12 Jun 2017

Kai ora: cooking with karengo, kūmara and kawakawa

From Nine To Noon, 11:30 am on 12 June 2017

Eighteen months ago, homeopath Gretta Carney and naturopath Fleur du Fresne set up Hapi Cafe in Napier with a simple philosophy – food is medicine and medicine is food.

Gretta Carney talks about her philosophy and shares some ideas for cooking with karengo, kūmara and kawakawa.

The food at Hapi Cafe is organic when possible and always free of chemicals.

They sell a lot of chicken broth, tonics, cold pressed juices, a chicken sandwich "that everyday blokes love" and also have a gluten-free, dairy-free and cane sugar-free cabinet, Carney says.

Bottom line, it has to taste good.

"We're not too fixed on the kind of food you're eating, it's more about the quality of that food and that it's right for you."


Karengo is a purple seaweed that is 30% protein and, like all seaweeds, high in iron and minerals.

You harvest it at low tide from the high tide line on the rocks in August and September.

If you want some karengo, the best starting point is to talk by talking to local iwi and find out A - if they're happy for you to harvest it and B - the best and safest [cleanest] place to harvest it, Carney says.

Full-grown, it looks something like a sea lettuce or "a purple plastic bag floating in the water".

As with any wild food gathering identification is crucial, so find someone who knows karengo to show you.

Carney go-to with karengo is to slow-cook it in chicken broth with speck added.


Roroi kūmara is a simple dish of grated kumara packed tightly into a buttered (or oiled) casserole dish and dotted with honey, then baked slowly for an hour.

Carney recommends "hacking the Edmonds" and using kumara in place of other root vegetables in carrot cake, hash browns and pumpkin pie.


Carney likes to use kawakawa in a "hacked" version of the lemon cordial recipe from Wellington cafe Floriditas.

Instead of using water, boil down kawakawa – covered – until it's really strong, then make the cordial with this kawakawa brew and honey (instead of sugar).

Gretta Carney is taking part at Te Papa's event Ngā Kai o Matariki: Celebrating Māori Cuisine this Saturday (17 June)