I am taking a short, but compulsory, sojourn from Australia as my tourist visa is about to expire and I cannot be in the country while my more substantial visa is being issued.  I have come to visit much-loved friends in New Zealand and the boys have stayed in Melbourne.  I miss them them terribly but I’m also having a wonderful time.

My friends, once neighbours and frequent partners in culinary crime and eating exploits back in the UK, returned to Wellington about three years ago so this is wonderful opportunity to catch up. They live in a beautiful spot near Pukerua Bay and this evening, just before sunset, they took me diving for paua (abalone). I could barely contain my excitement (in fact I couldn’t sleep last night).

We set off very late in the afternoon already wearing our wet suits and walked a couple of kilometres along the stunning bay as we needed to reach a point beyond the Rãhui which is an area of protection designed to enable paua to live in peace, grow and multiply. In the past paua have been over-harvested so this area of protection was introduced and along with heavy fines for the collection of under-sized specimens and a quota of ten per person.  Given that the minimum legal size is larger than the palm of my hand, this is more than enough for a huge meal!

We finally arrived at our dive site and, hot from the walk, it was a relief to be able to enter the cold water.  The conditions were not ideal being rather choppy with poor visibility and against a first-timer such as myself but my friend had soon collected twelve. I did manage to find a few but, once I had prised them from the rock with my knife, realised they were too small and released them.

As the light started to fade we returned home, exhausted, to shower and shuck and cook our haul.  As I was trying my hand at shucking the still very active (i.e. trying to suck onto my palm) paua I felt doubtful that I was going to be a convert to this particular delicacy as the grey flesh felt extremely rigid and, frankly, unappetising but a few good whacks with a meat tenderiser, thin slicing, and a short time in some very hot oil rendered them absolutely delicious.

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