Try Grant Kereama’s kūmara chicken bake recipe this Matariki long weekend

Publish Date
Tuesday, 25 June 2024, 8:15AM
Photo / NZ Herald, EatWell

Photo / NZ Herald, EatWell

Matariki is a special time of year for Grant Kereama. It’s a time for family gatherings, and, like his mum, he likes to show love by cooking for those close to him. Grant’s Kūmara Chicken Bake is his signature dish - and it never fails to impress.

Matariki has always been an important time for me and it’s the perfect excuse for family and friends to come together for a mid-winter feast. It is a time to share our hopes, dreams, and aspirations for the year ahead, and there is no better place to do that than around the dinner table.

Unlike Easter and Christmas, Matariki is a uniquely New Zealand celebration and gives us a genuine, traditional connection to food and the harvests that lead up to it. It’s only natural to associate Matariki itself with kai.

Sharing food is an important part of Māoridom as a means of welcoming people, celebrating success, and building friendships. Traditionally, when Matariki appeared in the night sky, the annual harvest and food collection for the cold months to come became a priority. Once that harvest was completed, it was time to celebrate and share that kai with friends and family. Not a lot of us are harvesting these days, but the tradition of sharing food together needs to continue to be celebrated.

I am a big fan of recipes that can be prepared early on and baked in the oven to finish them off. This hearty recipe allows you to do that in one baking dish and gives you time to spend with family while it’s in the oven. Oh, and it’s pretty delicious too.

Family is everything to me, and every few weeks my grown-up children, their partners, and my mokopuna drop around for Sunday night dinner. It’s a time for us to catch up with the latest happenings, and just enjoy being together. My cheesy chicken and kūmara bake usually makes an appearance at the request of everyone, even the kids!


Cheesy Kūmara Mash
  • 900g peeled kūmara
  • 1 TBSP of butter
  • 20g Mainland Tasty Cheese
Creamy Chicken Sauce 
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 chicken breasts, cubed
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tsp thyme
  • 2 tsp salt or to taste
  • 2 tsp pepper or to taste
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 cups milk (whole milk preferred)
  • 1 cup cream
  • ½ cup frozen peas (optional)
  • 80g Mainland Grated Tasty Cheese (add extra if using large baking dish)


Kūmara Mash
  • Preheat the oven to 200C, then spray a casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Place kūmara in oven and drizzle with olive oil and salt. Bake for 30-40 minutes depending on size and until cooked all the way through. While the kūmara is cooking, make the Creamy Chicken Sauce.
  • Working carefully, slice the kūmara in half and using a spoon scoop the kūmara flesh out and away from the skin.
  • Mash kūmara with a potato masher.
  • Stir in butter and cheese.
Creamy Chicken Sauce
  • In a large saucepan, boil chicken in salted water until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and set aside.
  • In a large and deep frying pan cook onion with a splash of oil until tender and softened. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Whisk in flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in thyme, salt and pepper.
  • Whisk in chicken stock very well, making sure no lumps of flour remain. Add milk and cream, whisking until combined thoroughly. Simmer mixture over medium-low heat, stirring frequently for 5-10 minutes until thickened. You want a very thick sauce.
  • Stir in frozen peas and cooked chicken.
  • Preheat oven to 210C. Lightly grease a baking dish. Place a baking sheet under the rack you are going to be baking on to catch any filling that may bubble over.
  • Place chicken and sauce mixture into the baking dish and spread evenly.
  • Spread mash evenly over the chicken mix.
  • Top generously with Mainland Tasty Cheese and bake for 20-30 minutes.
  • Serve.

Recipe thanks to our friends at Eat Well and Mainland.

Spend your weekends with Grant Kereama on Coast from 12-6pm.

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