The Kahikatea trees in the bush are full of berries, and birds are singing happily. The berries (koroī) are edible, but the trees are too high to climb for me, so I can only pick what falls on the forest floor. It takes time, but foraging runs in my veins, plus it is a good squatting exercise! After picking you need to wash the berries well and remove the hard blue seeds, another time consuming job! After all this you are left with an handful of berries so it is easy to understand why you don't see koroī jam around! In fact there are not many recipes with these berries, and this is my third one only (the other two are Flan with Kawakawa cream and Kahikatea berries, and Kahikatea Cupcakes.
The berries don't have much taste so I added one tsp of sugar and a tbsp of lemon juice and I let them marinate overnight. They day after they were yummy and ready to put on cereals, but I preferred making a tart. I use quinces from Oratia, in season now. I peeled two big quinces and cut them into slices. Then I melted 50 g of butter and two tbsp of sugar in a iron skillet and sautéd the quinces for two minutes. After that I added a small glass of grappa (I used this aged Prosecco Grappa by Bottega). As soon as you pour the grappa over the hot quinces the kitchen fills with a wonderful aroma and you could eat the quinces just like that, maybe with some ice cream on the side. After most of the liquid had evaporated I added 2 tsp of corn flour diluted with a little water to make a paste. I stirred well and positioned all the quince slices neatly on the bottom of the pan. Then I added the kahikatea berries, keeping just a few aside for decoration.
I cut a circle of puff pastry (I used Paneton) and fitted it over the fruit and then baked the lot until the pastry looked golden and puffy. Then I carefully reversed the pan over a serving plate and let the tart slip down (by itself) onto the plate. I added the remaining berries and took a few photos! The tart was very good, you don't have to use quinces, apples and pears are good too, and the berries are just a fancy addition, but what a satisfaction! Today I am going to ask the kids to do a bit of foraging for me, it is a good skill to learn after all, and since it is Easter Sunday in New Zealand, they will be excited after that other form of 'foraging' that happens here: the Easter eggs hunt! In fact here they are coming down now, I'll better go and enjoy this!
Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©