Recently we had a American couple as guests for dinner. I wanted to give them a homestyle meal rather than something they might get at a restaurant. As many Kiwis are descended from immigrants from England, Ireland and Scotland most of us have grown up with a "meat and three veg" kind of menu and a roast dinner on a Sunday. New Zealand is well known for its sheep production as we have approximately 12 times more sheep than people. We are the butt of many sheep jokes usually told by Australians.
I served roast leg of lamb with gravy and mint jelly on the side. For veges we had roasted potato, pumpkin and kumara which is New Zealand's sweet potato. There are three different varieties of kumara, the traditional red and the more recent gold and orange. One of them is very similar to the US sweet potato but I can never remember if it's the gold or the orange one. For something green we had steamed asparagus and some canned green beans.
To drink we had Lemon and Paeroa or as it's more commonly known L&P. It is a pleasant lemon flavoured soda and was originally made from mineral water sourced for a place called Paeroa in New Zealand. If you visit Paeroa you will see a 7 metre high replica of an L&P bottle. These days L&P is made by Coca Cola and the current tv ad rates L&P as "world famous in New Zealand - since ages ago". You can watch it here.
I also made a very lame attempt at making iced tea for our visitors thinking that they might be in withdrawal after a few days without it. If the tea tasted bad my dinner guests were too impressed by me walking out the door and picking a lemon off my tree to comment otherwise. If you ask for iced tea in a restaurant in New Zealand you are likely to receive a very strange look. We typically drink hot tea and usually with milk. I enjoy iced tea (sweet of course with lots of lemon) but have never had very much luck making it myself.
To finish, there was no other choice but pavlova - New Zealand's national dessert. Although, if you ask an Austalian they will claim the dessert as their invention.
There are as many pavlova recipes as there are preferences for how it turns out. Some like theirs very crispy like a meringue, others like them marshmallowy, some like them chewy. My mother's pavlova is the best of both worlds - a crispy shell with a thick marshmallow middle. Here's her recipe:
6 egg whites
1 and 1/2 cups caster (superfine) sugar
2 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vinegar
2 teaspoons cornflour (cornstarch)
Pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 125 degrees C/ 250 degrees F
With an electric beater, beat egg whites in a clean bowl until stiff
Add half of the sugar and beat well
Add the remainder of the sugar and continue to beat until stiff and glossy
Beat in the rest of the ingredients
Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly grease it
Dollop the meringue mixture in a tall pile in the centre of the foil and stack it as high as you can
Run a fork up the sides to even it up and create a bit of height
Bake for 1 and 1/2 hours
Turn oven off
Leave pavlova in the oven to cool
If your pav drops like mine did never fear - that's why God invented whipped cream. Decorate your pavlova with whipped cream and sliced seasonal fruit as desired. Kiwifruit would be a good choice.
You can make your pavlova several days in advance, just store it loosely covered in a dry place and decorate it close to serving.