Slow-roasted merino shoulderby Lauraine Jacobs
The Rowleys of Lake Hawea Station are rearing delicious lamb in a breathtaking setting.
Meeting producers and hearing their tales are among the most rewarding parts of a food writer’s work. In early spring I visited the 6500ha Lake Hawea Station near Wanaka, which the Rowley family has farmed for 100 years. The view from the farmhouse on a fine day was breathtaking: snow-capped mountains, fluffy clouds, azure sky reflected in the lake and spring grass greening the paddocks of the foothills. I was there to watch chef Sean Connolly cook alpine merino lamb. He was shooting an episode of his television show On the Grill, in which he journeys around the country meeting his restaurant suppliers and learning about their products.
Historically, the merino has been farmed for its wool, but recently connoisseurs such as Connolly have recognised its meat qualities. The lamb we feasted on was butchered at about 15 months old and was delicious. It was fine-grained, full of savoury flavours and came with simply prepared vegetables. New Zealand has about 600 merino farmers and many, like the Rowleys, supply meat marketed under the Silere brand.
The workings of the farm were impressive. A helicopter arrived early on our last morning and Tom and Adrienne Rowley’s sons, Angus and Dougal, who help their parents run the property, climbed aboard with a shepherd and six dogs. The dogs travelled in a compartment for carrying skis. The party was to be dropped in the mountains 15km away, from where they would walk back mustering stock as they went. It would take up to eight hours. The trip gave me a glimpse of life on a high-country sheep station and respect for and understanding of the effort that goes into producing fine meat. And after watching Connolly cook a genuine family-style meal in the Lake Hawea Station kitchen, I returned home to reproduce his delicious recipes.
SLOW-ROASTED LAMB SHOULDER
- 1.6-2kg shoulder (oyster blade cut) alpine merino lamb
- 2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 small lemons, each cut into eight wedges
- 80g tin anchovies (Ortiz brand), drained and chopped
- 4 tbsp salted capers, rinsed
- 3 sprigs rosemary
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 3 tbsp redcurrant jelly
Preheat the oven to 150°C. Place the lamb shoulder in a solid roasting pan. Combine the chopped onion, lemon wedges, anchovies, capers and rosemary leaves in a small bowl, mixing together well. Spread the mixture over the lamb. Brown the meat on the stove top before tipping the wine into the dish. Cover with tin foil, sealing the edges of the pan so the meat remains moist, and place in the preheated oven. Roast for 2 1/2 hours, basting once after the first hour. (You can add parboiled potatoes to the pan after the first hour if you wish, or roast them separately – see the following recipe for crunchy golden potatoes.)
Once roasted, the lamb will have shrunk from the bone and will be very tender. Remove it from the pan and place it on an oven-proof serving dish. Cover lightly with foil and return to the oven while you make the gravy. Place the roasting pan with the juice and flavouring residue on the stove top. Add the redcurrant jelly, stirring well as the liquid bubbles, and reduce. Add another cup of wine if needed. Season to taste, although the anchovies should provide plenty of salty flavours. To serve, carve into neat chunks or slices and spoon over a little gravy. Accompany with Mother’s carrots, seasonal steamed green vegetables and crunchy roast potatoes. Serves 4-6. Wine match: Central Otago pinot noir.
- 5 large carrots
- 4 tbsp butter
- 4 tbsp chopped parsley
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Peel the carrots, cut in half and slice each piece into 2 or 3 chunks. Place in a saucepan, cover with salted water and bring to a simmer. When the carrots are tender, drain and return to the pan with the butter. Toss well, over the heat, so the carrots are coated with butter. Add salt to taste and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle with parsley and serve piping hot. Serves 6.
ASPARAGUS WITH LEMON OIL
- 20-24 thick asparagus spears
- 2 tbsp lemon-flavoured olive oil
Trim the asparagus neatly, place in a saucepan and cover with salted water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 4-5 minutes until the spears are just tender. Drain well, place in a heated serving platter and drizzle over the lemon oil. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Serves 6.
These roast potatoes never fail to earn me compliments. There are two secrets: first, the floury potatoes (preferably agria) must be cooked in boiling salted water until tender but not falling apart; second, adding a generous knob of butter to the lightly flavoured olive oil used for roasting ensures glorious colour and crunch.
CRUNCHY GOLDEN ROAST POTATOES
- 1kg agria potatoes (or another floury variety)
- 2 tbsp light flavoured olive oil
- 2 tbsp butter
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Peel the potatoes and cut into large even chunks. Place in a large saucepan of salted water and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 10-12 minutes and drain well. Score the potatoes on each side with a fork. Heat the oil and butter in a roasting pan on the stove top until the butter has just melted. Remove from the heat and toss in the potatoes. Carefully turn them in the oil and melted butter so all sides of each piece are coated. Generously sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast in the oven for 1 1/2 hours, checking occasionally and turning if necessary. When the potatoes are golden and crunchy, serve at once. Serves 6.
More food heroes
A new book by Simon Farrell-Green records the stories of New Zealand’s artisan food producers and growers, whom he sought out on a journey around the country. After my recent encounter with the alpine merino lamb growers of Lake Hawea Station, I was particularly glad to get a copy of Food Heroes. The book includes the photos of Duncan Innes, who has captured the essence of the land and taken exceptional portraits of the people Farrell- Green writes about. Many of my old friends are in these pages, and some new ones too, all with their delicious foods and a handful of recipes.
FOOD HEROES, Simon Farrell-Green, (Penguin $50)
Silere Alpine origin merino lamb is available from www.silere.co.nz. Sean Connolly’s visit to Lake Hawea Station will feature in On the Grill, TV3, Saturday, November 24.
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