• The Listener
  • North & South
  • Noted
  • RNZ

Colloquial goose

Roast, stuffed mutton may not always be called by its quaint, pioneer name these days, but it's still a popular dish in New Zealand.

You can't help being intrigued by an early New Zealand dish called colonial goose. Naturally enough, it has nothing to do with geese, but is an ironic term adopted by British settlers in New Zealand - and Australia - for a roast boned leg or shoulder of mutton, its cavity filled with the type of stuffing used for poultry. Mrs Beeton has a typical recipe. The term colonial goose must already have been in common use in the 1890s, cropping up in Casual Ramblings, by A Tramp Esq, and even a story by Rudyard Kipling, although the earliest published recipe I've come across is aptly found in Colonial Everyday Cookery, published in 1908. However, until the 1920s, few local recipe books used the colloquial name, and then sometimes only as a subtitle. In the St Andrews cookery book, published in Dunedin in 1921, the main title is "Mutton, stuffed" with a subtitle of "Leg or Colonial Goose".

Right up to the 1950s, our colonial goose was still tickling the fancy of foreign visitors. In the April 4, 1952, issue of the Listener, there is an extract from James A Michener's book Return to Paradise, in which he says about our food, "There are five unique delicacies: soup made from sautéed toheroa clams, pronounced by the Prince of Wales to be 'the finest soup ever made', an understatement; grilled muttonbird, a baby sea fowl whose parents cram its rubber belly with so many fish that it cannot move, so that when cooked it tastes of chicken with a streak of trout; Colonial Goose, which is strong mutton sliced wafer-thin and served with onion stuffing and an almost black gravy; the best little teacakes in the world; and whitebait."

In recent years, although the name has almost disappeared, many butcher shops and supermarkets still sell boned shoulders of lamb complete with stuffing. I haven't ever cooked one of these, because the stuffing is unattractively pale and pasty and the list of ingredients is none too appealing, either. As a good stuffing is the main point of the recipe, I'd rather make it myself.

To this end, I save up fresh breadcrumbs made from good French or Italian bread, which is whizzed in the processor and stored in a plastic bag in the freezer. Although you can use any stuffing recipe that you might use for a chicken or turkey, the recipe below, which has a moist, light and slightly crumbly texture, works well. Because there never seems to be enough stuffing to go around, I make extra, to be wrapped in foil and baked separately.

I like colonial goose so much that last year I cooked it on Christmas Day. Even with only four adults at the table, there was only a small piece left to eat cold the next day. This was so delicious that next time I make it as a summer meal, I'll roast the "goose" first thing in the morning and serve it cold in the evening.

You will need to order the boned shoulder of lamb ahead of time. The marinade is optional.

NEW COLONIAL GOOSE

One boned shoulder of lamb, weighing about 1_ kilos

Marinade juice of 1 lemon; salt and pepper; chopped thyme leaves; 1/2 tsp ground allspice; 1 tbsp oil

Stuffing 4 tbsp butter; 1 large onion, finely diced; 1 clove garlic, finely chopped; 1 rib celery, finely diced; grated zest and juice of 1 lemon; chopped fresh herbs; thyme, sage and parsley; 1/2 tsp ground allspice; 4 tbsp currants; salt and pepper; 4 cups fresh soft breadcrumbs; 1 egg lightly whisked with 2 tbsp water

Gravy (for hot goose) 1 tbsp flour; 1 tsp tomato paste; 1/4 cup red or white wine; 11/2 cups water

Trim excess fat from the lamb and place skin-side up on a board. Use a sharp knife to score through the skin in two directions. Put the meat skin-side down in a shallow dish and sprinkle with the marinade ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in the refrigerator until ready to roast. Make the stuffing ahead of time so that it has time to cool before being used. Over moderate heat, melt the butter in a large frying pan or saucepan and fry the onion until translucent, add the garlic and celery and fry a few minutes more before adding the lemon zest, herbs, allspice and currants. Add salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and add the breadcrumbs, mixing them thoroughly with the ingredients in the pan. Cool to lukewarm and then trickle the egg and water over the stuffing, mixing it in lightly until the stuffing is moist yet still rather crumbly.

Four hours before you want to serve the lamb hot, or early in the day if you want to serve it cold, preheat the oven to 200?C. While the oven is heating, stuff the lamb. Lay it skin-side down in a roasting dish or on a board. Spread about half the stuffing over the lamb and fold over to enclose it, using short, sharp bamboo skewers to secure the meat on three sides. Use kitchen string to tightly tie the meat up like a parcel. Put remaining stuffing plus an extra tablespoon of butter in a piece of foil lined with baking paper. Fold over to make a parcel and set aside. Put the prepared lamb in a roasting pan, trickle with a little oil, sprinkle with salt and add half a cup of water to the bottom of the pan. Place in the oven. After 30 minutes, reduce the heat to 150?C and continue to roast for 3 and a half hours, basting the meat with the fat in the pan every half hour. Place the package of stuffing in the oven an hour before the meat is cooked.

To make gravy if serving the goose hot, remove the meat from the roasting pan and skim off excess fat, leaving about 2 tablespoons in the pan. Add the flour, put over a moderate heat and fry until the flour starts to colour. Add the tomato paste, wine and water and simmer until lightly thickened. Correct the seasoning and strain into a heated gravy boat.

Remove the string and any skewers that may interfere with carving. Carve the meat and stuffing into thin slices. Serves 4-6.