Thursday, February 4, 2010

Cooking a Hangi with Chef Jules

Hello Friends;
I mentioned in my last post of cooking a Hangi. For my international friends, a Hangi is New Zealand's indigenous peoples, (Maori) traditional method of cooking food underground and has been used for hundreds of years. In fact this method of cooking was used throughout the Pacific and also Chili, The Balkans, certain parts of North Africa and the Middle East. Basically a hole is dug relative to the size of the number of people being catered for. A fire is lit, volcanic rocks are placed on top and heated for two and a half hours. The various foods were placed in flax baskets or leaves, covered with more leaves or flax matting and earth and cooked for three to four hours.
I have been trialling the hangi pot, pictured above, which simulates this method and has all the elements of a traditional hangi, i.e. the hard wood fuel source, the volcanic rocks, the leaves all cooked under  pressure with that unique smokey flavour. The difference is that you don't need to dig a hole, is a great deal quicker, can be used anywhere, even in suburbia, and as I did, you can experiment with different flavours, traditional Maori herbs and spices. For people living in New Zealand I can see a real market for this product in that any overseas visitors one may have, could be treated to a taste of ethnic cooking from the home of the kiwi and the All Blacks, our national rugby team. Because of the design, the heating of the rocks takes 45 minutes and cooking time is 90 minutes. Whist waiting, enjoying a nice glass of Yatir 2004, my thoughts turned to the steaming pot and the contents therein. Rather like an expectant father waiting for the birth of a child, I formed an attachment to the contents. You know it's developing, changing, but you do ask yourself, what will it look like, will it be underdone or overdone?. All culminating in the lifting of the bundle, you need not have worried, perfectly done!. There are quite a few imitations on the market which are made of stainless steel and use gas as the fuel source, but can't compare to the traditional Maori method of cooking and the Hangi Pot.
The photo below shows some of the food I cooked in the hangi pot, kumara, sweetcorn, potatoes, cabbage, chicken. The capsicums I stuffed and cooked separately.
Ciao for now.

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