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Cook Islands Recipes

supplied by Mereana Hutchinson, Rarotonga

Traditional fermented mitiore

This is by far the most easy to enjoy of our traditional fermented food flavours, for the uninitiated palate. Exciting too as you go into the lagoon to find those tasty morsels hiding amongst the coral on the reef. Enlist the help of your closest available local neighbour. There are many shellfish to choose from. Most people have a chosen favourite and spend hours debating merits of the choices available. Ungakoa is definitely my first preference.

The variety and selection of shellfish available in other regions of the world are numerous, so to make this dish wherever you roam is a possibility. The chosen shellfish should be fresh and prepared as cooked or raw ingredient. A fresh coconut ready for the scraper and a night time adventure on the beach is next. With a torch light and container with a lid, enlist helpers to go with you on the beach to collect little white crabs. As soon as the crabs feel the tremble of the sand when you come by, they will be scurrying around for their little holes to hide. Capture as many as two cups will hold and take them back to the kitchen.

The fermented part is the finely grated coconut flesh. With the coconut scraper, using a very light pressure, scrape the coconut meat/flesh ensuring no brown edge of the flesh is scraped. Set this aside in a bowl. Take the crabs, wash off any sand and dirt, tie them in a bundle in a muslin cloth and lightly pound with a kitchen mallet till a little mashed and then take up the bundle over the bowl of finely grated coconut flesh and squeeze the juice onto it.

Distribute this juice through the coconut and cover and leave on the side to ferment. If you have access to the broad leaf cordyline plant leaves, or the wild hibiscus leaves (AU ) then it may be wrapped in either. On a warm day, it may take six to eight hours to adequately ferment and be ready for the addition of diced raw or cooked shellfish. It should resemble a crumbly mixture similar to cottage cheese. A couple more hours to stand and then served as entrée or cocktail size portion accompanied with boiled green banana or cooked taro.

Onions were introduced to our islands by the European settlers. We have no spice or herbs with the exception of renga (turmeric) which colours food. Our salt came sea water, in all cooking. One may understand the blandness and natural flavours of our traditional foods. Nowadays the addition of a variety of herbs and spice enhances this dish. Keep lime handy and a ripe banana.

Add finely diced onions or spring onion, or garlic chives to the fermented coconut and shellfish. Store in chiller. This dish is good for up to three weeks and longer for those of us who appreciate a more developed and ripe taste. Allow the dish to reach room temperature when taken from chiller before serving. Allow yourself a pleasant tasty surprise.

© M. Hutchinson 2001

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