Why do Kiwi Christmas dinners still reflect chilly northern hemisphere celebrations? Hot roasted meats and vegetables are still preferred by most New Zealanders — even when temperatures rival those in the oven.

Our families have already had their say on the menu and, instead of choosing their favourite barbecue meats, they’ve unanimously opted for the once regular Sunday lunch — roast lamb. It will be accompanied by hot ham and followed by — their choice — pav. How Kiwi is that. 

Unfortunately, lamb has become such an expensive, special-occasion meat that many cooks aren’t sure how it should be prepared. It’s simple – put it in a roasting pan in the oven together with some herbs and cook it on a low to medium temperature. However, choosing the lamb is a bit of a gamble. Some can be chewy and others melt-in-your mouth tender. Hence, I prefer to hedge my bets and cook it on a low heat for a longer time.  

It’s always wise to chat to your butcher or supermarket meat department about your meat requirements for Christmas. You might want a leg of lamb butterflied or a chicken boned. Advance notice will be appreciated.


2.5kg leg lamb
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
4 large cloves garlic, slivered
12 small rosemary sprigs
generous amounts freshly ground black pepper
1 cup water
Topping: 1/4 cup each: chopped parsley, mint 
2 cloves garlic, crushed
finely grated rind 1 large lemon 

Preheat the oven to 160°C. 

Score the lamb as you would for a ham. Brush well with oil and rub in the salt.

Make small incisions in the top of the lamb and insert the garlic. Top with the rosemary and black pepper. Place in an oven pan and add the water. Roast for 3 hours. 

Meanwhile combine the topping ingredients. 

When the lamb is cooked, cover loosely with foil and a towel. Rest for 15 minutes. It will be easier to carve. Serve sprinkled with the topping ingredients. Serves 6-8.


As a guide, a four-kilogram ham will serve 20 people as a buffet meal or 10 as dinner.

5kg half-leg ham with bone ham
Glaze: 1/2 cup each: thick soy sauce, maple syrup
2 tablespoons char siu sauce
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
2-3 drops natural red food colouring
2 tablespoons whole cloves
Topping: 1 tablespoon each: toasted sesame seeds, whole fennel seeds, whole coriander seeds; 1 crushed cinnamon stick; 2 star anise

Cut the skin around the shank end, about 8cm down from the top. Starting from the thick end of the ham, carefully run your clean fingers under the skin and remove it. Leave the shank end intact.  

Line a baking pan with foil. Place the ham on top. Using the tip of a small sharp knife, score the fat diagonally, about every 2cm. Turn the ham and repeat the scoring at right angles. This will produce a diamond effect. Stud with cloves. 

Combine the glaze ingredients. Brush generously over the ham. Refrigerate for several hours to allow the flavours to seep in.

If the ham is to be served hot, bake at 160°C for about 10 minutes per 500 grams. If it is to be served cold, cook at 180°C for about 45 minutes, turning and brushing with glaze every 15 minutes.

Want the top to look more rustic? Turn on the grill for a few minutes to sizzle the fat. Remove from the oven. Sprinkle with the seeds and spices. 


Serve one venison rib per person. A balsamic glaze can be prepared by combining equal amounts of balsamic vinegar and brown sugar and heating until the sugar is dissolved and the sauce is syrupy.
500g NZ farm-raised 4-rib French venison rack  
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary leaves
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup balsamic glaze

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place an oiled roasting pan in to heat.

Brush the venison with the combined olive oil and garlic. Sprinkle with the rosemary and black pepper. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C. Place the rack, larger curved-side down, to sear in the roasting pan for 2 minutes. Turn the rack over and cook for 10 minutes for rare or 15 minutes for medium-rare or until the internal temperature reaches 57°C. Remove, cover with foil and a thick clean towel and rest for 10 minutes.

Slice the rib chops from the rack and place on hot serving plates. Serve with a little balsamic glaze. Serves 4.


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