TV and radio presenter Stacey Morrison joined us in the My Food Bag Development Kitchen to share her special recipe inspired by traditional Māori hāngī. She chats to us about the inspiration behind the dish and her food memories.
Tell us, what’s your inspiration behind the hāngī recipe?
I love hāngī, it’s a lovely treat, and when we were making our TV show Whānau Living, Alison Leonard came in with a slow cooker hāngī recipe that I thought was really clever. My slow cooker is one I bought before I had three kids though and wasn’t as big as I would have liked, so I adapted the recipe for the oven and put in some personal favourites and touches to the recipe.
For instance, pre-frying the chicken so it retains that outer layer of flavour when it’s fully cooked, adding mānuka salt and smoky spice flavours which I must say really make it so delicious! Seems I’m a big fan of oil and spices, and my husband really rates it too.
What does a traditional hāngi mean to you?
A special event or hui, big scale and kinship of people working together.
Tell us about your favourite part of hāngi.
I think the anticipation of knowing it’s coming! How genius our ancestors were to come up with this way of cooking, and how a hāngī fundraiser always goes well for school events too.
My Local Kitchen is about celebrating local food stories and iconic Kiwi dishes from our childhoods. Do you have a good yarn for us about growing up with hāngi or your first memory of it?
The banter around putting down a hāngī is always really entertaining, and crews from the marae kitchen to the hāngī pit always come up with the best one liners! In Rotorua there are also steam boxes which use the geothermal steam and boiling water to cook the meal, which add another delicious flavour profile.
I wish I could find a classic photo I remember of my Kuia gathering watercress with me as a toddler, I was held on her back by a woollen blanket she would wrap around herself, so it became a backpack – no straps or flash design needed.
What are some of your fav classic Kiwi recipes you love to feed your whānau?
My mother-in-law makes the most fantastic pavlova so I leave it to her to be honest, you can’t beat perfection!
What’s something about Māori kai you’d like to share with our foodies?
There are now hāngī cookers which are so good and well worth investing in if you often cater to a crowd, the person who has one of those is always very popular! Rēwena bread doesn’t get as much love as it should, it has a taste and quality unlike any other, and I also love how the bug (potato bread starter) is such a precious thing to whānau, it will retain the quality of the environment it was made in, so I’ve heard people say their Nanny’s rēwena ‘tastes like her kitchen’ and it takes them back there as they eat it, which I think is such a lovely food memory.
What are some of your fav eateries/restaurants in Aotearoa?
I’ve recently been to Homeland, the new restaurant and cooking school kaupapa by Peter Gordon and his partner Alastair which is dubbed ‘The food embassy for Aotearoa & The Pacific’ and the food was divine, we all loved it and what they do to showcase tradeable, sustainable kai is wonderful. I have a goal to get to Monique Fiso’s Hiakai restaurant in Wellington which everyone raves about!
Can you tell us some of your fav local produce here in Aotearoa?
Kūmara, kawakawa and horopito in cooking is so distinctive and delicious, it’s great to see them all featuring in restaurant dishes featuring a real flavour of Aotearoa. Eels are a traditional kai for my people at Wairewa/Little River in the South Island, I’m completely useless at anything to do with them myself, but I’m grateful to our iwi members who are restoring the lake and looking after our mahinga kai (traditional food sourcing areas).