Cooking food in the ground, in Fiji called a lovo, is a traditional method using hot stones. Here the chicken is served with palusami: taro stuffed with coconut and onion.
- 3 taro tubers
- 2 breadfruit
- 4 sweet potatoes
- 2 whole chickens
- ¼ cup (60 ml) sweet soy sauce
- coconut palm
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 cup desiccated coconut
- 20 young sweet taro leaves, stems removed
- 1 cup coconut milk
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
- Dig a square (1 metre x 1 metre) in the ground and place rounded stones on the bottom (don’t put one on top of the other). Reserve the dirt. Build a wood fire on top of them. Once it is set, light and allow to burn until the wood turns into charcoal. There will now be some charcoals and non-burnt woods, so take a spade or a fork and get the wood out. There should only be the heated stones left in the hole.
- Meanwhile, clean the taro tubers by scraping off the dirt and small roots with the back of a knife. This process is not peeling, just removing all the debris until it’s down to the flesh.
- Clean the breadfruit with the back of the knife, removing the scales.
- Wash and scrub the sweet potatoes, the taro tubers and breadfruit. Set aside.
- Freshly wash the chickens and place in a bowl. Add enough sweet soy sauce to lightly coat the chicken.
- Lay out the coconut palm and place the chicken at the end where the palm was cut from the tree. Braid the individual leaves around the chicken. Continue braiding past the chicken to the very end.
- To prepare the palusami, combine onion and desiccated coconut in a bowl. Take a square of aluminium foil and place approximately 4 taro leaves layered in the centre (use 1 big leaf and 3 or 4 smaller leaves). Pick it up and cup it in your hand, and add some of the coconut and onion mixture. Add ¼ cup coconut milk, and then carefully fold the taro leaf inward followed by the aluminium foil. Repeat with remaining leaves, onion mixture and coconut milk.
- Place the vegetables, breadfruit, chicken and palusami on top of the palm leaves. Cover the food with banana leaves and coconut palm fronds. Cover the banana leaves and palm ferns with the reserved dirt. Cook for 45 minutes – 1 hour, then slowly uncover. When the leaves are a nice yellow-brown colour, it is cooked. Serve chicken, vegetables and breadfruit with palusami.
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