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Hiakai: Modern Māori Cuisine

by Monique Fiso

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Winner of the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards for Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction (2021)

& this is indeed a beautiful book, but like another restaurant book I reviewed a few years ago, Saison A Year at the French Café by Simon Wright for the most part the recipes are made to be looked at and admired – a coffee table book rather than a practical cookbook. I’m just not going to go to the trouble of making my own pine oil for example. I do admire Ms Fiso’s determination to make the unusable usable (for example, Red Matipo.)

The illustrations make me feel confident that I could use them to forage some food. (I became an enthusiastic forager during the first Lockdown, but wasn’t confident enough to try native plants) The illustrations are beautifully shot and clear.

As an example, here is a picture of Puha;

Puha

This is the plant most often used in people’s daily cooking. It is supposed to be quite bitter, but Ms Fiso has some recommendations to combat this. I will wait for Spring to try this.

As you can see the pictures are beautiful, but the labelling is with the book text, rather than the picture itself. Stylistically, this is more pleasing but makes the book harder to use for a casual browse, as sometimes the text is distant from the photo.

The only recipe I found that I could/wanted to make was a desert Kumara Roroi. Hopefully I can get hold of coconut sugar.

I do have one question – why did Māori men in historical times urinate on their nets or traps? Belief that it brought good luck maybe.

I do recommend this book, but would borrow from a library rather than purchasing.

Edit: & the Kumara Roroi was indeed beautiful & the whole house smelled of cinnamon & nutmeg. (I’m assuming the kumara itself provided the sweetness in pre-European times. Will definitely make this again.

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