I’ve been on a Pacific island for a month. Mostly eating. Well, eating right up until Christmas, suddenly realising that I had overdone it in the bodyweight department then layering in some light, irregular exercise over exactly the same amount of food consumption for the next two weeks.
I didn’t take many food photographs while I was there, being too busy hoovering up the contents of my plate, so this is going to be one of those food-porn free web pages that would probably make Melinda Tankard Reist (I love her!) proud.
Norfolk Island, situated about half way between Australia and New Zealand, turns out to be one of the gluten-free, organic, low-food-miles havens of the South Pacific. And it is overrun with both chefs and good, old-fashioned real-food cooks. (I had no idea!) So it’s important to eat as much gluten-free food as you can while you are there. There was something yummy to chose from wherever we went, but here’s a list of more or less ten gluten-free food items I ate on Norfolk Island:
- Bananas. Celiac disease and bananas go back a long way. Before the medical profession knew so much about the disease, someone discovered that celiac kids began to thrive if they were taken off all other food and fed only bananas, so I hear. So if you are an older celiac you may prefer to avoid the nostalgia. But, bananas! Not grown for storage or transport, these bendy things taste just like banana candy/sweets/lollies! (It’s an upside-down, crazy old world.) On Sunday mornings go down to the markets near the post office and buy them off my friend Patricia who has a banana plantation on her family farm. But they are just as nice picked up from the service station, supermarket or laundromat. Also pawpaw. The island does not import fruit. It is a matter of eating what is in season, but over the year there is quite a variety.
- Drive up to the north of the island (10 minutes. Try not to get too exhausted.) and visit Bedrock Cafe. Tables are stretched out along the deck with a beautiful view of the waves washing into the cliffs. Just the sound of the waves itself is soothing, but the view is worth a return visit. The menu at Bedrock is a list of home-made GF cakes and tarts followed by just as many home-made main courses. On one of our visits we arrived to find a new pot of beef and coconut stew simmering on the wood-fired stove. Our host scooped it out of the pot and served it in a bowl over a scoop of brown rice with a garnish of salad. Also from Bedrock, the lemon tart. Creamy and zingy in the filling, rough where it needs to be. Drizzled with cream. And chocolate beetroot cake. What is cake without vegetables? The beetroot is a thick-grated, sweet companion to the dark chocolate. Lovely and moist.
- Down at the Rissole (RSL or Returned Services Club) they have gluten-free batter, so you can order battered fish and chips for dinner just like everyone else does every day. (They also offer grilled fish, but why?) The Rissole also offers battered pineapple rings dusted with cinnamon sugar and topped with ice-cream and a grilled pineapple ring for afters. I asked them if they could use the gluten-free batter on the pineapple rings, and yes, they could, and I did. But not on the same day. I do have some self respect.
- Chilli prawns, made to the authentic Singaporean chilli crab recipe at Little Singapore, a cafe/restaurant run by some old hands in the Singaporean restaurant industry. At the same cafe, chef made us deep-fried sliced (longways) green bananas with ice-cream for dessert. They were crisp and hot and sweet and soft and cold all at once.
- Melting moments the size of your palm (the palm of your hand, not the palm outside your resort-style accommodation). These are an old-style recipe of mostly butter and sugar that falls apart in your mouth. From The Golden Orb, set back from the island’s main street.
- Chocolate macaroons. Not the smooth macaron you see about nowadays, but the rough, sticky, desiccated coconut and egg-white delights that remind me of mum’s cooking before she got that full-time job in the city. (I’m not complaining! The consequential frozen danish pastries were also welcomed by the whole family.) These are also from The Golden Orb. The GF bread at The Golden Orb is also worth consuming. I ordered a sandwich or two there but ended up peeling off the fillings and eating the bread separately. Their gluten free bread tastes like fluffy scones. Order a BLT and you can chow down on warm bread lightly soaked in bacon grease. Not so heart healthy, but you are on holidays and it won’t happen again, honest.
- Corn fritters at The Olive off the main street. Served on a bed of delicate local salad veggies. I wish someone would make corn fritters for me every lunchtime. If you have any interest in doing this, apply in the comments section below.
- We waited until almost the end of the month to visit Norfolk Blue, a restaurant set in the farmhouse of the island’s former dairy. We took a table on the verandah overlooking the garden. The service was formal and attentive and the slow roasted beef with vegetables was a roast at it’s best. This outing also afforded a drinking of red wine in the middle of the day which set me up nicely for a snooze over the road in the Hundred Acre wood. Take something to lie down on in the grass as you are lulled to sleep by a variety of birds living peacefully on the island.
- Thai green fish curry made with Trumpeter fish caught that morning off the coast of the island, served on the deck of Castaway. They have a good bar that can serve you drinks as you enjoy dusk falling over a wee valley.
- The Governor’s Lodge provided us with a Tahitian fish salad that I could eat every day. Raw fish is marinated in vinegar then mixed with some kind of coconut milk, and some kinda pink flower. Oh, I am such a food writer! The dish is sweet, cold and delicious. Tahitian fish salad is a cultural food for the islanders. Many trace their heritage back to the women kidnapped from Tahiti by the Bounty mutineers on their flight to Pitcairn Island.
- I almost forgot the Bowlo (Lawn Bowls Club)! The chef there will make you normal bistro food but check down the menu and you can see he has slid in some gluten free cheffy food. My favourite was chicken stuffed with prunes and ricotta in a white wine sauce, served on a bed of vegetables.
It was also great to see that the supermarket has a generous range of gluten-free dry groceries.
The other small thing I would mention is if you are particular about the silken texture of your lattes, order flat whites instead. Fresh milk is $8 a litre flown in weekly from New Zealand and I doubt anybody is going to put it in your latte. It’s UHT for the rest of us so order flat whites, eat another GF cake and consider it part of the joy of travelling.
All-in-all a very gluten-intolerant friendly island. So all you need to do is fuel up and freely explore the incredible history of the place from the mutiny on the Bounty to British penal colony horrors to the wreck of the Sirius (flag ship of Australia’s First Fleet), finishing with a swim/snorkle. Well worth a week (or four) of your time.
Have you been to Norfolk Island? Did I miss anything?