What Is Boil-Up?

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  • Written By: Nicky Sutton
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 14 October 2019
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A boil-up is a traditional way of cooking most commonly associated with the Maori people of New Zealand. Many ingredients, often leftovers, are added together in a boiling pan with water, to create a nutritious mixture covering a range of healthy food groups. Its texture is similar to a thin stew and includes poached dough boys, a tasty addition to this traditional dish.

Similar in texture to a thick soup or a thin stew, a boil-up is a collection of different ingredients put into a boiling pan and cooked. The recipe allows for flexibility, as a wide range of ingredients can be added to the pan, often consisting of leftover meat and vegetables that happen to be available. In Belize, the boil-up is thought of as a cultural dish. It is regarded as the original boil-up recipe, using ingredients such as fish, boiled eggs and vegetables such as yams, cassava and tomatoes. The Maori people of New Zealand also favor the boil-up method of cooking and it has become a traditional dish.

For New Zealanders, the boil-up usually starts with pork bones being simmered in water for around two and a half hours. There is usually little meat remaining on these leftover bones, but when allowed to simmer, they produce a delicious stock. Chopped bacon can also be added which breaks down and adds flavor to the stock. Other meats can be used such as beef brisket, ox tails, lamb chops or pigs head and trotters.


Root vegetables are added around half an hour away from serving time, giving them a chance to soften and add flavor to the boil-up. Potato, sweet potato, carrot, pumpkin and kumara are added at this time. Root vegetables are all cut of a similar size and shape, to ensure they cook evenly.

Dough boys are traditionally added to the boiling pot around 20 minutes from serving time. These are similar to dumplings and are made from soft dough, and put into the pan to poach. Dough boys swell up, absorbing some of the liquid from the mixture, adding to their flavor. When the meal is served, everyone must receive a dough boy.

Watercress can be added around 15 minutes away from serving time. This gives it a chance to cook and soften without disintegrating and disappearing into the mix. The bases of the stems are discarded and the watercress washed and added to the pan. Puha, spinach, cabbage or other green leafy vegetables can also be added along with the watercress.

The dish is served after excess liquid is strained off. As the boil-up contains ample ingredients from a wide range of food groups, no accompaniments are necessary. Traditional Maori bread is often served however, for extra interest and texture.


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