A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree

By Andrew Frame … Man About Town

Hello! Remember me? After a few months off I’ve come to spread some Christmas cheer!

Last year you will remember my Beloved came up with a 12-meal menu representing the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas. This year she has gone one better, adapting the New Zealand version – “A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree” (the classic kiwi picture book was illustrated by local legend Dick Frizzell) into twelve days of glorious food.

Once again, there is a bit of poetic licence in a few places, but thankfully from a dietary viewpoint nowhere near the poultry-fest (swans a-swimming, geese a-laying, calling birds etc.) of last year’s collection. And wherever possible all ingredients were sourced from local sources like the Hawke’s Bay Farmers Market, Bellatino’s, Chantal’s and Vetro.

A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree Salad
Dish:
Blue Cheese Stuffed Chicken wrapped in streaky bacon with apple, spinach & walnut salad.
Reasoning:
We couldn’t get hold of any Pukekos (& it was too dangerous trying to scrape one off the highway), so chicken had to suffice. Blue cheese because that’s the colour of Pukekos and the salad represents the Ponga Tree.

Two Kumara
Dish:
Baked Kumara with Goat’s Cheese, and Herb Crumbs.
Reasoning:
Straightforward for a change, no poetic licence needed!

Three Flax Kits
Dish:
Blueberry Pie with lattice top with homemade vanilla ice cream.
Reasoning:
Everything (except the blueberries) is homemade, so when we made the pastry for the top of the pie, we wove the strips into a lattice – similar to how a flax kit is woven.

Four Huhu Grubs
Dish:
Hasselback Potatoes.
Reasoning:
When washed, roasted, sliced and buttered/oiled these new season potatoes look remarkably like huhu grubs!

Five Big Fat Pigs
Dish:
Pork five ways – Pork Loin stuffed with blue berries and nuts, Serrano ham and broad beans, pork crackling chips, Pork cutlet with pomegranate glaze, Ricotta stuffed pears wrapped in panchetta.
Reasoning:
Straightforward once again – five types of pig! I think Beloved has been watching too much “Masterchef” though. Just the names of some of these dishes are a bit too flash for me. And the leftovers! – 12 days of pork sandwiches anyone?

Six Poi a -Twirling
Dish:
Filo pastry parcels of stuffed chicken breast served with cranberry sauce, baby carrots and string beans.
Reasoning:
When wrapped in pastry and baked these chicken parcels look like poi. I tried twirling one with the string beans attached. It did not end well.

Seven Eels a-Swimming
Dish:
Mouclade.
Reasoning:
I can’t stand eels – slimy, slithery little buggers. Mussels are far less shiver inducing. These ones will be “swimming” in a white wine and curry broth, which go especially well with some ciabatta (which, you could feed to the eels) to soak up whatever broth is left.

Eight Plants of Puha
Dish:
Portobello Mushroom Burgers with Watercress Pesto.
Reasoning:
We went for alliteration on this one, Portobello mushrooms and Provolone cheese. Puha was in short supply, but we found some Watercress, which did the job very nicely and is a common plant, like Puha, often overlooked in modern cooking.

Nine Sacks of Pipi
Dish:
Mussels with Toasted Herb Crumbs.
Reasoning:
I can’t say I have ever eaten pippis, but I imagine they would go just as well. We had mussels left over from the Mouclade, so used them instead.

Ten Juicy Fish-heads
Dish:
Fried Scallops and Chorizo.
Reasoning:
I had a mentally scarring incident involving fish-heads at the Napier dump when it was still a landfill, and I was much younger, many years ago. So we went for a form of seafood far less likely to cause further psychological trauma. If you haven’t tried fried chorizo before, you must – it’s very yummy!

Eleven Haka Lessons
Dish:
Beef, Haloumi and Red Onion Kebabs.
Reasoning:
Beloved chose this dish because she thinks rugby players, like the All Blacks, who perform the Haka are “beefy” (or at least eat a lot of red meat to give them their strength and physique) – hence beef kebabs.

Twelve Piupiu Swinging
Dish:
Spaghetti & Meatballs.
Reasoning:
Piupiu are the reed skirts women wear in traditional Maori dances. The reeds look like spaghetti and what goes the best with spaghetti? Meatballs! This is also an easy dish that I can do to give beloved the night of Christmas Eve off.

So there we go readers. For next year’s installment, I’ll work on a “12 Takeaways of Christmas” menu, but for some reason I expect to end up with a gastric bypass procedure, coronary problems or divorce around day seven.

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year and I’ll see you “About Town” in 2011!

Andrew

And our best wishes for the holiday season and the year ahead!
Tom & Brooks

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