Food for comfort – with Ina Joseph Aria
Whether it’s homemade or bought from a local food- spot, one of the best things about Mangere is our food. And one of the best tastes in Mangere is delicious, satisfying ‘poke’. We talked to the lovely Ina Joseph Aria about the beloved Cook Island dish.
People’s eyes light up when they see Ina’s banana and pumpkin poke. It’s definitely a nostalgic favourite. Maybe it’s because poke isn’t something you make every day. It’s not a whip- it-up in 10 minutes process – especially if you use pumpkin, which is harder to peel and dice than banana.
“I remember making it with Mum when we were younger,” says Ina. “There were eight of us girls and if there was a special occasion like a big dinner or a wedding, we would all help make the poke. Us Cook Islanders just love it and I guess it really reminds us of home, even when we live far away.”
Ever made poke?
Poke is basically over-ripe fruit, or pumpkin, mixed with tapioca flour, baked in the oven, then served with coconut cream. It’s comfort food at its very best. Traditionally it was baked in an underground oven. When made with fruit it’s like a thick, creamy pudding, but poke can also be a tasty side dish for a main meal such as goat or pork, especially when made with pumpkin.
Even though Ina, a Mangere local, has been in New Zealand since 1979, she holds strong to the culture she grew up with in the islands. She even designs her own clothes, based on Cook Island patterns. Ina has made a new life here, but that hasn’t meant leaving her culture and traditions behind – try Ina’s poke recipe to take your taste buds on a delicious trip to the Cook Islands.
Do you have a favourite recipe you’d like to share?
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Ina’s Pumpkin Poke
2 cups pumpkin
1 cup tapioca flour or arrowroot
1 cup milk
2 cups coconut cream
Preheat oven to 150oC
Peel pumpkin and cut into cubes
Cover with water, and boil. Mash when soft
In a bowl, mix tapioca flour and milk. Add to soft pumpkin. Stir till smooth
Spread mixture in an oiled roasting dish. Bake at 150oC for two hours until set
When the cooked pumpkin mixture comes out of the oven, cut into cubes and place in individual bowls. Heat coconut cream to boiling and pour over top of each bowl