Thursday, 17 April 2008

Roast New Zealand leg of lamb (Ψητό μπούτι από αρνάκι Νέας Ζηλανδίας)

What does it mean to be a Kiwi? For some reason, the flightless bird, native to New Zealand, gave us the name that the rest of the world now associates with a native New Zealander. No matter where Kiwis are, their hearts will miss a beat when they hear a buzzy bee, eat pineapple lumps, see a pohutakawa tree (the New Zealand Christmas tree which flowers in the antipodean summer), smell afghans cooking in the oven or touch a paua shell.

You know you're a Kiwi when you own certain bits and pieces that resemble junk to other people. I couldn't carry everything with me when I moved away from New Zealand, but here are some things that I did manage to bring, which still stump my Greek visitors when they see them in my glassware display case. "Why do you keep these things?" they always ask me, "your parents were Greek, so you're Greek too." Forgive them, said a wise man once, for they do not know what they are saying. My collection of Kiwiana (a way of describing classic New Zealand icons) includes the following:
  • the Edmonds cook book (every New Zealander's first guide to cooking)
  • a paua shell, an oyster shell and a scallop shell
  • a buzzy bee (ever New Zealand child's first toy)
  • Crown Lynn plates (a New Zealand ceramics brand)
  • a Kiwi-shaped paua-shell clock
  • kiwi, weta and tuatara figurines
  • a pestle and mortar set made of New Zealand wood
  • a 'tree' family ornament
  • a packet playing cards which has 'Made in New Zealand' printed on the box- these days, the word 'Made' is replaced with 'Designed' (while it's made you-know-where)
  • among many other bits and pieces
We like our Kiwi food, too. Try any one (or all) of pavlova, afghans, chocolate fish, and pineapple lumps. You'll love them all. How about a refreshing lemon and paeroa?What about puha - what all Greeks know as horta. Fancy something carnivorous? Go no further than New Zealand lamb. Pure grass-fed meat, no added flavours. When I remember the green green hills of Aotearoa, I always have an image of a moving cloud of sheep covering them.

To roast a leg of New Zealand lamb (a 3kg leg of roast lamb will easily feed ten people), you need:
a whole bone-in leg of lamb (this one was close to 3kg)
a mixture of freshly ground black pepper, salt and oregano
Rub the whole leg of lamb with a mixture of the spices. (Rosemary can be used in place of oregano.) Place it on a baking tray, fat side up. Pour a cup of water into the tray (to create a runny sauce at the end of cooking time. Let the lamb cook in a moderate oven. The New Zealand lamb export company allows half an hour per 500g of meat. New Zealand lamb always comes out tender at the end of cooking time, with a brown crusty skin and crimson-beige meat.

If you don't eat the whole roast in one sitting (we didn't), it makes fantastic - and I mean the best - filling for sandwiches (as an alternative to luncheon meats) and home-made souvlaki, as well as an amazing filling for a traditional Cretan meat pie. You can also add lemon potatoes to roast together with the meat for a more substantial meal, but the cooking time must be synchronised. I added them 90 minutes after starting to cook the lamb, and they came out done, together with the meat.

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Apple cake
Banana cake
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Potato fritters