Waitangi Day is barreling down the pike -- well, as much as any New Zealand holiday can be gaining momentum here in the U.S., that is. So, what is Waitangi Day anyway? Celebrated on February 6, it’s a holiday that commemorates the signing of the Waitangi Treaty, New Zealand’s founding document, in 1840.
In addition to being an important celebration in New Zealand, it’s also a great reason to take a look at Kiwi food, and not just the ubiquitous lamb. Yes, we all know there are more sheep in New Zealand than humans, and with a ratio of almost 13 sheep per human, it’s no surprise that lamb is a dining table staple, as well as a valuable export. But there is more to the New Zealand table than transplanted sheep, so let’s take a look at what a Waitangi Day celebration might include.
New Zealand is home to both the imported western culture that we might be somewhat familiar with, as well as the indigenous Maori culture that remains typical of many Polynesian people. While indigenous and imported foods have mixed through the Maori diet, a traditional way of cooking, a hangi, continues to be a feature of Maori celebrations.
The hangi -- pictured, and essentially the same as a Hawaiian emu pit, which you might be more familiar with -- cooks food by retaining the heat of a fire in lava rocks and then transferring the heat to meat foodstuffs, which are generally packed in or laid over leaves to prevent burning. A typical hangi meal might include lamb, fish, sweet potatoes (called "kumara" in NZ) and pumpkin.
Find out more about the hangi and indigenous New Zealand ingredients at Tourism New Zealand.
That lamb makes up part of the hangi can hardly be surprising. If there is one thing that people the world over associate with New Zealand it certainly has to be sheep and lamb! To learn more about New Zealand lamb, and maybe even win a trip to New Zealand (from London’s Heathrow airport, so this may only be open to citizens of the UK), check out this great site on New Zealand Lamb.
The Lightly Spiced Roast Shoulder of Lamb looks like a killer recipe and would make a terrific main course, especially when paired with a fine Cabernet or Merlot-based wine from the Gimblett Gavels.
Another iconic delicacy is the ANZAC biscuit. Interestingly, this is a product whose name is licensed through Australia’s Minister of Veterans’ Affairs as well as through New Zealand’s Governor-General. Historically these biscuits -- they must never be called cookies, mind you -- were shipped off as a bit of home that could be brought to the far corners of the earth along with the fighting men of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC).
The biscuits were designed to remain edible for extended periods of time while still resembling something that you would want to eat, and that could be produced given the type of rationing that occurred during times of war.
This simple recipe is a great way to honor and celebrate New Zealand’s Waitangi Day. It not only commemorates the history of New Zealand, but it also reflects the character of the people: Ingenious, simple but rich and complex, and just a little bit sweet! Here’s a great, classic recipe for Anzac biscuits at Anzacbiscuit.net.
Once you've got your menu sorted and are after a nice New Zealand wine to drink with your meal, take a look at our sister site Snooth's new series on New Zealand wines! Read about Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand: The Discovery of Fine Wine and check out 5 Top New Zealand Chardonnays to find the perfect wine pairing.