Monday, 23 March 2015

Gibbs Farm, Kaipara Harbour, New Zealand - An Art Lover's Dream

Neil Dawson's "Horizons", 1994  suggest a piece of corrugated iron
blown by the wind. (my personal favourite)
Well known New Zealand businessman and entrepreneur, Alan Gibbs, had been an art collector and patron of the arts for many years prior to buying his magnificent farm/rural getaway, on the Kaipara Harbour, in 1991.  Blessed with wide views across
the vast harbour this verdant, gently rolling landscape of over 1000 acres has proved to be the perfect location for Gibbs to continue his art patronage and fulfil his dream of creating a sculpture park. For the 19 sculptors he has commissioned so far it has offered a rare opportunity to create colossal works befitting the size and scale of the landscape.

Richard Serra's "Te Tuhirangi Contour" 1999/2001 is 252 metres
 long referencing the shape of the land
  It had been a long held dream of mine to visit so it was with great anticipation that I set out on the pleasant rural drive about 60 kilometres north of Auckland.  I spotted one of the sculptures standing out against the skyline in the distance before I arrived, a tantalising glimpse of what was to come.  And what a treat it was!
"Dismemberment, Site 1" by Anish Kapoor, 2009,  runs between a cleft in
the hillside and is 85 metres long. Those tiny specs beside it are people.

"A Fold In The Field" by Maya Lin 2013, covers 3 hectares
Alan Gibbs, ably assisted by his son in law, architect, Noel Lane, has commissioned
major art works by important artists to fill specific parts of the landscape.  Because the property is so vast the art works are too.  The sculptors were given free reign to design whatever they wanted for the spot they were offered and the result is a stunning property the like of which I have never seen before. It is slightly surreal and dazzlingly beautiful.  It can take several hours to wander the property and take in the sculptures from all angles.  At many points I just sat staring and marvelling.

The water feature with Kenneth Snelson's "Easy K" to the left and
 Richard Thompson's "Untitled (Red Square/ Black Square" to the right
But it is not only the spectacular sculptures which dot the landscape, there are exotic animals too, including giraffe, zebra, highland cattle, alpacas, emu, turkeys, ducks, goats and, no doubt, others I have missed.  The whole property is beautifully groomed with a narrow paved road winding around between sculptures but it is also easy walking across the fields.  It was soporific bliss to eat my picnic lunch  beside the lake, mesmerised by the changing rhythms of the water feature.

Exotic animals dot the farm

I was thrilled with my visit to Gibbs Farm and didn't want to leave.  It is even better than I imagined and I can't recommend a visit highly enough.  Entry is free, however, bookings MUST be made for the once a month public openings and can be made through the Gibbs Foundation website:  Numbers are limited and openings are usually booked out months ahead. Public openings are not held through the winter months. 
Richard Thompson's "Untitled (Red Square/Black Square) 1994

Big congratulations and gratitude to Alan Gibbs for his
forethought in developing this unique property, his patronage of the arts and his generosity in sharing it with the public.
"88.5 ARCx8" by Bernar Venet, 2012
Len Lye "Wind Wand" 2003

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Danish Cuisine and a couple of easy recipes

Traditional Danish food is based on what farmers were able to store through the long winter months, things such as pickles, salted meat, dense bread and potted herrings. Favourite meals include meat balls, roast pork and crackling and poached cod served with mustard. Denmark is also famous for smorrebrod, or open sandwiches of buttered rye bread usually layered with fish, eggs, salad vegetables and pickles.

My morning tea in Copenhagen
And as for Danish pastries, those delectable delights which had me drooling outside the windows of the many bakeries which dot the country, what can I say?  I have never seen so many different flavours and permutations.  I am sure if I spent any length of time in Denmark the weight would start piling on!  Not that the Danes seem to have that problem.

Over the last few years Danish chefs have taken an innovative approach to cooking using traditional core ingredients to develop a modern Nordic cuisine.  Restaurant Noma in Copenhagen specialises in this new style and has been named the best restaurant in the world in four of the last five years, including 2014.

