Kids cook a traditional Maori boil-up

00:10, Aug 23 2011
Turama Cassidy
CHEF IN TRAINING: Turama Cassidy prepares a boil up.

Positive communication among people forms a vital and stimulating part of daily life, and the conversations in the classroom with teenagers, whether planned or impromptu, never cease to lack enthusiasm or excitement.

This week's topic of conversation in the senior year 13 Food and Nutrition practical class centred around boil-up. This is a traditional meal of Maori origin in which pork and bacon bones are simmered for several hours and cooked with starchy and green vegetables. It is a one-pot meal which falls into the thick soup or thin stew category.

Surprisingly, a third of the class said they consumed this meal on a regular basis, while there were others who had never heard of it. Lots of in-depth conversation and sharing of knowledge was had by the students, and a very successful recipe for this delicious meal was trialled and developed.

We have called our boil-up Kohua Kai, which means food boiled in a pot. There are slight variations in the making of this meal but the basics remain the same.

A mixture of bacon and pork bones is simmered for 2-3 hours in a large pot with lots of water, which turns into a flavoursome stock.

Bacon bones are readily available at supermarkets and butchers, but pork bones can be a little more difficult to obtain.


The mixture of bacon and pork bones produces a less salty bacon flavour. Using a lot of liquid also ensures that the stock is well diluted.

Taste test the stock after the simmering process, before the vegetables are added. If it is too strong in flavour, remove some and add water.

The simmering process enables the stock to fully develop and the flavours and nutrients such as collagen and gelatin in the bones to be extracted into the liquid.

Starchy vegetables are added in the last 20 minutes, as are the dough boys. These are balls of soft, scone-like dough which are poached in the cooking liquid. They take the same amount of time to cook as the starchy vegetables and are similar to dumplings in texture.

We added one large bag of watercress, but some of the students felt that a second bag could have been added to increase the amount of greens and contribute to the flavour.

Serve the boil-up as a chunky soup and let everyone indulge in the mouthwatering meat and bones.

Caramel slice is our sweet indulgence for the week. We have decreased the fat and sugar content but added almonds and chocolate chips. Cut it into small squares, wrap them in a cellophane bag tied with a ribbon and give it to dad as a special home- made gift for Father's Day.

Teach your children and teenagers to decrease portion sizes for consuming sweet foods so you can still enjoy them in your diet without over-consuming.

Put bacon bones, watercress and condensed milk on your shopping list this week. Get the biggest cooking pot out of the cupboard and make a boil-up. Let the teenagers and children make the dough boys.

Enjoy the conversation and family time together as you sit around the table and munch on tasty Kohua Kai. There will always be enough in the pot to share with unexpected visitors.

If you enjoy Kai with Soul recipes, the first two years' worth have been collected in a great new book. Published to celebrate the school's jubilee, you can buy it from the school office, Poppies Bookshop, The Crafty Fox, Mitre 10 Mega and the Puke Ariki Information Centre for $30. All profits go to the school. It's selling so well that it's gone into a second print run.

Kohua Kai (One-pot boil-up)

Serves 6-8

1-1.5kg bacon bones

4-5 litres water

6-8 potatoes

1 wedge (300g) pumpkin

1 kumara

1 packet watercress

Freshly ground black pepper (optional)

Place the bacon bones in a large pot (8-litre capacity) with a close- fitting lid.

Add the water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a steady simmer, and simmer for 2 hours with the lid on.

Scrub or peel the potatoes and cut into quarters. Add to the pot.

Cut the pumpkin into medium- sized pieces, remove the skin and add to the pot.

Peel the kumara and cut into medium-sized pieces. Add to the pot.

Bring the heat back to a simmer and add the prepared doughboys. Place them on top of the vegetables. They should be immersed in the liquid stock (if not, add a little more water).

Simmer for a further 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked.

Add the washed watercress to the pot. Sit it on top of the doughboys and keep the lid on the pot. Cook for 5-10 minutes until the watercress is tender.

Ladle into large soup bowls. You may use tongs to serve the doughboys and watercress.


Taste the liquid stock before adding the vegetables. If it is too salty, remove some and replace with fresh water.

Make sure the liquid covers the vegetables and doughboys. Add more water if needed during the cooking process.

Other vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, yams, silverbeet, spinach etc could also be used.

Caramel Squares

Makes 25 small squares

150g butter

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

Caramel sauce:

1/2 can condensed milk

25g butter

1 Tbsp golden syrup


2 Tbsp chocolate chips

2 Tbsp slivered almonds


1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease a 20-22cm square slice pan.

2. Soften the butter in a medium- sized bowl. Add the sugar and vanilla essence and beat with a wooden spoon until pale and creamy.

3. Sift in the baking powder and flour and stir until combined. Save 1-2 Tbsp of the base mixture for sprinkling over the caramel sauce.

4. Press the rest of the mixture evenly into the greased baking tin. Use the back of a metal spoon to flatten the top.

5. Measure the condensed milk, butter and golden syrup into a small saucepan. Put on to a low heat and stir until the ingredients are melted and combined.

6. Remove the caramel sauce from the heat, cool slightly for 5 minutes, then spread evenly over the base mixture.

7. Crumble the reserved 1-2Tbsp of base mixture over the caramel sauce, followed by the chocolate chips and slivered almonds.

8. Place into the preheated oven and bake for 20-30 minutes until the top is golden and the base has risen.

9. Remove from the oven and cool completely before cutting into small squares with a sharp knife. Place into a cellophane bag, tie with some ribbon and give to dad for Father's Day.

Dough Boys

Makes 8-10 dough boys

2 cups flour

1/2- 3/4 cup water

Sift the flour into a medium-sized bowl. Pour in the water and stir with a bread and butter knife until the mixture binds together to form a soft ball of dough.

Place the dough on to a lightly floured, clean bench or board and pat down until 1-2 cm thick.

Cut the dough into 8-10 even- sized pieces. Roll each piece into a round shape. They are now ready to add to the Kohua Kai in Step number 6.

Content provided by Katy Power and the year 13 Food and Nutrition class at Spotswood College.

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