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Te Awamutu Market 31 January

TA Blog 28th Jan2013

The  Fish Wives.
Shelley Turner and her sister Levonne Robertson are from now onwards to be officially known as  the ‘Fish Wives’ of the Rakaia Salmon Stall. After all we have the Lettuce Man,  The Tomato Man, The Egg Man, the Fritterman, the Plant Lady and SconeWoman (that’s me). I interviewed Shelley last week to get some background on her manuka Smoked Salmon and I learnt quite a bit.
Shelley owned Stop ‘n’ Drop In – that iconic green café near Taupiri on the way to Auckland where she was owner /operator for 10 years. The café always used Rakaia Salmon on the menu and when Rakaia business owner Royden Harstone decided to sell he encouraged Shelley and her sister to get involved. After all, the fish smoking facility was just up the road in Rangiriri in the Export Quality Mussel processing factory, Shelley was a chef and her sister Levonne was a Food Technologist and Mum and Dad, Pam and Rex Turner, were retirees happy to help out their girls. It was the perfect opportunity for the whole family to try something new and for Shelley to take a break from the stress of running a café 24/7.
9 months in and Shelley says she is loving her new role as a fish wife and while the work is constant it is nothing compared to the hours she put in at the café. It was a massive learning curve of course, coming to grips with the business. It turns out that not only is the Rakaia range of  hot manuka smoked salmon sold at the Farmers’  Markets but is also sold to cafes, supermarkets, delis and butcher’s shops around the upper north island.
The South Island farmed Chinook salmon is chill-freighted to the Rangiriri facility where Shelley marinades the whole fillets in salt then places them in the manuka wood smoker and then natural flavours (Lemon Pepper and Herb and Garlic) are added and the completed product is chopped and vacuum packed, weighed and labelled. This is also done lovingly by hand by whichever members of the family are on duty.
A little smoked salmon goes a long way and Shelley will give you a bunch of recipes to make the most of this delicious and nutritious fish. Rakaia Salmon are regulars at the Te Awamutu Market on Thursday afternoons but they can also be found at Cambridge and Hamilton  markets at the weekends.
To compliment a nice little bit of salmon there is the usual terrific range of summer vegetables at the market these days.  Try making Ratatouille – a summery stew of onions, courgettes, tomatoes, capsicums and possibly some button mushrooms and egg plant enhanced with garlic and basil, a little sugar (yes sugar to offset the acidity of the tomatoes) and salt  and pepper. This would go very well indeed with pan fried salmon fish cakes. Bella Pane has the crusty French  baguettes and Wayne has the best Living Gold Olive Oil into which to dip said baguettes. All this gorgeous bread then mops up the juices of the Ratatouille. How French. Of course Clif Fyers  of Fyers Gardens and Richard Cato  of Catos Potatoes would say that the ideal complement to smoked salmon would be new potatoes coated with melted butter and fresh mint and Ian the Lettuce man would insist that a crunchy green salad with a light French vinegarette on the side would make things absolutely perfect. Eat in the cool of the summer evening with a glass of local wine or homemade beer and thank the powers that be, that you live in the Waikato.    Mmmmm – see you next week!