The New Zealand Experience

New Zealand - titleIntroThe cuisine of New Zealand relies primarily on local ingredients and seasonal variations. An island nation with an agricultural economy that yields produce from both land and sea.

Pâkehâ settlers were European emigrants who emigrated to New Zealand, more specifically to Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury and Otago during the 19th century. The ethnic and occupational social composition of these New Zealand Europeans or Pâkehâ varied from region to region. Pâkehâ settlers ate native birds and fish, and used local ingredients in substitution for those which were unavailable

Early British settlers, as with other nationalities, in New Zealand tried as much as possible to reproduce the foods of their homeland and in New Zealand households, dinner (also known as ‘tea’) is the main meal of the day, when families gather and share their evening together.

Coat of Arms of New Zealand.svgFruit with LambIn the early stages of colonisation this was difficult as many ingredients were unavailable. Scotland provided possibly the largest number of British ancestors, leaving a legacy on the food seen through a traditional preference of sweet foods, and a wealth of baking dishes.

AnzacThe tradition of baking to celebrate important occasions persisted through cakes, scones, muffins and other sweet baking dishes.

Kiwi CrispsInitially, unconventional plants needed to be found for the brewing of tea and beer although most such innovations were abandoned as the Pâkehâ population increased and the more conventional ingredients began to become available either on import or produced in New Zealand. One innovation which was commonly served on New Zealand tables until the mid-1980s was colonial goose (see recipe below), a stuffed leg of lamb which substituted for goose.

Lemon ChiffonA major difference between British and Pâkehâ food was that meat was much more readily available to all social classes in New Zealand, whereas in 19th century Britain, labourers ate very small quantities.

Lamb with a difference!In New Zealand they could have it for every meal. Since meat was a Scalloped Seafoodhigh status food in Britain, British settlers in New Zealand ate it, particularly lamb in vast quantities!

Over the years since, New Zealand has absorbed many influences into its diverse British-based cuisine.

NZL_orthographic_NaturalEarth.svg There are Mediterranean and Pacific Rim influences as well as historical influences from the native Mâori culture. For most of the twentieth century, the cuisine of New Zealand remained highly derivative of British food. And then, as with Britain, the advent of affordable air travel in the sixties and seventies, allowed New Zealanders to travel overseas more easily where they discovered French and Italian foods, and also the Indian and Chinese restaurants of Britain and also the growing ‘New British’ cuisine that grew out of the period of increased resources after the severe restrictions of the war years.

Te Tuatahianui - a KiwiThe United Kingdom’s joining of the EEC in 1973 sounded the death knell of New Zealand’s identity as an agricultural producer for the British Isles. Not only that, the formal cultural ties, including cuisine, with the United Kingdom started to become diluted and during this period, certain non-British or Irish European dishes, such as beef bourguignon shed their ‘ethnic’ connotations and entered mainstream New Zealand cooking.

A Recipe For Colonial Goose

Colonial goose is a preparation of roast leg of lamb or mutton popular as a dish in New Zealand until the last quarter of the 20th century. Early colonial pioneers in New Zealand had sheep aplenty, but goose was relatively scarce. To prepare dishes similar to those they had back home in the old country the pioneers were very inventive. Colonial goose is now a recognised classic, with some restaurants featuring it as a main attraction at midwinter festivities (21st June in NZ).

It involves the careful boning out a leg of lamb, stuffing it with honey and dried apricots, (in addition to traditional stuffing based on breadcrumbs, onion, parsley and thyme or sage) and then marinating it in a red wine based marinade which even gives it the appearance of goose when cooked. You need a large leg of mutton. If you don’t know how to bone it out, ask your butcher to do it, stressing that you need to be able to stuff it.

For the stuffing

2 tbsp butter
1 large tbsp clear honey
½ cup dried apricots, finely diced
1 medium sized onion, finely diced
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
¼ tsp of salt
¼ tsp dried thyme
freshly ground black pepper
1 beaten egg

For the marinade

1 cup sliced carrots (1 or 2 medium carrots)
two large onions, sliced
1 bay leaf
3 or 4 crushed parsley stalks
not quite full cup of red wine such as claret


To prepare the stuffing, melt the butter and honey over low heat.
Add the other ingredients and combine well.
Force the stuffing into the cavity in the meat, and sew it up with fine string.
Place the leg into a plastic bag (which sits in a large bowl), and add the marinade mixture.
The meat is best prepared just after breakfast, so it can then be regularly turned over in the marinade throughout the day.
Cook in oven at 180 ̊C for two hours but check on progress at 90 minutes.
If the meat looks like over browning, it can be covered by foil.
Remove the string before carving.
Strain the marinade and use three or four tablespoons of the liquor to make gravy.

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