Xmas pav’ and kai

It’s only a few weeks until summer and one can feel a sense of urgency building as people start thinking about sun, sand and an oily rag Christmas! Lots of oily raggers will be planning something special so here are a couple of ideas.

No-one can consider themselves a proper kiwi cook without knowing how to whip up a tasty pav’. There are lots of recipes but the key ingredients don’t generally change and for those with lots of eggs, it’s a low cost treat. All you need are 4 egg whites, 1 cup castor (fine) sugar, 1 teaspoon vinegar, 1 teaspoon vanilla essence, and 1 tablespoon cornflour.

Preheat the oven to 150C. Beat the egg whites until stiff (when peaks like the Southern Alps form). Add the sugar one tablespoon at a time, beating after each. Beat for another 10 minutes or so then sprinkle the remaining ingredients in and mix. Place the mixture onto a baking paper covered tray (baking paper not grease proof paper!), and shape into a circle about 200mm in diameter. Put the pav into the oven and turn down to 125C. Wait an hour then turn the oven off. Leave it in the oven until cold or overnight (this forms the nice crust).

A reader from Whangarei has a tip for those who are oily rag inclined but are not quite up to organising and preparing the ingredients. Edmonds produce a “Pavola Magic” dessert mix (it comes in an egg-shaped package) which our reader says always produces a perfect pav’.

Top your creation with a layer of cream and slices of kiwifruit (of course!), or home-grown strawberries.

Talking about strawberries, KJ from Wellington writes, “To make Santa-hat chocolate strawberries I cut the bottom off each strawberry to remove the leaves and stem (the green bits). Dip the bottom into melted white chocolate then dip into coconut. That makes the fluffy white rim of the Santa hat. Repeat for the tip of the strawberry to make the fluffy white pom-pom. My kids love them.” To melt the chocolate buy a block of white chocolate and put it in a metal bowl above a pot of boiling water.

For those hosting lots of kai-seekers, why not try a hangi, which is easier than it first appears. Basically a hangi uses hot rocks buried in a pit to steam-cook meat and vegetables, giving the food a unique steamy, smoky flavour. The process takes about six hours so having a hangi is more of an event than a meal. Here are some quick tips…

Porous volcanic rocks or river rocks are best, and large stones hold the heat better than small ones. Heat the rocks in a fire until they are white-hot, using hot-burning logs like Manuka. This will take about 2 hours.

All types of meat, fish, poultry and vegetables can be used, but pork, mutton or lamb, and chicken, with generous portions of root vegetables like kumara, pumpkin, carrots, potatoes, and onions are the traditional kai. Cut the food into meal size portions.

Line a wire basket with tin foil and individually wrap the food in tin foil as well. Basically the idea is to have food that requires longer cooking closer to the stones, so that everything is cooked at the same time.

When the rocks reach the right temperature place them into the bottom of the hangi pit to form a flat surface. Put the full wire basket on top of the stones and give the stones and the basket a quick spray with water to create steam. Lay water-soaked hessian cloth sacks over the food basket, allowing the edges to go down the sides of the hole. Place a potato on top of the sacks, to use later as a tester. Place more wet sacking over, spreading the edges out over the ground. Cover the sacking with soil to seal in the heat.

The pit must be closed quickly to prevent heat loss, then the hangi should be left to cook for around three or so hours. Because the rocks cool, leaving it another hour or so should not be a problem. Remove the dirt and layers of sacking to check the test potato and when cooked, you will have created a wonderful feast. Kapia!