This year we'll have the opportunity to recognise and celebrate Matariki with a new public holiday for the first time and, as 24 June approaches, many will be thinking about how best to mark the occasion.
The rise of the star cluster Matariki signals the start of the Māori New Year. Traditionally, it's a time to get together to share kai harvested from past seasons. Four stars in the constellation are connected to kai, relating to food from the ground, the sky and trees, the rivers, streams and lakes, and the sea.
Those connections were the inspiration for Tuesday's episode of MasterChef NZ, where contestants completed a special Matariki-themed invention challenge – and provided plenty of food for thought for planning Matariki menus along the way.
The challenge was a special one for many of the top ten, including trainee school teacher Farzana, who said Matariki's "acknowledgement of the people of the land" was important for her personally, as well as professionally, when teaching her students about its significance.
Contestants were given a host of local ingredients from show and episode partner New World, including produce like kūmara, potatoes, carrots, and watercress, and kai moana including fresh fish and mussels, to be the heroes of the final dish.
For contestant Naomi (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Whānau ā Apanui, Te Arawa), the challenge was an opportunity to showcase elements of the food from her childhood.
"To me, Matariki is not only about sustenance, but about honouring and remembering our loved ones that have been before us, the starting of the Māori new year and when to plant and harvest," she said.
Naomi's dish (recipe below) is packed full of delicious inspiration for using local ingredients in a Matariki meal.
If you aren’t quite ready to tackle a Master Chef-level cook or don't have access to foraged native plant ingredients, like kawakawa and pikopiko, don’t worry. The team at New World – the primary sponsor of MasterChef NZ, are hard at work every day to ensure a constant supply of fresh, local ingredients. New World has also created a Matariki food hub where you can find tons of easy and tasty recipes that the whole whānau will love.
Brigit Corson, Foodstuffs North Island Head of produce and butchery, is one of those passionate team members and leads the co-operative’s sourcing of all produce and butchery meat.
"We're really blessed with amazing local meat and produce here in Aotearoa New Zealand," says Corson, whose love for the land and its food stems from a long family history in horticulture.
"There's nothing like visiting one of our amazing growers to see what they do, and the care they take, and then to see the efficiency of the supply chain to get their fresh produce to our stores.
"And watching our in-store butchers applying their trade as they prepare meat is also testament to the respect and passion that New World has for fresh foods."
Sustainability is central to the work too, she says, and New World channels their responsibility and respect for the environment into several key commitments, including working closely with local suppliers to ensure products are sourced in a way that cares for Aotearoa's people and environment.
Thinking of her own family gatherings and celebrations, Corson's winter menu thoughts go straight to roast meat, accompanied by some hearty root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, onions or kūmara.
"This is such a bountiful time of year, with produce that is delicious, nutritious and a perfect for warming meals."
She says any dish that includes a few lashings of pork crackling is a favourite, while soups are a wonderful way to showcase the likes of pumpkin or cauliflower.
But with Matariki in mind, she adds, "the most important ingredient is of course whānau and the opportunity to share time together through food."
You can try your hand at some or all of this Matariki-inspired feast prepared by Naomi during Tuesday night's challenge episode, or check out more inspiration with New World here.
Recipe: Maumahara Te Hakari - Remember the Feast
Preparation Time: 45mins, Cooking Time: 1 hour, Makes: 1 portion
Measurements and ingredients
1 Kūmara, roughly chopped
5 Riwai (Māori Potatoes), roughly chopped (or alternatively use another variety of potato)
2 Bay Leaves
To taste, Tote (salt)
1L Wai (water)
1 cup Watakirihi (watercress)
3 Horopito Leaves (or alternatively use a sprinkle of cayenne pepper)
6 Kawakawa leaves (or alternatively use basil)
500ml Olive Oil
5 Green-lipped Mussels, cleaned and debearded
1 Shallot, peeled and diced
1 Tsp Coriander, chopped
1 Tbsp Vinegar
1 Chilli, sliced
1 Tbsp Huka (sugar)
2 Pikopiko Fern Fronds (or alternatively use green beans or asparagus)
3 Cleaned mussel shells
6 Riwai (Māori Potatoes) (or other roasting potatoes)
3 Karoti (Carrots)
1 Blue Cod, filleted and skinned
To taste, salt and pepper
250ml, Coconut cream
1 Lemon, juiced
1 Juice of Lime
1 Capsicum, diced
2 Tbsp Coriander, chopped
1 Zest of Lime
Few Coriander leaves
Place ingredients into a pot of seasoned water to boil.
Reduce to a simmer and cook for 20-25mins or until flavour has infused.
Turn off and leave to cool slightly.
Blend into a smooth soup and adjust seasoning.
Pour into a serving bowl, drizzling kawakawa oil over and little leaves of watakirihi.
Blanch kawakawa leaves in a pot of boiling water until bright green.
Refresh in iced water. Squeeze out excess water.
Place into a blender with oil until you reach the right textural colour, vibrant green.
Pass through a strainer and set aside.
Use a butter knife to crack open the mussels, remove the beard and use the shell to open the rest.
Chop into little chunks and place in a bowl. Add vinegar and sugar to make a sweet pickle.
Add shallots, pikopiko and chilli to the bowl and season well.
Spoon the pickled mussel back into the mussel shells.
Keep the mussels in the fridge until ready to serve.
Serve on Kawakawa leaves on ice.
Roughly chop the potatoes and place on a baking tray drizzled heavily with oil and salt and pepper.
Place whole carrots on the same tray and place into the oven to roast at 180℃ for 20mins.
Serve on a board next to the boil-up soup.
Fillet the fish and cut into thick cubes and place into a bowl, covering with squeezed lemon and lime juice.
Add capsicum, coriander and coconut cream. Stir well.
Season well with salt and pepper to season.
Serve in a coconut shell on ice.
Garnish with coriander, lime zest and droplets of kawakawa oil to garnish.
This article was created for New World.