this resulted in many roads being made one-way. One of the casualties was Christchurch Cathedral which had taken a big hit in 2011, causing the spire to collapse.

Majestic trees at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens

We drove to the Botanic Gardens to have a look. A river flowed just outside, the mandatory ducks swam in the icy cold water. It was getting dark at 8 in the evening but we did manage to walk around and admire azaleas in full bloom and take a few shots of the magnificent trees.

Dinner at Novotel's The Square- ouzo Greek salad; duck fat potato, broccoli with almonds, seafood chowder; NZ sirloin steak

By sundown, traffic in the city had thinned down considerably. The Square Restaurant, Novotel Christchurch was where we popped in for an early dinner. If ever you are there, do try the seafood chowder which is absolutely delightful.

The next morning, after a breakfast of cereal, toast, a range of NZ's jams, honey, peanut butter and coffee, Rosie sent us off with invaluable tips on sights to look out for on our drive to Lake Tekapo. Driving along the vast Canterbury plains, I think that when we all fell in love with the island. Soon, mountains, some covered with snow and impossibly blue lakes became our constant companions. Smooth roads and the beautiful pastoral countryside made the journey pleasant. On the way, we saw plenty of sheep and cows. Dairy, along with tourism is the backbone of New Zealand's economy. Every turn on the road would reveal beautiful scenery and our cameras would always be on the ready.

Farm Shop cafe specials - slices, pies&quiche; salads, scones & biscuits

We stopped for coffee at the Farm Shop Cafe, and a filo pie and a quiche. There was a store at the back of the cafe that had a lot of local fruit, veg and cheese for sale.

Lake Tepako

Three hours later, the shores of Lake Tekapo came into view. The beautiful expanse of turquoise coloured water and snow covered mountains in the distance is a never-ending source of attraction for visitors.

Cabins by the lake; view of the lake from indoors( it was really cold outside)

Lake and mountain

We were staying at the Lake Tekapo Holiday Park. From our cabin, we had an unhindered view of the enchanting milky blue lake fringed by mountains.

Lake Pukaki just before sunset

Half an hour away by road from Lake Tekapo is Lake Pukaki, the largest of the 3 alpine lakes in the Mackenzie Basin. We parked the car and walked through clumps of grass to get a closer look. There was a gentle breeze blowing but the surface of the lake was mirror smooth, reflecting the snow clad mountains that stood behind it and lit by the rays of the setting sun.

Dinner at Poppies - local salmon with spinach, bean burrito, sole with Hollandaise, chocolate fondant

Twizel is a large town  but at that time of the evening, the roads were mostly deserted. We made a stop at a nearby supermarket to stock up on  bread and eggs for the next day's breakfast. Every Airbnb and motel we had booked at had facilities for cooking.

Poppies Cafe & Restaurant came highly recommended and the charming cafe served one of the best dinners we had in South Island. Fresh local salmon from the nearby river was the highlight of the meal. Service was super efficient and friendly. On the way back, we contemplated going to the St. John's Observatory to view the stars in the southern skies but it was a cloudy night so we gave it a miss.

Church of the Good Shepherd

Leaving the cabin beside Lake Tekapo was a wrench but we had one more stop - The Church of the Good Shepherd situated along the shore of the lake. Built in 1935, the altar of this stone church looks out over the lake; how meaningful it is to praise the Creator in these surroundings.

The scones at Farm Shop Cafe were bursting with fresh blueberries. Now back home, getting berries is impossible so I used a mix of dried berries ...and guess what - it did taste nice, they even plumped up a bit. Here's the recipe:

Cherry and berry scones

100 gm mixed dried berries (I used cherries, blueberries and cranberries. Cut the cherries and cranberries into halves)
340 gm plain flour
3 tsp baking powder, 3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt (ordinary salt is also fine)
130 gm cold butter cut in cubes
1 cup cold milk
1 tbsp vinegar
A little milk to brush over
Brown sugar for topping

Stir vinegar into the cold milk, leave in the fridge while assembling the other ingredients.
Sieve flour along with baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar into a roomy bowl.
Add in sugar and salt.
Rub the butter into the flour mix till it looks like breadcrumbs. Also add in the fruits
Make a well in the centre of the bowl, stir the milk and add enough to bring it together into a soft dough. Don't overwork the dough or your scones will not rise.

Triangular scones

Dust a worktop with a little extra flour, shape the dough into a circle and either pat it out or roll lightly to 1" thickness. (I rolled mine into a rectangle as I wanted triangles.)
Use a floured 3" cookie cutter or slice into squares or rectangles and arrange on a parchment-lined baking tray.

The brown sugar adds crunch

Brush the top with milk and sprinkle over a little brown sugar.
Bake immediately in a preheated 210°C oven for about 10 minutes.

Ready to eat

These scones will not rise much because of the quantity of fruit in them. Serve with butter and jam, delicious plain as well. 


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