Traditional Home Cooking in New Zealand

New Zealand lamb with onion sauce
New Zealand lamb with onion sauce. Getty Images/Joff Lee

New Zealanders (also known affectionately as Kiwis) love their food, as demonstrated by the prolific presence of small bakeries and restaurants. It can be surprising to see small bakeries virtually next-door to each other, all selling the same type of savory pies, and sweet pastries with just the slightest variation by their respective bakers. Their wares are not only delicious but quite inexpensive.

Butcher shops are fast becoming a relic of the past in America thanks to large supermarket chains, but they are still alive, well, and thriving in New Zealand. Foodstuffs, in general, are expensive and for good reason. Most goods must be imported to this remote island country and transport costs are naturally passed on to the consumer.

New Zealand Lamb

A home-cooked dinner of roasted leg of lamb and vegetables is a common and delicious culinary treat. With a population of 4 million people and 50 million sheep, it is no wonder that lamb is the largest export of New Zealand.

New Zealand lamb, particularly the leg, is prized for its flavor and tenderness. American lamb is becoming more popular, but taste-wise it pales in comparison to its Kiwi cousin. That being said, most Americans prefer the milder flavor and lower prices of American lamb.

Kumara

Kumara (pronounced KOO-mah-rah), is a popular New Zealand root vegetable that is a common addition to the roast lamb dinner.

It is actually a variety of sweet potato that originated in America. Kumara was brought to New Zealand by early Maori settlers. It looks much like a large, lumpy waxy red potato, but has a sweeter taste than standard white potato varieties. The flesh ranges in color from pale yellow to orange. Kumara may be substituted in any potato recipe.

Buttercup Pumpkin

Butternut pumpkin, a popular winter squash in New Zealand, was also included in the roast lamb dinner. It has a hard, dark green shell, and measures an average of about 8 to 10 inches in diameter. The flesh is bright orange and tastes much like sweet potatoes when cooked. Click on the additional photo link to see what it looks like.

Pavlova

Pavlova is the national dessert of New Zealand, named for the famous Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova. This dessert, made of meringue, whipped cream, and fruit, is said to be lighter than air and was created as a tribute to the light and graceful dancer. Australia also claims credit for the invention of pavlova, however, old cookbooks tend to weigh heavily on the side of Kiwis.

This luscious dessert is well-named. It is rich without being overly heavy. A meringue crust is filled with whipped cream and topped with fruit, usually dominated by kiwifruit.