Throwing a midwinter Christmas/Matariki party is high on my celebration calendar this year. It will be a great antidote for the winter blues. I love a cheerful get-together with family and friends. And the cooler temperatures are more suited to indulgent dishes.

Matariki is the Māori name for the cluster of stars also known as the Pleiades. It rises in midwinter and for many Māori it heralds the start of a new year. Iwi across New Zealand understand and celebrate Matariki in different ways and at different times. This year, New Zealand’s first public holiday to celebrate Matariki will be on Friday 24 June.

As this virtually coincides with what I consider the perfect midwinter Christmas date (June 25), this could be some weekend. 
Tip: To make your own Irish cream for the boozy banana trifles, combine half a cup each of cream and milk with a 395gram can of sweetened condensed milk, three tablespoons of chocolate syrup, a teaspoon of instant coffee granules, one teaspoon of vanilla essence and 400 millilitres of Irish Whiskey. Mix gently using a hand-held eggbeater. It can be stored sterilised bottles in the fridge for up to two months.


The lamb can be served with a little of the left-over mulled wine from the cabbage.

Herb Coating: 3 large cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme leaves
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary leaves
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
Lamb: 2 racks lamb, 6-8 cutlets each
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Combine the ingredients for the herb coating in a small bowl.

Season the lamb with the black pepper.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan on medium-high. Add the racks and brown for about 3 minutes on each side.

Place the racks in a small roasting pan. Pat the herb coating onto the meaty sides. This can be done in advance and the racks covered and refrigerated for up to 6 hours. Return to room temperature before roasting.

Roast the racks for 15 minutes. Loosely cover the racks with foil and continue roasting for 5-8 minutes (internal temperature 60-65°C). Remove from the oven and rest for 5 minutes before serving. Serves 6.


Can be prepared a day ahead and reheated. Use the remaining half of the mulled wine to serve with the lamb.

Mulled Wine: 750ml hearty red wine
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 orange
2 each: star anise, bay leaves
1 teaspoon each: black peppercorns, whole cloves
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Cabbage: 1/2 (750g) medium red cabbage
75g butter, chopped
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 red-skinned apples, cored and thinly sliced

Pour the wine into a saucepan and add the sugar. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Peel the orange thinly then squeeze out the juice. Add both the peel and juice to the saucepan together with the remaining mulled wine ingredients. Simmer for 5 minutes. Cool. It can be refrigerated overnight.

Preheat the oven to 160°C. 

Remove the core from the cabbage. Thinly slice the leaves.

Melt the butter in a large non-stick frying pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook gently until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the cabbage and apples. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain half the mulled wine over the cabbage. Pour into a suitable baking dish, cover and cook in the oven for 1 1/2 - 2 hours until the cabbage is softened and the flavours have developed.

Serve immediately or cool and chill overnight, then reheat. Serves 6.


The Irish Cream marries well with the bananas. However, a coffee or orange liqueur could be substituted. The dessert can be made 24 hours in advance, covered and refrigerated.

300ml cream
2 tablespoons icing sugar
1/2 cup Irish cream
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
200g chocolate sponge, chocolate cake or brownie
2 large bananas, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 cups vanilla custard
1/2 cup butterscotch caramel sauce (Barkers) 
grated chocolate to garnish

Combine the cream, icing sugar, 1 tablespoon of the Irish cream and the vanilla paste in a bowl. Whip until thick.

Crumble the chocolate sponge into six serving dishes or glasses. Drizzle each with 1 tablespoon of the Irish cream. Top with the bananas and custard. Pipe the whipped cream on top.

Just before serving, garnish with the butterscotch sauce and grated chocolate. Serves 6.


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