Thursday, May 31, 2012

Nelson and the second Mau, Brown and White Mini-cakes

NZ raises their flag at the courthouse in Apia, 29 August 1914
(Source: National Library of NZ)
Germany left Samoa after a peaceful takeover by New Zealand in 1914, but the Kiwis proved to be as bad as the Germans, which lead to the formation of the second Mau a Pule movement.

In 1919, the New Zealanders allowed an influenza-plagued ship of passengers to dock in Apia. Influenza spread quickly amongst the Samoans, who had no immunity to the disease, while the administration did nothing. 

Well, they did do one thing. They refused help from medical staff in American Samoa. So while no-one died in American Samoa, 22% of the Western Samoan population was wiped out, about 7,500 people. The sick fell quicker than they could be buried. When whole families died, they were simply thrown into mass graves or left in their houses which were then torched.

One person who lost five members of his family to influenza was Olaf Frederick Nelson. A successful and influential afakasi (half-caste) businessman, Nelson was disillusioned with colonial rule and began to organise what would become the second Mau movement. 

Nelson (centre) with his daughters and travellers.
(Source: National Library of NZ)
Nelson believed so strongly in Samoa's Independence that he went to the League of Nations (the UN's predecessor) in Geneva, and presented a petition for Samoan self-rule. It was signed by 8000 out of 9300 Samoan adult men, but still he was denied a hearing. 

Nelson was such a staunch supporter of Samoan self-government, organising Mau meetings and encouraging peaceful civil disobedience, that he was exiled to New Zealand twice for his activities, including an 8 month stint in prison. It was during one of his exiles that things came to a head between the New Zealanders and the Samoans, and I'll write about this in my next post.

Mau members coming to Apia from bush for fono. 
Note their uniform, a purple lavalava with a white stripe.
(Source: National Library of NZ)

Because Nelson was an afakasi who was Samoan through and through, let's celebrate the diversity of the Samoan population with brown and white mini-cakes. You know, like ebony and ivory, because let's face it, Samoans come in all shapes and colours. 

OK, you can stop rolling your eyes at how desperately I'm trying to link Samoan history to food, thank you very much. And here are the recipes. You're welcome.

White Mini-Cakes
(makes 16)

3 egg whites, room temperature
1/3 cup + 1/3 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 3/4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) and set up your mini-cake or cupcake liners.

Lightly mix the egg whites, 1/3 cup of milk and the vanilla in a small bowl. In a bigger bowl, sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the butter and the other 1/3 cup of milk and mix with an electric beater on low speed until the dry ingredients are moist. Then turn the speed up to medium and beat for 2 minutes. Next add the egg mixture in two parts, beating for 1 minute after each addition. 

Divide the batter evenly into the mini-cake/cupcake liners and bake for 20-25 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Cool completely before decorating.

Brown Mini-cakes
(makes 16)

1/2 cup + 1 Tablespoon koko Samoa
1/2 cup boiling water
2 large eggs, room temperature
3 Tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 Tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened

In a cup or small bowl, mix the koko Samoa with the boiling water and leave to cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) and set up your mini-cake or cupcake liners.

Lightly combine the eggs, water and vanilla in another small bowl. In a larger bowl, sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the butter and room temperature koko and beat on low speed until the dry ingredients are moist. Then turn the speed up to medium and beat for 2 minutes. Next add the egg mixture in two parts, beating for 1 minute after each addition. 

Divide the batter evenly into the mini-cake/cupcake liners and bake for 20-25 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Cool completely before decorating.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A special email, the significance of 1 June, and Cocoa Banana Muffins

I love getting feedback from you guys. I read everything that you send me and do my best to reply to every communication. Last week, not long after I posted the piece about I'iga Pisa, I received this wonderful email from SwissHamo:

