Rewena /Maori Bread [Post 1 – Gathering]

Normally when I get an idea to do a project (be it kai, crafts or rearranging my furniture) I tend to jump in straight away, urgent to tackle the project and get it done.  But making Rewena (Maori Bread) is going to take some time and preparation.  Firstly, I have a bit of research to do.  I have a vague sense of the process involving potato water and fermentation.  I also suspect that it is not very easy, otherwise everybody would be making it.  Some people, like my Nana pictured with Papa here, made it their whole lives (and were famous for it).  I remember eating it at their whare, with butter and golden syrup.  Good memories.


Below are the things I will need:


I put the call out to the whanau.

Mum gives me her version from memory about how her mother made it in a large camp oven (large cast iron vessel with a fitting lid, to go into the oven).  Mum promises to look for the camp oven when she is next “back home”.  I  also receive a message via the Aunty’s about the recipe of Nana’s Rewena (Maori Bread).

The recipe is a bit cryptic, reading like a list of notes, and doesnt contain any instructions about how to start the “bug” fermentation process though it does give instructions about how to maintain it.

I conducted some further research online to fill in the gaps, coming up with two good sources with instructions from Curious Kai and Cindy Williams.

Curious Kai includes this bug starter recipe.

-1 medium sized potato (‘rewa’ in Maori), sliced
-1 cup water
-2 cups of flour
-1 teaspoon sugar
-lukewarm water, on hand. The potato gets sliced and cooked in the water, then mashed in.  The flour and sugar are added with extra warm water.  The whole lot is then poured into a sterile agee jar (processing jar) and kept covered in a warm place for a few days.

I cross checked the info with Mum, but she couldn’t recall the potato being mashed in, just the potato water being used.  I guess there are many variations to this with a lifetime to perfect it.  I decide to make it roughly how Nigel’s Mum does (on Curious Kai) but with additional potato water instead of lukewarm water.

So on with the gathering…


I kohikohi riwai ahau.  I asked Justin to pick me up some Maori Potatoes (he got the Kowiniwini variety), though mum insisted that Nana just used “normal” potatoes.  At $9 per kilo I won’t be buying Kowiniwini for all of the ongoing potato water required but I think I will use it for the first pot of mash.  We also have some mystery pinkish smooth potatoes from the garden, and some agria potatoes too.  I’ll use these if my first bug doesn’t work.  Nigel at Curious Kai writes about the different types of potatoes, here.


Salt and Sugar and Flour – Plain Flour. I’ll need about 2 cups for the bug and 8 cups or so to make the bread once I have a successful starter bug.  I buy 5kg, anticipating lots of practice.


My Nana used a cast-iron camp oven.  Mum sends me a text from the papakainga, saying she will bring back the small camp oven for me  and that “it needs work”.  A further text informs me that it needs cleaning, oiling, and that I need to take good care of it.   I am also considering trying the Le Cruset for a smaller loaf (quarter size) and I am also keen to experiment with the breadmaker.  After all, if Nana had a machine that mechanically kneaded the dough, heated it for rising, and cooked it, I’m sure she would have given that a whirl.


I have lots of these.  1 litre size food processing jars, such as Luminarc or Agee.  It will need to be sterilised, and also I will need a basin or pot to sit underneath in case my bug overflows.


This I don’t have.  It is nearly the shortest day and it feels like the coldest day.  We don’t have a hot water cupboard and there is no sun these days, but I remembered my dad has a home brewing warming plate which I could sit my bug on top of.  I finally collected it today, so now I have everything I need to start off my “bug”…

Watch this space for more Rewena posts in the near future!


Post 1 – Gathering

Post 2 – Starting the bug

Post 3 – Bug Issues – Troubleshooting

Post 4 – Cooking it (in oven)

Post 5 – Cooking it (in Breadmaker)


8 thoughts on “Rewena /Maori Bread [Post 1 – Gathering]

  1. Brilliant! My mum’s watching your progress with keen interest. She mentioned too, being on the phone to her sisters this morning, asking how different their recipes were compared to hers – you’ve created quite a stir up here!

  2. Pingback: Rewena /Maori Bread [Post 2 - Starting the "Bug/s"] « Domestic Scene

  3. Pingback: Bug issues [Rewena Post 3] « Domestic Scene

  4. I have been using the lidded pot out of the slowcooker to cook the rewana in it works just fine
    Great to see people getting back to real food

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