Monday, October 23, 2006

Making a lovo (underground oven) in Australia

from Peceli
Making a lovo in Australia

A lovo is an underground oven in which an entire feast is cooked over hot rocks while buried in earth. It’s also called an umu in Tonga or a hangi in New Zealand. Men make the lovo, not women.

We make a lovo for a special function, maybe five times a year.

In Australia we can’t make a lovo in your back yard without permission from the local council and the Fire Prevention Officer. The ruling is if we have a small back yard you don’t make the lovo close to the fence – at least 2 metres away. It’s good manners to talk also to your neighbours because there will be smoke. Making a lovo early in the morning is a good idea.

What is needed: rocks, firewood, bags, aluminium foil,leaves e.g. gum leaves. The rocks have to be suitable, not the kind that explode. Even bricks will work.
A hole is dug about half a metre to a metre across, but it depends upon the size of the feast.

Prepare firewood and burn inside the hole for about an hour with the rocks on top. Heating the rocks well will serve as the base for the lovo.

When the rocks are sufficiently heated, the burning wood is pulled from the flames.

Meanwhile the food has been prepared, the dalo peeled, the chicken, fish, pork, probably marinaded. Each portion is wrapped separately and tightly in aluminium foil. Sometimes other delicacies such as palusami are added.

We use a wire basket and put all the food inside that. We add branches of leaves onto the rocks before putting down the wire basket and add more leaves on top. We then cover this with wet newspaper and potato bags then earth. Don’t use plastic materials. Make sure that the steam doesn’t escape.

The lovo is left to steam for three hours depending on the amount of food.

Unearth the lovo carefully, using gardening gloves if you have them, lift out the basket and the food is ready to unwrap for the feast.

The pic is making a lovo in Fiji.

Last Friday I made a lovo in our back yard for a farewell party to a visiting Fiji family.

Have any of you made a lovo in a country outside of Fiji – in Canada, USA or elsewhere?


Julie Oakley said...

I've been to a party in a small Victorian terraced house in North London wher most of the back garden was dug up for the lovo. The neighbours must've thought we were mad!

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Thank you Julie! Lovo food in the middle of London! I'm sure the smells enticed the neighbours when the lovo was unwrapped!

Pandabonium said...

In Hawaii we do the same and call it an imu. I've not done it myself, just watched as others did so - usually a special occassion like a birthday. The food I like best from the imu is fish and taro (kalo) - pig is popular but far to fatty for me. The fish and taro leaves are wrapped in ti leaves. When done, it is something like steamed fish with spinach, but really much, much better.

Ti leaves (actually ki in Hawaiian) originate in Fiji if I am not mistaken. I don't know what they are called there. The scientific name is cordyline fruticosa.

Oh, I shouldn't have read this post at dinner time! Now I am really hungry.

Momo the Wonder Dog said...

Inviting the neighbors often solves any problems when having a party!

kaiUSA said...

Kuri has two lovo's on his backyard in Jack London, Santa Rosa.Guess who laboured for the Fiji Day Sunday dinner after church?Tui Ono Vasu i Nakalou

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Bula si'a. Look like the whole tribe from Macuata are settling down in California.
Where do you get your dalo from over there? And kava? From Fiji or somewhere else? Here we get some root crops from the Pacific or Thailand. In the market at Footscray or in a Chinese shop. And kava - from Fijian and Tongan friends and there are a few Indian shops in Melbourne that sell kava.

Anonymous said...

I have wondered what you cook in the lovo - do you have any recipes? And what is kava - do you have any recipes using it. I'm writing a story for a newspaper and am looking for South Sea island recipes and traditions for Christmas. Thanks.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

A lovo usually includes pork (wrapped in foil or banana leaves) taro, maybe large fish, palusami (coconut cream, onions, etc.) If you look up the following on google you should find recipes. Palusami, kokoda (raw fish). Kava is a drink and there are no recipes for its use.

Anonymous said...

I live in East Bentleigh, Melbourne and I have a permanent brick lined lovo pit in my backyard. Do lovo about 3-4 times a year. Also have dalo leaves in backyard.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Dalo leaves growing in Melbourne? That is something. We tried growing dalo and had a bit of success in wet years, but certainly not these days. A Turkish man had half an acre of dalo-ni-tana also and gave us some cuttings one time.

Maui Girl said...

It's so similar to our Imu ovens here in Hawaii. Our people practice the same way of cooking, only it's usually for tourists now. We still do private luau's for the ohana for 1st birthday's and graduations. Thanks for sharing this with us! I didn't know that this tradition was happening in Australia too!

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Hello Maui girl. Yes, it's similar in New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji and Hawaii and other places. We make a lovo in our back yard (permission first from Fire Authority etc) in Australia when there's a special occasion. In Fiji, some families make a lovo every weekend.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

bula sia again,
Oh, but isn't it different in Fiji. Three young guys made a lovo for my 70th birthday party recently and using banana leaves instead of foil certainly is better. Two and a half hours and the food was steaming hot and perfect.

Renus said...

Bula Fellow Babasiga's

I live in Brisbane and am married to a Philopino. We are gonna have a lovo cause we are hosting a cultural lunch. Growing up in Labasa, I nver bothered to see how a lovo was done cause the men always took care of it. I would like to know how long should the food be cooked for. I'm not cooking a whole pig just a couple of pork roast, lamb roast and a few chickens, maybe a palusami or 2 and maybe a dalo. Would 2 hrs be good or longer?
Vinaka for your instructions cause my hubby didn't belive me when I told him how it's supoose to be done.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

bula sia Renus,
Sorry to be slow in replying but our computer was in trouble for two weeks. We usually open up a lovo after two to two and a half hours but it depends on the size of the meat etc. Good luck with your preparation. We don't use leaves for wrapping, mainly foil.

vertigo symptoms said...

The rocks have to be suitable, not the kind that explode. Even bricks will work. great post!!

unhealthy foods said...

Australia is a spectacular country, I love it when I visit, last year I first saw a kangaroo in my life!

tumor cells said...

in my life I have never had the opportunity to travel, but if ever it did, it certainly would be Australia, it seems an extraordinary country ...

javieth said...

when i bought my house throught costa rica homes for sale i wanted a great kitchen with a big space to put a big oven. Now i can baking every kind of cakes in there.

mickey said...

dec 2010
we were on vacation visiting family in california,my wife's nephew (16yrs old) and i made a lovo for the family for christmas
i have made lovo in Fiji with family and friends but this was the first time i had done it without supervision
it turned out great
we had T-bone steak,chicken,palusami (really hard to find good dalo leaves),and palusami
it was really good we even bought some back home to texas,thinking about doing one for new years but here in DFW its raining so i will try to do it in the regular oven :) (i know its not the same especially with the nice lovo smell and all.
i got me a test chicken defrosting right now,going to prepare some marinate and stuffing (Fiji style).
Happy new year to all

viji said...

Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life.
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Kokoda said...

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David Elbourne said...

Hi there,....Is anyone in Melbourne happy to give me advice on where to buy the food for the lovo and where to get the rocks and lovo covers?

Just moved here.