Dear Ms Panipopo,
Malo le soifua!  My name is _____ and I'm an avid follower of your site.  I just read your latest blog and it touched me very deeply and personally.  ...  Are you by any chance related to him [I'iga Pisa]?  If so, then we are most likely related too - he is my great-grandfather and his last living child is my grandmother who will turn 92 next month.  When I read your blog, I was in shock really.  His story is known within my family, but it's not one that many people (at least I don't think) know around Samoa.  I don't know why that is, but it is what it is.  So to see it on your blog was just... heartwarming.  
Faafetai tele lava ma ia faamanuia le Atua i au galuega ma feau.
Ma le faaaloalo lava,
For those of you wondering, I am not, as far as I know, related to anyone who changed the course of Samoan history. Not like SwissHamo, who can trace her roots back to two of leaders of Samoan Independence (Lauaki and I'iga were relatives), and even further back, is directly related to the Tongan Royal Family. Thanks for writing to me, SH. It brought the past to the present, breathing life into the history that I find so rich and inspiring.

History tidbit for today: The first Samoan Independence Day was not celebrated in June but on 1 January, 1962. The reason its celebrated now on 1 June is because that was the original Samoan Flag Day back in 1948, a day which marked Samoa's official transition to independence from colonisation/trusteeship and the same day that Samoa's national anthem was revealed. 

If you ever wondered what it was like, that first Independence Day, check out this video from 4:48 onwards. 

Also check out the rest of the Samoan videos from archivesnz Youtube channel. It's awesome to see black and white footage from Samoa and the way life was 50 and more years ago. I also really enjoy listening to the background songs and chants. So nostalgic! The only other thing I noticed, that I already knew somewhere in the back of my mind, is that Samoans are a pretty damned fine-looking race. 

The following recipe has nothing to do with anything, eg. not a Samoan recipe, but I make these so often I just had to share. The recipe comes from a fabulous collection of muffin recipes by Camilla Saulsbury called 750 Best Muffin Recipes. Once the bananas are mashed, these are super-quick to throw together. Whether you make them with or without the chocolate chips, the muffins stay moist and flavourful for up to three days after you've baked them.

Cocoa Banana Muffins
(makes 12)

1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa 
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/3 cups mashed ripe banana
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and baking powder. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, egg, bananas and oil. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until just blended. Gently fold in chocolate chips if you are using them.

Fill the paper liners evenly with the batter (should be 3/4 full). Bake for 20 to 24 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Cool in pan for 3 minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

I'iga's Icecream

His life reads like a Hollywood movie. Born in 1882, I'iga Pisa was a feisty matai (chief) who rose in prominence to become Lauaki Namulau'ulu's right hand man. The two matai travelled around Samoa gathering support for their cause, and Lauaki even sent I'iga to American Samoa to garner support for the Mau a Pule (Independence Movement). When the Mau leaders were banished to Saipan in 1909, I'iga was among their number.

From there, I'iga's life takes on a Rambo-like turn because when Saipan fell into Japanese hands, the Samoans hatched an escape plan. They carved out paopao (canoe) and I'iga was chosen to paddle the 124 miles (200 km) from Saipan to Guam

The islands that I'iga navigated:
124 miles (200 km)

Along the way, he was pursued by Japanese troops but he hid in the Aguijan Islands until he could continue his journey. Then I'iga crashed into Rota Island, quite literally, and suffered numerous injuries from his landing. He was nursed back to health by the locals, who also hid him from the Japanese authorities, and as soon as he could, I'iga set out again to complete his mission. 

I'iga successfully reached Guam and it is rumoured that a German cartographer called the strait between Rota and Guam 'I'iga's Pass' or 'I'iga's Strait' because of the magnificent feat that our countryman achieved. But I haven't seen any evidence of this (yes, I can read German). The only sign that our people were anywhere near Saipan is a bridge called 'Samoa Bridge' which still exists today.

Back to I'iga - he reached Guam and picked up a job working for the US Navy. He brushed up on his English (he had been learning German while in exile) and eventually wound up in Hawai'i. I'iga returned to Samoa to serve in several high-ranking government positions, even contributing to the Constitutional Convention of 1954.

When the Samoan flag was raised on the first day of independence,1 January, 1962, I'iga Pisa was the only one of the exiled matai (chiefs) that attended, for he was the only one that had survived.

