Banish those winter blues

Get ready to celebrate Matariki and midwinter this month with some indulgent dishes

Jan Bilton





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 Mā ori name for the cluster of stars also known as the Pleiades. It rises in midwinter and for many Mā ori 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 June 24. 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 395 gram 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 in sterilised bottles in the fridge for up to two months. LAMB RACK WITH HERBS The lamb can be served with a little of the left-over mulled wine from the cabbage. Ingredients ■ Herb Coating: 3 large cloves garlic, crushed ■ 1⁄4 cup finely chopped parsley ■ 1 Tbsp finely chopped thyme leaves ■ 2 tsp finely chopped rosemary leaves ■ salt and pepper to taste ■ 2 Tbsp olive oil ■ Lamb: 2 racks lamb, 6-8 cutlets each ■ freshly ground black pepper to taste ■ 2 tsp olive oil Method Preheat the oven to 180C. 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 three 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 six hours. Return to room temperature before roasting. Roast the racks for 15 minutes. Loosely cover the racks with foil and continue roasting for five to eight minutes (internal temperature 60-65°C). Remove from the oven and rest for five minutes before serving. — Serves 6 MULLED WINE RED CABBAGE Can be prepared a day ahead and reheated. Use the remaining half of the mulled wine to serve with the lamb. Ingredients ■ Mulled Wine: 750ml hearty red wine ■ 1⁄4 cup firmly packed brown sugar ■ 1 orange ■ 2 each: star anise, bay leaves ■ 1 tsp 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 Method 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 five minutes. Cool. It can be refrigerated overnight. Preheat the oven to 160C. Remove the core from the cabbage. Thinly slice the leaves. Melt the butter in a large nonstick 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. —