Maori Potatoes and Weekend Piggy September 2010

Maori Potatoes

On a rare weekend off I ventured to see the in-laws with my husband Chris at their wonderfully magic home in Coromandel. Lucky enough to live on kiwi sanctuary in a vast acreage of New Zealand native bush, they live the quiet life of ramshackle hippies. Well not quite but they have an air about them of content that I envy.

Commotion is rare when you have the songful chorus of the tui and the scurrying bodies of quail passing you by but commotion does come in the form of pigs. Wild pigs have a large area that they roam and that roaming comes at a cost to the surrounding bush. Ploughed areas of land can be seen all over and in the garden at my parents I have witnessed it.

Looking like a rather compact tractor has just worked its way through the bush, the tracks they leave are extensive and can cause a huge amount of damage. Lucky they can call on the skills of the local pig hunter who with little more than nod dispatches said pigs to piggy heaven with the help of his muscular but very beautiful pig dogs.

So the weekend we showed up I was presented with a hunk of meat to prepare as I felt fit for a long weekend of winter eating.Marinated in port jelly with a touch of orange, I was a little concerned about what to do with the hunk.

Wild pig is very gamey and texturally can be challenging if not given the right slow treatment it needs to reduce it's intense flavor and tough meat. The wild burning stove is ideal for this purpose so it can bubble and gurgle away all day while it keeps you warm. The only other thing that is needed is a few tasty extras.

So we gumbooted up and off to the vegetable garden we went to see what was available. Catherine's garden is a fine affair with a ring around it for the chickens to run and eat all those nasty creatures that are trying to get into the garden and can be thrown out for them to eat. It certainly adds another element to the harvesting routine to be talking away to Marigold as she flicks her comb at you.

We hauled carrots fresh from the ground, some shallots, perpetual spinach, a leek or two, some palm kale (growing to quite a height, singular cleaves can be removed and allow the plant to keep growing more) and Maori potatoes. For those who don't have clue what a Maori potato is, they grow just the same as a potato growing long and leafy tops that need to be dug about in order to get to the gems below. They are a fantastic purple colour and retain that colour when cooked. They are far more starchy so not great for mashing as they can have quite a gluey consistency when the starch is worked that much. I add them in to stewy creations where they work well. The colour is always the thing that throws me though-The bright purple flesh and darker purple skin looked spectacular next to my red gumboots.

Back at the house a slow cooking big had the leeks finely chopped and added in as well as the carrots for some sweetness. I allowed ten hours for the pig to cook in nothing more than lemon zest and white wine so eventually it was mushy and super soft and then I added the kale finely chopped and the spinach.
Pasta on to boil, and a big handful of fresh Italian parsley added, it was ready to go to the table.
Not a bad piggy all round.

You could do the same with a shoulder of pork or if you are lucky enough to find some wild pork, even better.

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