And what a survivor he was!

I can't imagine doing half of what this historical great has done, and only hope that one day someone writes the screenplay for I'iga's Spielberg-worthy life.

To celebrate the colourful adventures of this Independence hero, I offer I'iga's Icecream.

I'iga's Icecream
(serves 4)
2 cans coconut milk
2/3 cup cocoa 
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
tiny pinch of salt

Pour all the ingredients into a bowl and whisk together until the sugar has dissolved. Pour into an ice-cream machine or, if you don't have one (I don't), pour the mixture into a large ziplock bag and make the ice-cream Harold McGee's way. The result is a perfectly luscious, smooth, cool treat.

Serve with fruit salad.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Samoa Divided and BBQ side dishes

North and South Korea are today seen as two separate nations, but despite what the outside world might think, my South Korean friends believe that one day the 'countries' will unite and become one powerful nation of Korea. I often wonder if Samoans ever think the same about our own divided nation. 

Before there were two Samoas as there are today, the chain of islands stretching from Ta'u to Savai'i was considered one kingdom. The ancient capital was Manu'a, which according to Samoan lore was the birthplace of Samoans and all Polynesians. 

Samoans in those days were as comfortable in the water as they were on land, travelling easily between islands by canoe and navigating by nature's compass. Because of our people's prowess on the waters, an early European discoverer called the Samoans islands 'the Navigators'.

Bougainville's maps of 'l'Archipel de Navigateurs'
(the Archipelago of the Navigators) - Samoa (1799)
Then in the late 19th century, ancient Samoa was geographically and politically divided by squabbling world powers. Fast forward to today, and you'll find the two sides of Samoa are economically divided but culturally united. We speak the same language. We eat the same food. We 'enjoy' the same fa'asamoa. My question is are we still one people? Or have the imaginary lines drawn by foreigners all those years ago actually become real borders?

I don't know. I'm a food blogger. Just providing some food for thought. Anyway, let's get cracking with some recipes.

To go with the BBQ marinade from the previous post I recommend you make either a creamy potato salad and a tangy coleslaw, or a tangy potato salad and a creamy coleslaw. Don't make creamy and creamy. Don't make tangy and tangy. The creamy dish will go well with the BBQ meats and the tangy dish will cut through all that richness.

For the potato salad, start by boiling up some cubed potatoes. Cook until almost fully cooked, then drain. (Try not to wait until the potatoes are falling apart or else you'll have to make mash). While the potatoes are still hot, but cooling down, add finely diced onion to taste. 

For the coleslaw, shred quarter of a large cabbage and 1 large carrot and combine them in a bowl. Add 1/2 cup (122g) of crushed pineapple and mix to blend.

For the creamy salad, simply dress with mayonnaise and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine then chill before serving.

For the tangy salad, dress with French Dressing or make your own by blending together 3/4 cup vegetable oil, 1/4 cup vinegar, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1 clove of garlic and 1/4 cup of parsley. Season with salt and pepper, then pour over your salad. Toss and chill.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Samoan History Month and Samoan Style BBQ

By panipopos

I've designated May to be Samoan History Month here at as our contribution to the 50th Independence Day Celebrations that will be happening in Samoa and in Samoan enclaves around the world on June 1, 2012. 

To kick things off, I'd like to honour a true Samoan historical hero. This photo of him always brings tears to my eyes. 

His name is Lauaki Namulau'ulu Mamoe. In this photo, Lauaki holds the to'oto'o (staff) and fue (flywhisk) which are the culturally significant accessories of Samoan orators, and he wears an 'ulafala (pandanus seed necklace). He is posed, pointing as if in the middle of some great lauga (speech), but because his mouth is closed, he obviously is not speaking. He is probably standing in a studio where he has been holding the 'great orator' pose for several minutes in order for the camera to capture the shot.

