Culinary Adventures
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Kai to Pie and World on your Plate: Maori

Kai to Pie

“Kai to Pie — Pie to Chai — Nosh to Posh. Whatever way you slice it, Auckland’s stories can be told through food: from the extraordinary wealth of people and cultures, to its fertile abundance of land, sun and sea, come up to the Museum for a serving of Auckland on your plate.”

If you haven’t already been, check out the Kai to Pie exhibition at the Auckland Museum. There’s still 3 weeks until it ends and it’s free to all Aucklanders.

12 June – 25 October 2010
Special Exhibitions Hall
Auckland Museum
Free entry

Here are some of my photos from the exhibition.

World On Your Plate: Maori

Running in conjunction with this exhibition is World On Your Plate – Saturday demonstrations of cuisine from around the world.

I attended the Maori food demonstration by Charles Royal and his family in July. Charles is “a fierce advocate of sustainable local cuisine, indigenous produce”. Sadly, Maori dishes and native ingredients don’t feature in the day to day cuisine of the majority of New Zealanders. A lot of Maori ingredients are foraged and foraging on a large scale or to order is not sustainable. I found it really interesting that Charles has a passion for Cajan and Creole cooking and combined this with Maori cuisine. He even opened a Cajun restaurant in Rotorua (where I grew up). I’ve always been fascinated by Cajan and Creole cuisine and hope to experience both in-situ one day.

Two dishes spring to mind when I think of Maori food: the hangi and the boil up.

Hangi uses ingredients similar to a roast dinner but instead of roasting, the food is steamed in baskets over hot stones in dug out pit. All the meats you would see in a traditional roast feast will appear in a hangi feast. These include: Pork, lamb, beef, chicken, potatoes, kumara (sweet potato) and pumpkin. Greens don’t do so well cooked for this long underground, so you’re best to cook them in your regular kitchen. Growing up in Rotorua, which is a geothermal area, I was super lucky to go to a primary school where we often had hangi feasts. Melt in your mouth tender servings of all the meat and vege you can fit.

A boil up can be described as a pork bone soup with potato, kumara and puhu (like spinach). It’s pretty similar to the every day soup that Chinese have before a meal.

Neither of these dishes were presented at Charles’ demonstration. This made the demo more interesting for me as everything was new information.

Here are some of my photos of Charles Royal’s Maori food presentation.

A platter of foraged foods.

Pikopiko and miro pigeon berries.

Foraged mushrooms.

Pikopiko tastes…green and a little bitter.

Be careful if you are planning on foraging for pikopiko yourself! Most of the wild fern in New Zealand’s native bush are carcinogenic. There over 300 ferns and only 7 ferns are ok to eat. Those are not good odds so best to get professional advice if you are not sure.

Miro pigeon berries don’t taste like regular berries. Mostly a inedible, white, speckled seed in the middle.

Cloud ear mushroom – many of which get exported to China. We can buy cloud ear mushrooms in New Zealand. But I considered these a Chinese product. Which makes me wonder…the cloud ear mushrooms that Chinese people buy here in New Zealand might have been foraged here, then sent to China to be packaged and branded, then sent back to New Zealand for New Zealand Chinese to buy. Consider that carbon footprint!

Cloud ear mushrooms doesn’t have any flavour to speak of and they are eaten for their springy, almost crunchy texture. Their interesting shape holds onto sauce very well. Also known as wood ear fungus.

Pikopiko soda bread dough in a skillet.

The flavour of this reminded me of watercress or spinach cooked into bread.

Kawakawa shortbread. Quite yummy.

Kawakawa grows everywhere here. In fact, we have some in our back yard. I’ve never known people to use it though. Weird huh? Why would something so abundant not be used more?

Kawakawa tea sweetened with a little honey. Purifies blood, helps alleviate digestive complaints, chest troubles, constipation, blood pressure and asthma.

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