Gluten free - grain free - dairy free - refined sugar free - egg free - nut free - vegan
In 2013 we hosted my best friend from high school and her family- her husband, kids, parents and brother. They had just been on a pilgrimage from the USA back to the place of our childhood- Papua New Guinea (or Nuigini, as it's called in the National language, Tok Pisin), 20 years after leaving. I spent 8 years of my childhood in ' The Land of the Unexpected' and hadn't been back since. It was quite a nostalgic week as we viewed photos taken of the place that was once my home- so familiar and changed at the same time. We shared stories of memories past and created new memories for the future.
One of my fondest food memories in Nuigini is the kau kau (the Tok Pisin word for sweet potato- pronounced cow-cow). It is possibly the most commonly grown vegetable and is still my favourite vegetable to this day. My parents lived in a small village- the only non-national people for miles. On special occasions the villagers cooked a Mumu - a meal in a ground oven.
In a deep hole lined with banana leaves, they would place hot rocks that had been sitting in the coals of an open fire, more layers of banana leaves, then layers of root vegetables (including kau kau) and corn. If it was a really special occasion, a freshly slaughtered chicken or two, or even a pig would be added. (The sound of a pig squeal in it's final moments is not something you easily forget). This would all be topped with some garden greens, more hot rocks and buried under banana leaves and dirt for a few hours. The result was beautiful tender, smokey-flavoured food, which the National people took great pride in serving to us.
This humble dish that I have developed is really nothing at all like Mumu kau kau, but it hits the spot nonetheless. It has a lovely thick creaminess from coconut cream, and as coconuts are also in plentiful supply in Nuigini, I felt it appropriate!
I really like serving this with some fish crumbed in dukkah and pan fried in coconut oil, with a pile of steamed broccoli or green beans. It also makes a nice alternative to mashed potatoes, to serve alongside steak or sausages.
Serves 4-6 people as a side dish.