A hangi is a traditional Maori earth oven. A pit is dug, a fire is lit, meat, potatoes and kumera are placed in the embers and covered with earth until they are cooked.
Shamefully, when I left New Zealand in 2007 I had never had a hangi before. On a holiday back there in 2008 I went to a Maori experience evening thingy, where they gave us hangi-style food that had however been cooked in a machine.
It was on another trip out of London, this time to the unknown wilds of Essex, before I witnessed my first hangi (or imu, the Hawaiian word for it) in action.
I was at Danny, aka Food Urchin‘s house, with a bunch of other food bloggers who had all been invited because we had taken part in Danny’s “Where’s My Pork Chop?” project. Yes, all of these crazy people had volunteered to cook a packaged, takeaway dinner for a complete (well almost) stranger.
Danny got up very early in the day to light the fire, while the rest of us followed his tweets as the sweet Welsh lamb Myfanwy was laid to rest in the pit. Arriving at Danny’s place I could tell he was very nervous to see whether the hangi had worked.
I took along some Parmesan and poppy seed biscuits from the Ottolenghi cookbook (of course – and there are two more Ottolenghi posts to come after this one. I can’t help myself, I’m an addict).
Seen in the foreground are Celia Brooks Brown’s allotment veggies with a delicious sesame seed dip she made. We munched on these appetisers until poor Myfanwy was ready to be exhumed.
Here we see Danny digging up the lamb – he’d made it quite difficult for himself by making the hole really quite deep! However the first smells of cooked meat came wafting out at this stage.
Myfanwy’s coffin was a repurposed shopping trolley.
You’ll be pleased to know the lamb emerged cooked and mostly intact. The meat eaters of the party fell on it voraciously and pronounced it excellent.
Luckily, there was a delicious vegetarian alternative provided by Ginger Gourmand, as well as delicious salads and sides brought by other guests.
The question on everyone’s lips as we left was “when’s the next one?”