Lauraine Jacobs

Food & Wine Writer

Lauraine’s blog

7 September 2020

OYSTERS Mmmm!

We’ve been urged to buy local, and in a food producing nation like ours, it would be even better if that message was strongly ‘Buy Local, Eat Local.’ Plenty of great ingredients grow and food products are manufactured in the Mahurangi region, so we can feast on fresh, tasty and healthy fare that will get the local tick.

I love it that we have local oysters that can be bought direct from the farm, and personally can never get enough of these delicacies, freshly shucked and eaten straight from the shell with not much more than a squeeze of local lemon or lime.

At this time of the year, when winter is almost behind us, some of the sweetest oysters of the year are being harvested. While we’re used to savoury Bluffies with a season that runs from March to August, we need to recognise our own local Pacific oysters, growing quietly in the Mahurangi and Kaipara harbours. The subtlety of taste of each oyster varies according to where the oysters are from.

I spoke to Andrew and Lisa Hay of Mahurangi Oysters, who sell most of their harvest to restaurants around New Zealand, about the secret lives of these shellfish. Oysters are filter feeders, with each oyster processing 18 litres of seawater per hour as they feast on the algae. This helps to clean the environment, and Ministry of Primary Industry guidelines dictate that if there’s more than 25mls of rain over a 24 hour period, the farms must close for three days to ensure no runoff from the land contaminates the oysters. In the hottest summer months, after the oysters have spawned (each oyster can create up to 10 million eggs) they are thin and wan, but begin to build up the creamy fat that’s much prized by oyster lovers. Oysters are affected by the moon and vary between being crisp when the moon has waned, while showing the most creaminess as they build up to full moon when the tides are highest.

If you’re keen to seek out local oysters right now, when they are truly at their best, you can order online from Mahurangi Oysters, head to the Oyster Shed on the Leigh Rd, or purchase Orata Marine Oysters at the Matakana Farmers Market in the shell, half shell or little pottles. One pottle or 18 freshly shucked oysters are perfect for this delicious recipe.

OYSTER FRITTERS

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 4 tbsps butter
  • 2 large fresh eggs
  • 3 tbsps self-raising flour
  • 18 shucked oysters, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 lime, finely grated zest only

Place the onion in a bowl with one tablespoon of the butter and cook for 2 minutes in a microwave until soft. Beat the eggs in another bowl and whisk in the flour to make a smooth stiff batter. Stir in the onion, oysters, some salt and pepper and the lime zest and mix well. Heat a heavy frying pan and melt half the butter. Drop large tablespoons of the oyster batter into the pan, and cook four or five at a time over gentle heat for 2 minutes until golden, then flip over and cook the other side. Stack the fritters up on baking paper and keep warm while you cook the next batch with a little extra butter. Makes 8-10 fritters.

  • This was first published in Mahurangi Matters