Thursday, June 17, 2010

Haere Mai, Come in and eat with my Whanau

I’m away this weekend, healing at the Gold Coast, so I won’t be online. Let’s have a cup of tea and some scones when I get home. Until then, enjoy some photos.

A hangi is the Maori word for cooking your kai (food) in the ground. My dad heats rocks (I’ve seen off-cuts of steel used) with a fire, and then places the rocks in a hole in the ground. Meat and vegetables are wrapped in aluminium foil, cabbage leaves, silver beet, or cheese cloth, and placed in wire baskets. The wire baskets are placed on the bed of hot rocks, and more rocks are placed on and around the baskets. Hessian, towelling, or carpet dunked into water first is then laid over the baskets. Cover with dirt and then drink beer, play pool, or throw darts for five hours. This is the most important part—socialise with family and friends.

I’m not my dad, he knows more Maori than the word kai, so I put down the I-used-to-be-a-tradey all Australian hangi. It’s had dad’s, "that’s the tidiest hangi I’ve seen boy," tick of approval.

I line the floor and sides of the hole with kiln fired bricks (not concrete blocks), they’re free at all building sites if you ask nicely, and then burn native timbers (this is important) for roughly ninety minutes. Shovel most of the embers and coals aside, place the aluminium foil wrapped meat into the pit, and push the embers back around the kai. Did you see what I did there Dad?

Cover the embers and meat with wet towels, not mum’s good ones, old nappies, or that denim jacket you wore in the eighties. Wetting them first stops them burning while you’re shovelling dirt.

We had a twenty first party, and because I was busy being a host I didn’t get the chance to photograph the meat before it was all gone. The best meat for a hangi is lamb, pork, or fish. Beef is sometimes dry, but you can wrap it with olive oil beforehand. Add herbs, onions, garlic, flavours and sauces to the meat when you wrap it, and the best thing about cooking this way is you can’t overcook the meat. It will stay moist until unwrapped.

My hangis cook for four to five hours, but soils, bricks, and coals hold heat differently. The weather will also influence burning and cooking times. Don’t use fire starters or any chemicals to start the fire—paper and kindling only, and don’t use treated or painted wood either. Chemicals make us sick, and gravy will not hide that kerosene taste.

 Our backyard: the hangi is in the garden in front of the farm shed, kid’s cubby on the left, pergola, pavers, and dart board, just out of sight, on the right. Everything you can see, I have built. 

Have a great weekend, and kia waimarie with your hangi. Talk soon, Simon. “Kei te aroha au ki a koe.” 

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