It’s Matariki, the Maori New Year Festival time again. There are lots of public events especially in libraries and art galleries where we can take our grandchildren to learn more about our Maori culture through its stories and legends. But one of the best ways to celebrate Matariki is to invite the extended family over to have a special dinner at home.
Matariki has always been celebrated by Maori but since the new millennium it has gone mainstream and is now an important event on our national calendar. Anyone is welcome to take part.
Daniel’s Matariki Feast
Daniels’ Matariki Feast is a lovely picture book for grandparents to share with the littlies. In a gentle way that young children can understand it captures the spirit of the Maori New Year: the appearance of the seven stars, coming together to celebrate the harvest, sharing a Matariki Feast, remembering those who have passed away, and making new beginnings.
Daniel has just started school. He’s worried that the others won’t want to play with him. The new entrant teacher, Stacey, persuades him to join the children who are out in the school garden where pumpkins are ripening. One is ready to be harvested for their Matariki feast.
Then the children sit on the mat together while Harry tells the story of how his family always gets up early to look for Matariki, the seven stars that appear at the beginning of the Maori New Year. Stacey says that when she was growing up her family did that as well. They knew when to do it because that was the time her dad had dug up his winter vegetables and was ready to start planting again.
Daniel’s great grandmother has passed on, but they still have her recipe for a delicious pumpkin cake which he and his Mum bake together for the class Matariki feast. The children all have a wonderful time eating pumpkin muffins, carrot sticks and popcorn and they especially love the pumpkin cake. By the end Daniel has made a new friend and now feels accepted and happy.
When we have a Matariki dinner at our house for the extended family I like to include some root vegetables that have been grown and harvested locally, especially kumara which Maori people traditionally cultivated.
One year, when I was the resident foodie writer on the TV3 website my friend Chris Malcolm, a chef, shared this recipe for a kumara and orange soup laced with coconut cream. The saltiness of the pancetta complements the sweet flavour of the roasted kumara perfectly.
I served it with freshly baked crusty bread. Alongside there was a light salad composed of mesclun, watercress leaves and sliced oranges dressed with Eta aged balsamic vinaigrette containing the peppery Maori herb horopito.
The soup is a keeper. We’ll be having it again this year for Matariki and this time our granddaughters are old enough to make an apple crumble for dessert and to weave some flax stars for a table decoration. After dinner, we’ll brave the cold and go outside to see if we can find Mother Matariki and her six daughters in the night sky.
Chris’s Kumara and Orange Soup
2 onions, diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped.
1 heaped teaspoon of coriander seeds
750 g of red kumara (peeled and diced)
250 g of potatoes (peeled and diced)
750 ml chicken or vegetable stock
250 grams of coconut cream
The rind of one orange, finely grated
Salt and pepper to taste.
A few slices of pancetta.
Roast the kumara and potato in a moderate oven until they are just starting to colour (about 15-20 minutes)
Take them out of the oven and briefly roast some slices of pancetta until they are crisp.
Toast the coriander seeds in a frying pan and then grind them in a spice grinder or with a pestle and mortar.
Fry the onions and garlic gently in a frying pan until they are soft. Do not let them brown. Add the coriander and continue to fry briefly.
Next add the roasted kumara, potatoes and stock.
Bring the mixture to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. By this stage the kumara and potato pieces should be tender.
Blend the soup with a stick mixer until it is smooth.
Stir in the coconut cream and orange rind. Reheat the soup, but do not let it boil as the mixture may separate.
Season to taste and serve garnished with roasted pancetta and some crusty bread alongside.
Title: Daniel’s Matariki Feast
Authors: Rebecca Beyer and Linley Wellington
Illustrator: Christine Ross
Publisher: Duck Creek Press
RRP Hardback $29.99, paperback $19.99