Lauaki's picture brings wetness to my eyes for many reasons. I feel sad because this photo is not taken in context, but in some sterile studio. Beyond that, Lauaki's pose reminds me of my father, also a tulafale (orator) who I've seen many times in the heat of a lauga strike this very pose (albeit with mouth open and fire in his eyes). I admire Lauaki's strong jaw and the muscle in his shoulders. What a wonderfully strong Savaiian physique!

What really causes my tears to overflow is Lauaki's story. You see, if it wasn't for this man, Samoa probably would not be celebrating Independence Day at all.

At a time when the Germans ruled Samoa and were bent on turning the islands into one great big copra factory, Lauaki lead the opposition against the German Governor, Dr Solf, and his administration. Things came to a head when the German leader stripped the Tumua and Pule of their power, the ultimate insult to traditional Samoan authority

Lauaki was not alone in opposing Governor Solf, but he was seen as the main perpetrator of the uprising, so he was banished from Samoa to Saipan in 1909 along with seventy of his supporters. Photos of Lauaki and his family and fellow chiefs are poignant, for though he was allowed to return to Samoa in 1915, he died on the voyage back. After six whole years in exile, Lauaki never saw his beloved islands of Samoa again. 

In honour of a man who was a pioneer of Samoan independence, I offer a recipe for Samoan style barbeque. As barbeques are a traditional way to celebrate American Independence Day, I thought it fitting to give a recipe for traditional Samoan barbeque. This was how my family prepared meat for beach-side and backyard barbeques. This is the kind of food you seek after a hard night out clubbing or on a day you don't feel like cooking. It's a cinch to prepare and works for almost any BBQ meat, with the exception of hamburger patties. It works especially well with chicken on the bone and chuck steak.

Make a marinade of soy sauce and water in a 1:1 ratio. This means, if you use 1 cup of soy sauce, use 1 cup of water. Slice onions (1 per 2 cups of soy/water mixture) and add these to the marinade. Add your meat and leave to marinade overnight or at least for several hours (to tenderise and flavour the meat). 

I'm assuming here that you are using a high quality dark soysauce like Kikkoman Shoyu. If you are using something weaker, then reduce the water accordingly. Also, feel free to add freshly crushed ginger, sugar, honey, sesame oil or whatever you like to the marinade. But believe me, it will taste good with just soy sauce, water and onions. No, really!

When ready to BBQ, cook the meat over the coals until it is a deep dark brown, then place the meat in a large saucepan. (In my day, it was the same saucepan that we marinaded all the meat in - yes, all the meat together - food safety be damned!). Once all your meat is browned and in the saucepan, pour any remaining marinade into the same saucepan and place it over a low/medium flame. Simmer until the onions are softened and the whole pot is steaming, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve with a creamy potato salad and a fresh cabbage coleslaw (recipes to follow).

While you're enjoying your Independence Day BBQ, take a moment to reflect on the life of a brave native hero who never made it home. To read more about the amazing Lauaki, see Remembrance of Pacific Pasts (Borofsky, R (ed.)) Chapter 2 by Peter Hempenstall, called "Releasing the Voices 'Historicizing Colonial Encounters in the Pacific'".

And if you are fortunate enough to be able to trace your gafa (genealogy) back to this amazing man, I say from the bottom of my heart, thank you. For your forefather's sacrifice. Thank you. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Keke Pua'a Filling

If I had a FAQ, this Q would definitely be one of the most FA'd. From an email I received today:

Hi Panipopo,
Just wandering how to make the filling for the kekepua'a and what ingredients please.

So here's a recipe from an old Samoan cookbook. This recipe is not mine and I have not tested it so there are no accompanying photos. But I wanted to give people a starting point for the filling. Keep in mind that this is a basic recipe, but as always, feel free to jazz it up by adding fresh ginger, sugar or whatever floats your boat.

3 lbs (1.5 kg) pork, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely diced
2 cups (500 ml) cold water
1/4 cup (60 ml) dark soy sauce

In a large fry pan, saute the pork and onion for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the cold water and the soy sauce and stir well. Simmer until the pork is cooked. Remove from the heat and cover. Set aside to cool until ready to fill the keke pua'a.