Cooking couple plan to put Kiwi classics back on the table on new TV show

Monique and Henry Heke are bringing traditional meals back to the table.
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Monique and Henry Heke are bringing traditional meals back to the table.

Home cooking favourites Henry and Monique Heke are on a mission to make Maori dishes more relevant to a wider Kiwi audience.

The Hekes are putting a restaurant spin on dishes like hangi, boil up and marinated fish in their new show – Tradition on a Plate.

"For too long people have said 'What's Aotearoa's traditional dish? And people say roast lamb. Our traditional dish is hangi."

Could the hangi be New Zealands traditional meal?
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Could the hangi be New Zealands traditional meal?

The pair who won the people's choice award on My Kitchen Rules in 2015, want to showcase Maori kai to mainstream New Zealand.

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"We want people to talk about food admittedly indigenous food. I don't want to spilt New Zealand by saying Maori food; I want to say cuisine Maori is acceptable for everyone and that indigenous food is the new thing," Henry said. 

Monique and Henry Heke want to see families including their children in the kitchen when they cook.
SUPPLIED

Monique and Henry Heke want to see families including their children in the kitchen when they cook.

Monique is keen to see New Zealanders learn more about modern Maori cuisine.

"As urban Maori now, we've moved away from our marae, we've moved away from those rural areas and we've bought ourselves to the cities. Kaimoana is not abundant like it used to be," she added.

Henry Heke said he learnt about the importance of food from his mother, who raised him on her own. She was unable to read or write, but  she always made sure there was food on the table, that they all had clothes on their backs, and their children were educated.

He was taught to peel potatoes before he could go to school.

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"I remember when mum was beating cream and there were always two whisks – one kid got one, and one got the other and if there were three kids then one got the bowl."  

The husband and wife duo use their different backgrounds to tell a story through food, and they want to pass that on to others. 

"Cooking is fun, cooking is easy, I love cooking and I wish more people cooked. I wish fewer people went out and got takeaways and more people stayed home and cooked food," said Henry.

"We are so busy as parents and our kids are so active – the one fundamental key is passing on those traditions that your parents, and grandparents passed on."

"What we're trying to do is to make what we deem as Maori food acceptable for everybody." 

It doesn't always have to be big to be traditional.

"If we go to the marae it's always banquet, it's always big, but sometimes "iti is pretty" sometimes we don't need the big banquet we could get away with a restaurant style serving and make it more unique and special." 

The Hekes want to inspire others to keep these stories going by cooking with their own children, or nieces and nephews.

The couples are at ease in this series and in front of the camera. 

"I love being on TV with my wife, it's a crack up." Henry says.

"I enjoy the fact we're on TV together and that we get to tell our story."

* Tradition on a Plate is on Maori TV on Thursday nights at 7.30pm.

 - Sunday Star Times

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