Kana vinaka literally means 'thank you for the food,' and is the title of the cookbook I am doing the photography for and helping Colin put together. To my mind, kana vinaka sums up Colin's philosophy of cooking and his gratitude for the abundance of produce that grows and is grown in the Fiji Islands.
Colin is passionate about eating local and has been working in the Islands for forty years teaching, encouraging and demonstrating the amazing things that can be done with Fijian produce.
Yesterday I needed to get the landscapes and vistas out of my system in my blog post: now I can focus on what we have been creating during our trip. We come to Kaibu to work in their kitchen - the wonderful facilities here mean we have everything we need to test and photograph recipes for the book. I've worked in worse offices!
I love nothing more than a good turn of creativity, and this trip, I have to say, we have created some outstanding food (that's the royal we). Colin has the bulk of the experience and expertise, but we spend a lot of time discussing our ingredients, planning what we're going to cook, how to shoot it and of course critiquing it once we've tried it!
One of the ingredients we have been working with is hearts of palm (we've nicknamed it HoP). Hearts of palm is a little-used ingredient here, but one that is in plentiful supply, as it is literally the heart of the palm tree trunk. This week we have been given some HoP from a fledgling farm in Sigatoka that is growing Peach Palms from seed imported from Hawaii. Traditionally, Fijians don't eat HoP very much, because they don't want to have to sacrifice 'the tree of life' by cutting it down. But with a small amount of development, palms could easily be farmed for HoP, making it a sustainable product.
Yesterday we made four outstanding salads from hearts of palm - and it would be hard to find a more contemporary expression of the most iconic of Pacific island paradise symbols - the palm tree. THIS is what Colin means when he talks about a contemporary Fijian cuisine.
Hearts of palm is the centre of the uppermost section of the palm tree trunk. The outer layers of the trunk are cut away until only the heart is left. It has a delicate taste that is a great foil for other flavours and it can be presented in a number of different ways. It is tender, moist and has great crunch, making it extremely versatile.
Dick Whittling is the name of the farmer who is developing a hearts of palm farm in the Sigatoka Valley. We think he's onto a winner!