It's not everyone who dines out for lunch then dumpster dives for dinner, but the farmer and I now count ourselves among this exclusive group.

We were en route home from my belated birthday lunch at The Cove, a restaurant at Waipu Cove which somehow manages to give the impression summer's just around the corner even in the depths of winter.

We'd observed that the folk at a nearby table were enjoying oysters and counted our good fortune: the farmer had gathered some from his oyster farm that morning and a bowl full sat in our fridge.

After lunch we admired wetsuit clad surfers ride a succession of perfectly formed waves then we headed west, visiting friends on the way.


We neared home as dinnertime loomed and idly discussed how we might prepare the oysters. We often have fritters, but weren't in the mood.

Perhaps they'd be good in soup, but wouldn't it be handy if we had other seafood to join them, or even fish stock in the freezer. But the cupboards were bare.

Just metres from home the farmer stopped to natter to a fisherman heading away from Batley and asked what he'd caught that day.

The fisherman friend hadn't been in the game, but said someone had scored a massive snapper, gutted it and left its frame and head on the beach.

Rather than turn up our drive, we meandered on about 100 metres to the point where the farmer made a spectacular find.

He reckoned the fish would have weighed more than 15 pounds when it had been in one piece. It seems to me that despite metrics being used by Kiwis for more than 40 years, fishermen still talk about the weight of fish in pounds. I guess higher numbers make fish sound bigger.

He shooed away a handful of opportunist seagulls which, luckily, hadn't hadn't yet made inroads, threw the fish on the back of the ute, took it home, separated the head from the frame, gave it a good wash and threw it in our largest pot.

Presto! We now had the perfect ingredient to bolster our oyster soup.

If you've never tried the meat from fish heads, you should. It's pure white, meltingly moist and has a delectable flavour. It's best to pull it from the head when it's still warm and pliable.

We began cooking fish heads some years back for my few hens which relished them, ate the flesh from the biggest heads ourselves – and haven't stopped.

The soup was such a success we figured we'd do it again some time. Fry onion and garlic, add white wine, vegetable stock powder, water, fish sauce, lemon rind, lemon juice, mushrooms, shredded perpetual spinach — or something similar — and seasoning.

When the soup is cooked, throw in the fish and oysters and simmer briefly, add cream if you want to, and serve. You might like to thicken it, but we didn't.

The next night I used the same ingredients to make an Italian risotto and had enough left for lunch the following day.

The cats fell upon the last of the fish meat and we returned the cleaned out head to the briny. Sorry, little fish and seagulls, you missed out.

The next time I pondered what to have for dinner, the farmer had a solution. "How about I go to the point and see what's washed up?"