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Howard's End: How To Have An Indoor Hangi

As winter sets in who can resist the wafting aroma of fresh baked bread or the anticipation of eating a casserole which is quietly bubbling away in the oven. But what about the smokey aroma and sensational taste of an indoor hangi without the hole. Maree Howard writes.

Over the weekend I discovered a new winter taste sensation - a perfect hangi without the need to dig the hole, light the fire or carry the rocks.

The smokey aroma of steaming chicken, lamb, kumara, pumpkin, potatoes, banana, apple and other tropical fruits all combined to make me think I had entered gourmet heaven - and it all happened so simply in my very own domestic oven.

A friend had given me a simple indoor hangi recipe using liquid smoke instead of having to dig the hole, set the fire and carry the rocks. It turned out to be a new taste discovery.

It was all so simple - you know the one, set and forget, and don't we all want that?

You start with as many pieces of chicken, lamb, vegetables and fruit as it takes to feed the family. Prick the meat, vegetables and fruit and brush liberally with the liquid smoke. The holes you've made will help the liquid smoke penetrate into the food.

Get a deep baking dish which has a lid. Line the bottom of the dish with some cheese cloth - my friend uses an old sugar-bag - and swamp with water to only just cover the bottom - a little over a cup of water seems to be all that's needed.

Place the chicken and lamb into the centre of the pan and surround with the kumara, pumpkin, potatoes - we included whole banana, apples and other tropical fruits with the skins on, and what a taste sensation that turned out to be.

Cover the food with another layer of wet cheese cloth (or sugar bag) and then cover the pan with aluminium foil. Put the lid on.

Then, it's into a 180 degree celsius oven for about 2-3 hours depending how much food you have. Then, you can forget it. You can check the cooking after about an hour and a half if you really want to - add a little more water if necessary.

As a nervous first time hangi-without-the-hole cook, I checked by lifting the lid and a corner of the aluminium foil. But we were OK - no need to have worried. The aroma was beautiful.

By five o'clock the smokey steam aroma from the meat, vegetables and fruits was wafting throughout the house and everyone was licking their lips in anticipation. We were not disappointed. It was the most sensational new winter taste I've enjoyed for some time - and it was all so simple.

So, if you're looking for something new and tropical as the cold winter wind and rain howls outside, try the indoor hangi without the hole.

Until now, one of life's great pleasures for me, was waiting for the bread to rise and smelling the sweet aroma wafting through the house as the yeast slowly worked its magic on the ingredients to make them rise to new heights for that golden loaf. Bread baking has a kind of a primitive instinct about it, doesn't it?

But now, the sensational taste and aroma of the ancient earth oven but without the hole, the fire and the rocks has come inside - and that certainly satisfies my basic human instinct to create good wholesome food. Better yet, it's the taste and aroma of the tropics in the middle of a NZ winter.

The Mainland cheese slogan "good things take time" is right but, in house, not too long and better still - easy.


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