Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Hangi: A Maori Feast in your own kitchen

Opening the hangi and lifting out the baskets of food.
Last February our family celebrated Waitangi Day in the small village of Okains Bay on the South Island of New Zealand. Waitangi Day is the national celebration of the treaty signed by Maori Iwi (clans) and the British in 1840. At Okains Bay the day's celebrations included a replication of the original arrival of the Maori in Aotearoa, a welcome to the Marai and a hangi. "Laying a hangi" describes the preparation of this traditional feast. A large hole is filled with stones aned heated with a fire. Then large baskets of kumara, potatoes, chicken, mutton and sausages are laid in and covered with cloth and a layer of sand. Left overnight to cook the hangi was opened in early afternoon and served out to the visiting crowds.

Cadets served out the meal to the hundreds who came to celebrate.
This year we were back home in the Yukon. And a cold February seemed a good time to celebrate Waitangi Day and remember the warm weather of a New Zealand summer. With help from my daughter in New Zealand I attempted a small scale northern Canadian version of the hangi. The following recipe turned out a credible hangi, at least according to my wife.

The backyard being both frozen and under a metre of snow I decided to use our slow cooker to lay the hangi. I started by marinating boneless chicken thighs overnight in a mix of tamari sauce, peppered olive oil, a generous splash of liquid smoke to try and replicate the hangi fire, smashed garlics and thin leaves of fresh ginger. In the morning I went outside and cut a number of clean willow stalks placing a layer on the bottom of the cooker to keep the meat out of the water. I figured these would also give it a Yukon flavor. I covered the willows with a layer of smoked side bacon and then I dumped in seared medallions of veal and reindeer / jalapeno sausages.

Then came the vegetables. Kumara not being a common item in Yukon gardens I substituted large chunks of squash - skin on, sweet potatoes, onions -  peeled and quartered, and two hand fulls of garlic cloves, skin on. The whole is covered with a thick layer of finely chopped cabbage, salt and pepper and an abundance of smoked paprika. I added a cup of water laced with more liquid smoke and popped on the lid of the slow cooker. Set at 200'F I let it cook for eight hours, but six probably would have been fine, and ten wouldn't have hurt it either. Slow cooking is a forgiving art and makes a great hangi.

You may also want to check my 2011 November visit to Maori sites of importance in Taranaki.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a tasty feed. Glad it was a success. Maybe next time we're in town in the summer we can do a good old ground one (or perhaps if you come here next Christmas. . .).
    Love you,