Port Chalmers and Otago proud resident Nicola Charteris likes the title “culinary feminist” and it very much defines who she is and her contribution to the greater community. From an early age her love of cooking began with the Edmonds cookbook, and now her love of foraging and preserving in Middlemarch in Central Otago and Port Chalmers has seen her develop a busy, successful cottage industry known as Port Larder. She has been selling an eclectic collection of products, including olive and lentil tapenade, plum jam, wild apple jelly, Indian date chutney, and kasundi at the Dunedin Farmer’s market each Saturday for the past three years.
Nicola supplies preserves and chutney to local eateries, and is beginning her own small catering operation, specialising in Indian food - she is indeed a busy producer. As with many of the bakers profiled, it all started with her Edmonds Cookery Book. “As a school girl I would often help my Mum do the preserving at the end of every summer with the fruit in wooden boxes from Central Otago. We would consult the Edmonds Cookery Book for syrup proportions. It would always be a busy few days in the kitchen while mum got through all the fruit and we would end up with loads of large Agee jars fill of preserved pears, peaches and apricots which we would devour over winter in hearty fruit crumbles, pies and for breakfast. It was a short step from there to always consulting the Edmonds Cookery Book for baking cakes and ginger crunch which I loved making as teenager.”
Nicola’s favourite is the salmon rissoles. “This is a great go-to-recipe when you have a hungry brood of children to feed and you have leftover mashed potato. When younger and fussier, my children loved this one and so did their friends. My mother made it at least every two weeks when I was a child and she would serve it alongside rice (a rare exotic treat for us in the 70’s) and peas. We also had lots of tomato sauce on the side. These days I play around with the recipe a little, adding freshly chopped dill and lemon zest to the mix, which adds loads of flavour. If I'm making these for children and adults, I stick to the recipe and serve them with tomato sauce for the kids and my own spicy tomato kasundi sauce for the adults and adventurous children.”
Take your beloved Edmonds Tomato relish recipe and increase the spice for older taste buds. Increase the curry powder, add cayenne pepper and more mustard. Do this gradually till you find the ratio your like and enjoy. You can always add more chilli but it’s hard to “take out” if too heavy handed.
A secret tip for when making fruit chutneys and relishes? It’s not necessary to peel all fruits when making fruit relishes and chutneys such as pears and peaches. This can save a lot of time and energy.
Don’t be afraid to add citrus to the mix – Nicola’s popular Indian date chutney has extra spice and two fresh lemon blitzed in the food processor and added to the pot at the start of the cooking.
‘Long and slow’ is the key with chutney and relish. A gentle heat for several hours maximises the flavour.
Take up foraging around your neighbourhood for things to make. “I often make crab apple jelly with the many wild crab apple trees around. I also make a pesto from wild parsley, puha and nasturtium that tends to grow wild around Port Chalmers. This pesto is my top seller at the Otago Farmers market and is usually made from a mix of the above wild greens and Swiss chard (silver beet), cashew nuts, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. The trick is to get the seasoning right.”
Nicola embraces recycling – keep glass jars, wash and recycle with your own preserving, or give to others who make extra preserves