By Maureen Bishop
Dry summers and tighter regulations have meant updating the traditional hangi at the Hakatere Marae.
Fire restrictions have often stymied plans for laying down a hangi and tighter health and safety regulations are in force.
But a Whangarei manufacturer has solved the problem with a kai cooker. Fired by gas, the three tier stainless steel cooker can operate either with the straight gas burner or by adding rocks to the bottom compartment.
Water is added and the cooker imitates the steaming process of a traditional hangi.
The marae has had ample opportunity to test the cooker for it has been cooking individual meals as a fundraiser every month. Around 85 meals can be cooked at once in their tinfoil containers.
With two meats, potatoes, pumpkin, kumara, cabbage and stuffing, the meals are an ample portion.
It still takes around four and a-half hours to cook the meals, but there is no chance of sparks setting fire to any surrounding vegetation.
The latest batch of meals were cooked at the weekend. Vegetables were prepared on Friday night and the meals assembled and cooked on Saturday.