I made this smorrebrod for lunch.....

.....And here are the traditional Danish recipes I used:

GRAVLAX ( Gravet Laks)
This is salmon cold cured in salt, sugar and dill.

1and a half kg salmon fillet with skin on
60g salt
60g white sugar
80g fennel seeds, toasted and ground
3 bunches dill, coarsely chopped plus extra, chopped to serve

Place the salmon skin side down on a chopping board and trim.
Pin bone if necessary
Sprinkle with salt, sugar, ground fennel and dill in that order. Wrap tightly in the plastic wrap and refrigerate, preferably with a weight on, for 3 to 5 days.

To Serve
Scrape all the coating ingredients off the salmon and sprinkle with the extra dill.
Serve with Dijon mustard

DANSK REDKAL (Pickled red cabbage)
This is a staple food in most Danish homes.

25 gm butter
4 tablespoons redcurrant jelly
1/2 (half) cup cider vinegar
1/2 (half) tsp allspice or ground cloves
1 teaspoon rock salt
Pepper to taste
Half a head of finely chopped red cabbage

Mix butter, jelly, vinegar, allspice and salt in a pot. Stir till melted then add the cabbage.
Cover with lid and boil for up to an hour, or until cabbage is soft, on a moderate heat.
Remove the lid and boil, watching carefully, until all the liquid has evaporated.
Can be eaten hot or cold and tastes even better reheated the next day

Place Gravlax, mustard, pickled cabbage and rye bread on a platter and let everyone help themselves.  Delicious.

Oh, and make sure you wash it down with a Carlsberg (Danish beer)

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Den Gamle By - Aarhus, Denmark

If you are ever in Aarhus and have time to do only one thing it has to be to go to Den Gamle By.  Den Gamle By (The Old Town) is a living museum of over 80 historic houses, dating from 1550 to the 1970's, which have been moved from 20 towns in Denmark to make up a large village.

A visit is like taking a step back in time, well, a number of times really, because the village is laid out in different time zones. There are many styles of architecture and different types of buildings from alms houses to humble thatched cottages to the very grand 17th century Mint Masters Mansion, all perfectly set out as if this were a real town. 

There are cottage gardens growing herbs and vegetables, a pharmacy garden, a
windmill, a water mill and a very picturesque canal running through the centre where my grandson had a wonderful time in a rope pulled dinghy. It is truly a wonderful place.  You can while away a whole day strolling the cobbled streets, going in and out of the houses and  chatting to the 'villagers', or role players who keep firmly in character as they go about their daily tasks.

  There were many highlights for us. One was sampling the village beer in the brewery where beer is brewed traditionally.  The master brewer wasn't too proud to tell us that he often lost his brew due to faulty brewing, a not uncommon problem in the old days when maintaining a good temperature was difficult.

Another was the 18th century children's playground where my grandson enjoyed the merry go round and playing rope skittles.  I had never come across this game before - a long knotted rope hangs from a pole and is pulled back and let go so that it swings towards the skittles to knock them down.  It is harder than it sounds.

We visited the toy museum, the Danish Poster Museum and the Gallery of Decorative art. We munched on sugar pretzels bought in a 19th century shop, one of six working shops dotted around the village, including a bookshop and a post office and we watched tradesmen working using traditional methods.

Yes, in Den Gamle By you really feel you have stepped back in time. It is a fascinating snapshot of three centuries of Danish architecture and design.  We spent a few hours there and could easily have spent longer. I have been to other 'historical' villages over the years but this is the best one I have seen by a far.

So thanks, Mum, I read about Den Gamle By in your book, 'It Was Better in Winter',  you loved it and we did too. 

 I had set myself the goal of visiting the places in Denmark my mother wrote about and have achieved what I wanted to.  It has been immensely satisfying.    It is a country I felt very at home in, coincidentally, because that is how my mother felt when writing about it 40 odd years ago.  I would happily return.