Clash of the Marae Kai titans
In the end it came down to one point. After one hour of intense concentration in an unfamiliar kitchen, the ringawera from Mangamaunu Marae were edged out of the reality television series Marae Kai Masters by Huria Marae (Ngāti Ranginui) from Tauranga in a compelling seafood challenge.
There was both disappointment and relief at the end, says team member Te Marino Lenihan (Ngāi Tūāhuriri). As the only Ngāi Tahu team and the only representatives from Te Waipounamu among the eight finalists, the Mangamaunu ringawera were under a fair bit of pressure. Mangamaunga Marae, north of Kaikōura, is a small, humble marae with plenty of kaimoana on the doorstep, but few resources in a kitchen that is run from a generator.
The ringawera at Huria Marae, on the other hand, are so famous for their culinary talents that King Tūheita has nicknamed the marae “the Hilton Huria”. The marae runs many health and well-being programmes, which it funds by catering for tourists who visit from the many cruise ships that call into Tauranga.
“We realised that to compete at the next level we would need to be a bit tighter as a team,” says Te Marino. “We were thrown together from the four winds, while some of the other teams were used to cooking together under pressure.”
The Mangamaunu team — Tania Wāti, Alison Smith, Rebecca Manawatū and Te Marino — entered Marae Kai Masters to win a few prizes to bring home and hopefully to make their whānau proud in the process. .
Teams in the cooking series were competing for more than $60,000 worth of prizes including kitchen and dining room equipment, a year’s supply of kaimoana, and cash.
Mangamaunu entered after they saw a pānui sent to marae around the country. It was followed by a Skype interview with the show’s producer in which they were given five minutes to come up with a three-course menu for 100 people using pāua, crayfish and snapper, with a $500 budget.
The production crew came to Mangamaunu for a hākari and interviews, and then it was time for Mangamaunu to head for the big smoke — Auckland — for the challenge against Huria. Almost immediately, the producers sprang a surprise on both teams by asking them to nominate their best fish filleter, then asking that person to stand aside while their team mates attempted to fillet fish. “We should have seen that coming,” says Te Marino, who was nominated by his team. He needn’t have worried, as the Mangamaunu girls won that challenge. It was then into the kitchen for the main challenge: to prepare a seafood platter for four.
“It wasn’t as easy as we thought,” says Te Marino. “Not only were we in an unfamiliar kitchen, but the production company had also crammed four work stations around one table to make it easier for the television cameras to cover the event. That didn’t last long.”
Once underway, the allotted hour flew past. That pressure you see on television? It’s not all down to fancy editing. “The hour disappeared like five minutes, and the closer we got to the end of the hour, the more the pressure came on and we realised we were running out of time,” says Te Marino. “With two minutes to go, the only thing on the platter was the snapper.”
They scrambled, and got there in the end, he says, but found the whole experience quite different to how the team would prepare food on the marae. But that is reality television. Pile the pressure on and see how people cope.
“We felt we did our marae families proud and it was a great experience,” says Te Marino. “We really did get a huge buzz from it, especially hanging out with the Huria Hiltonites and getting to know the MKM production crew. All great people who were all there to uplift and uphold the mana of our ringawera puta noa i te motu.”
The following recipes formed Mangamaunu Marae’s seafood platter.
STORM CLAMS — steamed in garlic and wine, and served with a slightly spicy salsa Prepare salsa by finely chopping and mixing the following ingredients:
• 4–6 tomatoes (de-seeded)
• 1 yellow capsicum
• 1 handful of fresh coriander leaves
• 3–5 cloves fresh garlic
• 1/2 a red onion
• 1 chilli (include seeds if you like more heat)
• juice of 1 lime
• generous pinch of salt (flakes, if available).
Refrigerate overnight for maximum flavour.
1. About 10 minutes before serving, lightly fry 3–5 finely chopped cloves of garlic in olive oil in a large pan until translucent (not coloured). Add storm clams, pour over a glass of white wine, cover the pan, and increase heat in order to steam. Clams are ready once they have opened. Discard any clams that have not opened.
2. Plate clams in a large serving bowl. Drizzle with the remaining garlic-infused wine jus. Serve accompanied with salsa.
MÉNAGE À PĀUA — a wholesome threesome of pāua heavenliness
1. K.F.P. (Kaikōura Fried Pāua)
Shuck, clean, and soften the pāua as your pōua and uncles taught you.
Slice pāua into “fingers”.
Dust the sliced pāua with flour, bathe them in beaten eggs, then coat with bread crumbs and fry until golden in sunflower oil.
Keep pāua warm in a pre-heated oven until ready to serve.
2. Creamed Pāua Filo Pockets
Cut pāua as you wish (sliced, minced, chopped).
Fry one finely chopped onion in butter until translucent (not coloured).
Add pāua and leave to cook in its own juices over a low-medium heat.
When liquid has reduced by half, stir in contents of a seafood soup packet, and 500 ml cream.
Bring back to a simmer, and reduce until desired consistency for your filo filling has been achieved. Leave to cool.
Lay one sheet of filo on a flour-dusted surface and brush with melted butter. Lay another sheet on top and brush again.
Spoon the cooled creamed pāua into the centre and fold edges over so that they seal and form a parcel.
Brush the non-buttered sides with melted butter, and transfer the parcels onto a lightly oiled baking tray.
Bake until golden brown (approximately 20 minutes) in a 180°C oven.
3. Pāua Paddies
Whisk 3 eggs and ½ cup of milk.
Season with salt and pepper.
Combine with 1 ½ cups of self-raising flour.
Add ½ an onion, finely chopped.
Add 5 minced pāua (including one white hua).
Pan fry in vegetable shortening until golden and gorgeous on both sides.
FISH AND FRESH HERBS — Walnut and Watercress Pesto served with Baked Snapper
Walnut and Watercress Pesto
Blend the following ingredients in a food processor:
2–3 handfuls of clean, roughly chopped watercress.
1 ½ cups grated parmesan
juice of one lemon
3 garlic cloves
¼ cup roasted walnuts
salt and ground black pepper
¾ cup olive oil
a) Check for desired consistency and flavour, adding olive oil, lemon or seasoning where necessary.
Snapper Baked Standing
Remove gills, gut, and scales, and clean the snapper.
Make 3–5 angled cuts down each flank, being careful not to cut through to the bone.
Season stomach cavity with salt and fill with quartered lemons, sliced fennel root, and roughly-chopped fennel and parsley leaves.
Massage the outside of snapper with olive oil, and season all over with salt.
Stand the snapper on a thick bed of sliced onions in a roasting dish, and cook for approximately 20 minutes in a 180°C oven.
Serve snapper on lightly toasted ciabatta slices.