Three recipes to celebrate the humble and mighty kūmara

As a method of cooking kūmara, baking stands out as hands-off and delicious.


As a method of cooking kūmara, baking stands out as hands-off and delicious.

These recipes – and those of eight different chefs featuring kūmara as the star, drawing on different cultural approaches to cooking – are presented as part of Twin Cultivationan art project popping up across Tāmaki Makaurau inviting people to harvest a ceramic vegetable for a stranger.

Through this, the artists hope to create opportunities for the people of our city to get to know one another a little better, and to consider the futures we are collectively building.

* Baked kūmara with tahini butter sauce recipe
* Roast kūmara and miso soup recipe
* Recipe: Smoked fish pie

Ashleigh Payne’s Baked Jacket Kūmara

Ashleigh Payne is a Tūhoe-Pākehā chef and baker based in Tāmaki Makaurau. As a mixed person alienated from their indigenous heritage, they are now developing a relationship to Māoritanga via food.

“As a method of cooking kūmara, baking stands out as hands-off and delicious. You don’t need to watch constantly or even be in the same room, which I appreciate as it frees up my time, hands, and brain for other tasks.

Baking also intensifies the sweetness and tender texture of kūmara, rendering it a comforting food. That comfort, for me, extends to its ties to Māoritanga: though initially it was not eaten widely by my tīpuna – it didn’t grow well in Te Urewera – preparing and consuming the now widely-available kūmara facilitates a small, daily connection to my past and my people. ”

Baked Jacket Kūmara

Serves: 1

Cook time: 70 minutes


Kūmara of choice, 1 x 200-250g (approx) per person

Butter (or a flavoursome oil such as extra virgin olive)

Salt and pepper

Extras as you please


  1. Preheat oven to 200C. Scrub kūmara skin to remove any dirt, and remove blemishes. Prick the skin to allow steam to escape.
  1. Put kūmara on a lined baking tray and bake, 45-60 minutes. Cook time depends on kūmara size so be sure to check in.
  1. When done, the flesh will yield to touch (be careful – it will be hot!) When you can put a knife in the thickest part with no resistance, the kūmara should be ready, but a few more minutes won’t hurt if you ‘re uncertain.

To serve at its simplest, cut a cross in the top of each kūmara and gently squeeze the sides to reveal the inside. Top with plenty of butter (or alternative fat), salt and pepper.

If you want to make a meal of it, you can keep it simple with sour cream, bacon, and cheese – a classic loaded (sweet) potato. To make it interesting, you can have fun assembling Ottolenghi-style salads: on a platter, swirl a pool of something saucy – think romesco, hummus, toum. You could also have a grain base such as tabbouleh. Halve or quarter kūmara and distribute. Drizzle or dollop with something creamy: creme fraiche, Greek yoghurt, or tahini dressing. Keep it plain or flavor with garlic, herbs, spices.

Next time, try a bright salsa with zesty citrus. Sprinkle extras on top to add flavor and texture: chilli, crumbled cheese, pink pickled onions, toasted nuts, and handfuls of fresh herbs. Try something different each time.

Wallace Mua’s Crispy Kūmara

Wallace Mua is a Kiwi chef with Samoan heritage.

“This dish is inspired by the traditional ‘umala fa’alifu, which usually graces the To’onai table in place of taro sometimes. It’s special to me because it brings the nostalgia of breaking bread, sharing stories and feeling the warmth of family. ”

Crispy kūmara reminds the chef of breaking bread and sharing stories.


Crispy kūmara reminds the chef of breaking bread and sharing stories.

Crispy Kūmara

Serves: 3

Cook time: 90 minutes


2kg beauregard (orange) baby kuma

200g butter

1 tbsp curry powder

2 tbsp salt

Oil for deep frying

Coconut mousse

1 brown onion, sliced ​​thinly

2 red chilli, sliced

5 garlic cloves, sliced

50g ginger, grated

50g palm sugar, grated

2 tbsp fish sauce

50ml canola oil

1L coconut cream (I use Kara)

Optional garnish

Coriander, chopped

Cashew nuts, chopped


To prepare the kūmara

  1. Wash kūmara and put into a pot with cold water and salt, bring to boil, then turn down heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until the kūmara is cooked through. Drain and cool.
  1. In a saucepan, heat butter and add curry powder. Simmer on low heat for 5 minutes. While you are doing this, preheat your oven to 160C.
  1. Once kūmara is cooled, cut into half, lengthways, and put flesh side up on a flat baking tray, season lightly and drizzle with curry butter.
  1. Put in the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until slightly caramelized. Cool and keep aside.

To prepare the coconut mousse

  1. In a medium-sized pot, on medium heat, heat oil and saute onions. Once brown, add chilli, garlic and grated ginger and continue to saute. Once caramelised, add palm sugar and saute until palm sugar has dissolved.
  1. Add coconut cream, stirring constantly so it doesn’t stick. Reduce coconut cream by a third, remove from heat and blend until smooth. Add fish sauce, cool and store aside.

To assemble

  1. Deep fry kūmara until crispy.
  1. Put on kitchen paper to drain oil, season, and top with coconut mousse. Garnish with chopped coriander and chopped toasted cashew nut.
This recipe really brings out the flavor of kūmara combined with its sweetness.


This recipe really brings out the flavor of kūmara combined with its sweetness.

Chef Joe’s Kuih Keria

Chef Joe is a Malaysian chef whose restaurant, Nasi Kandar in Auckland, serves authentic Malaysian curries from the northern part of Malaysia, Pulau Pinang.

“I’ve chosen this recipe because it really brings out the flavor of kūmara combined with its sweetness. I remember during Hari Raya (Eid Mubarak), all the Malay aunties would make this with sweet potato (a different kind of potato) but here in Aotearoa we substitute it with kūmara and it’s so delicious… a must try! ”

Kuih Keria

Makes: 8-12 donuts

Cook time: 30 minutes


800g orange cheese

250g plain flour

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp glutinous rice flour

Vegetable or canola oil for deep frying

Sugar coating

150g white sugar

3 tbsp water


For the sweet potato dough:

  1. Peel and dice the kūmara, and then steam. Alternatively you can slice the kūmara into half and bake it in the oven until soft. Do not boil the kūmara, as the water content will be too high.
  1. Mash it all up and add salt and flour.
  1. Mix it into a soft dough. You can add more plain flour to bind it together if it’s too sticky.
  1. Divide into 50g balls.
  1. Dust your palm with a little flour and shape each ball into a donut shape.
  1. Heat oil to 180C and fry donuts until they are golden and float to the top.

For the sugar crystal coating:

  1. Put water and sugar in a saucepan and melt into a syrup.
  1. Dip the cooled fried donuts into the sugar syrup once or twice and leave to dry on a tray. Once the sugar has formed a crystallized layer on the donuts, they’re ready.
  1. Serve with vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of yellow melaka syrup. Usually this is served with a hot cup of teh tarik (Malaysian pulled tea).

Leave a Comment