Average food in a nice new bowl: Cook Island raro tarati salad

As many people do, we set up a gift list for our wedding at a well-known UK department store. At first we were a little unsure of what we were going to put on it, given that we’ve lived out of home for a collective thirteen years and therefore had just about everything we needed, but a few hours spent in the Oxford Street branch was long enough to convince us that we hardly had any of the things we needed, and as a result we were able to suggest lots of lovely options for gifts. We always felt that the whole gift list concept of asking people for specific things was a bit weird, but we have to admit that shopping with the barcode scanner was pretty fun: like window shopping, but with a good chance of actually getting the things you’re dreaming about.

One part of our list was made up of different components of a dinner set: dinner plates, side plates, cereal bowls, pasta bowls, etc. We thought that it probably wouldn’t hurt to replace some of our Freecycled, drop-it-on-the-stone-floor-and-it-won’t-break, cheap crockery – despite the name (and philosophy) of our blog! Hilariously, though, whilst our wedding guests were very generous and pretty much cleared out the list, not one single item from the dinner set was touched. Obviously our nearest and dearest would like us to continue serving ‘good food on bad plates’!

Thanks to our lovely friends and family, though, we do now have lots of exciting new serving dishes and cooking utensils, many of which will undoubtedly feature on the blog in future, such as the salad bowl you’ll spot below in this recipe for Cook Island raro tarati salad.

Finding a Cook Island recipe was difficult. The usual ‘national dish’ searches kept telling us to make ika mata: ‘a dish of raw fish marinated with lemon or lime and served with coconut cream’. Wonderful, but we made that last time under its French Polynesian name of poisson cru. Makes you wonder whether there’s a similar battle about the origin of that dish to the one in Australia and New Zealand over the pavlova. Anyway, much as we do feel like we need to give that dish a second chance, a week after the first attempt wasn’t the time to do that. After some furthering Googling we eventually found a recipe for raro tarati salad with corned beef and coconut cream. Considering that coconut is one of Ash’s least favourite things and corned beef is one of Miranda’s, it wasn’t exactly an obvious choice for our lunch last Saturday, but we’re nothing if not foodie adventurers, so we took a deep breath and went for it. There was also the fact that the recipe we found (on Cook Islands Recipes) appears to be the only recipe for this dish in existence on the Internet, so we have to doubt its authenticity a bit, but we were getting pretty desperate.

The recipe also didn’t have any quantities, so below is approximately what we used.

Raro tarati salad

1/4 cucumber, halved lengthways and sliced
1 tomato, cut into small wedges
A few leaves of iceberg lettuce, sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 small garlic cloves, crushed
1 spring onion, sliced
3 large radishes, thinly sliced
1/2 yellow capsicum, diced
1 can corned beef, chopped into cubes
Coconut cream (we used about half a tin)
Rice, to serve

1. Put the cut-up vegetables into a bowl and mix.
2. Distribute the corned beef through the salad.
3. Pour over the coconut cream.
4. Serve with rice.
Serves 2

Corned beef
Weirdest food ever. This surely wasn’t a promising start.

Raro tarati vegetables

Raro tarati with corned beef

Raro tarati with rice

Corned beef is not a staple item on the Mash menu, due to the fact that Miranda can’t quite accept that it’s real food. Meat in a tin that you open with a key that comes out looking like dog food and can be safely eaten 50 years past its expiry date? Something just isn’t right there. And whilst its salty sliminess was palatable at first, she ran out of steam (or tolerance) before finishing her plate, leaving Ash to finish off the salad – because he actually liked it, even with the coconut! Used sparingly (of course), it served to cut through the greasiness of the corned beef, which meant that even though theoretically this dish probably shouldn’t work, somehow it did.

Will we make it again, though? Pretty unlikely. But hey – we gave it a go.

More coconutty delights to come, next time from a country Miranda hadn’t even heard of until a couple of weeks ago: Niue. Both of us remain totally clueless about how to pronounce it. All will be revealed soon!


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