Its Matariki time again, the Maori New Year Festival, A great opportunity for all New Zealanders to join in and celebrate. And what better way to do so then by gathering up the whanau for some special kai?
This weekend, as winter chills set in, we’re planning a relaxed family evening meal around the fire. We’ll be sure to include some foods which were traditionally grown in tribal gardens.
Some months ago some little purple potatoes caught my eye at our local Sunday market. I was told they were called taewa and have been cultivated by Maori for at least 200 years. They may have been a pre European crop, but we know for sure that some varieties of taewa arrived with early explorers, sealers and whalers during the 18th century. They not only became a staple crop for Maori but were widely traded by them.
Traditionally they would have been cooked in a hangi, but lacking the necessary manpower to dig a large hole, and a substantial quantity of large stones, it seemed easier to just steam them on the stove. When cooked their insides were yellow and their taste was sweet and nutty, Definitely worth cooking again, but as they are at the height of their season in late summer, they may be more difficult to come by at this time of year.
There will be no such supply problem with kumara. The supermarkets always have several varieties of them on sale. This ancient crop was brought here by the early Maori settlers over one thousand years ago from the Pacific.
We’ll start the meal with a creamy seafood dip. The kids can help to cut out stars from Edmond’s savoury short crust pastry to use as dippers.
The main will be large bowls of kumara and orange soup, laced with coconut cream, coriander and grated orange rind. They will be served with freshly baked crusty bread. Alongside a light salad of mesclun and watercress leaves and sliced oranges dressed with Eta aged balsamic vinaigrette containing the peppery Maori herb horopito.
For afters, a festive raspberry tamarillo jelly laced with a little tawny port. It’s easily made the night before. The adults will appreciate a large dollop of mascarpone cheese with it, and the kids – vanilla ice cream.
Its dark early now and they’ll still be up when the stars come out, Who knows, we might catch a glimpse of Mother Matariki and her six daughters in the sky! And in the spirit of Matariki we’ll reminisce about times past and look forward to good harvests in the years to come.
Kumara and Orange Soup
This recipe was kindly donated by Kris Malcolm
I can vouch for its deliciousness! The saltiness of the pancetta complements the sweet flavour of the roasted kumara perfectly.
2 onions, diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped.
1 heaped teaspoon of coriander seeds.
750 g of red kumara (peeled and diced)
250 g of potatoes (peeled and diced)
750 ml chicken or vegetable stock
250 grams of coconut cream
The rind of one orange, finely grated
Salt and pepper to taste.
A few slices of pancetta.
Roast the kumara and potato in a moderate oven until they are just starting to colour
(about 15-20 minutes)
Take them out of the oven and briefly roast some slices of pancetta until they are crisp.
Toast the coriander seeds in a frying pan and then grind them in a spice grinder or with a pestle and mortar.
Fry the onions and garlic gently in a frying pan until they are soft. Do not let them brown. Add the coriander and continue to fry briefly.
Next add the roasted kumara, potatoes and stock.
Bring the mixture to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. By this stage the kumara and potato pieces should be tender.
Blend the soup with a stick mixer until it is smooth.
Stir in the coconut cream and orange rind. Reheat the soup, but do not let it boil as the mixture may separate.
Season to taste and serve garnished with roasted pancetta and some crusty bread alongside.
2 heaped tablespoons of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of tawny port
2 cinnamon sticks.
1 raspberry jelly
Immerse the tamarillos briefly in boiling water. The skins can easily be peeled off after this.
Cut the tamarillos into quarters and place in a bowl with the brown sugar, cinnamon sticks and tawny port.
Leave them to marinade in this mixture for about 1 hour.
Remove the cinnamon sticks.
Make up the jelly with 1 cup of water.
Pour this over the tamarillos.
Either ladle into individual bowls, or leave it in one large serving dish. Glass will show off their rich red colour.
Leave to set.