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Mutton ham recipe and recipe for Muttonbird or Sooty Shearwater

Haere mai . . . to Tallyrand’s Living (New Zealand) Cuisine month!

And living in New Zealand means knowing that 'haere mai' (har-eh-rhe my) is the Maori for ‘welcome’ and 'haere ra' (har-eh-rhe rah) being ‘farewell’.

I was asked in mid April, if I would be consultant chef for an article for the prestigious National Geographic magazine. They wanted to do a spread on my home country Wales.  After discussion, rather than a single recipe I wrote up several recipes that the readers can put together for a full dinner menu of Welsh dishes. This is now in the June issue; though I am unsure how many of the editions it is in, as they publish different editions for different countries. But you can see the online version at Leite's Culinaria : http://www.leitesculinaria.com/ 

It got me thinking that it was also high time that I paid homage to my adopted country, New Zealand. More specifically, recipes from the ‘indigenous’ people the Maori, but also other traditional New Zealand dishes too, so over the next four weeks I hope you will join me for the wonders that is New Zealand. Accompanying these recipes each week will be photos of the wonderous sights of New Zealand, that I am sure you will be seeing lots more of once the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movie trilogy is released.

I thought, two recipes each week. One that is purely for interest and one that can easily be replicated by everyone. Why purely for interest? Well, because you either, probably wouldn’t want to try it or couldn’t because the ingredients are indigenous to these fair isles. Trust me, you will soon see which is which!

This bird is the KeaThe Maori people being of Polynesian descent, their foods have much in common with other Polynesian cultures: Samoa, Fiji, Hawaii, etc. So if you know anything of these cuisines, you will no doubt see similarities with their dishes but known by another name.

For this first week we are going to look at meat dishes. New Zealand is a hunter’s dream, if you are into game foods. Besides the certain seasons on ducks and geese, there are few restrictions, one can get up in the morning, head out to the bush and be back by nightfall with a wild boar, chamois, deer, thar or goat. As long as you like tramping through dense bush-land, maybe in the rain and cold and hauling a 150kg animal on your back for 10 miles! Personally I like to leave that to others . . . I just love to cook and eat it . . . trust me, if you like pork, you would love wild boar!

I first came to New Zealand under contract to THC hotels, a New Zealand owned hotel chain and was lucky enough to be placed immediately in the Bay of Islands, at Waitangi. Known as the ‘birthplace of the nation’, for it was here that the (controversial) treaty was signed giving sovereignty of New Zealand to the British Crown in 1840. It was here that I learnt so much about the Maori culture, being immersed in it on a daily basis and from here I gathered these recipes that I share with you


These are native seabirds known as Titi in Maori. Because they are seabirds, their flesh is tough, salty and has a strong fishy taste to them, unless treated properly they are quite an acquired taste, which has been described as chicken stuffed with kippers! They are readily available in New Zealand and normally bought (strangely enough) from fishmongers!

To remove or tone down the strong flavour; the plucked and drawn bird is best soaked for a day, with the water being changed every 8 hours, then boiled for at least 45 minutes, the water changed and re-boiled and then repeated a third time until the flesh has softened. It may then be slowly grilled or roasted to taste.


Interestingly, the use of a different name for the cooked meat of an animal; beef for cows, pork for pig, etc came from the Norman conquest of England in 1066. Prior to that the name of the live animal was used. Mutton is the name given to the meat from the sheep that is more than two years old; hogget (a Scottish term) is up to two years and lamb is up to one year old.

Mutton ham? . . . A strange name I know, but then if one can name a bird Muttonbird, why not have a mutton ham? Mutton ham is a wonderful alternative to the usual ‘pig ham’ and produced by following a similar method. It can be easily and safely made at home, serve it as you would a hot ‘pig ham’ or chill it, slice it and use as for cold ‘pig ham’.

To confuse matters even more a stuffed, roasted leg of mutton in New Zealand is traditionally known as ‘Colonial goose’, made up in the colonial days as a way of dressing up the fact that mutton was being served, yet again!

Ingredients for Mutton Ham

leg of mutton 



brown sugar



ground cloves



ground ginger



ground mace



ground white pepper



sea salt 



How to make Mutton Ham

To cure the 'ham'

  • Combine all then spices with the sugar
  • Place the mutton leg in a roasting tray and rub the sugar cure into well and evenly 
  • Allow to stand for 2 hours and then rub in the salt
  • Place, covered in a cool dark place (preferably not the refrigerator; but it must be no higher than 6ºC) for 6 days, turning the mutton twice a day and rubbing in any of the cure that has dropped off. The cure may become liquefied and this is normal, just spoon it back over the mutton and rub it back in
  • After 6 days, soak the mutton leg in water for two hours (less if you like a salty ham) prior to cooking

To cook the 'ham'

  • Place into a large pot, cover with water and add some parsley stalks, rosemary, thyme, cracked peppercorns, a bayleaf and a little honey
  • Simmer slowly for approx. 45 minutes per kilo or until tender

Chef's Tip for Mutton Ham

Wonderful when served with a new potatoes tossed in a cashew nut butter, some fresh fruit chutney, steamed broccoli, buttered asparagus and maybe a light mustard and parsley sauce.

Chef's terminology:

litres   tsp = teaspoon
millelitres   tbs = tablespoon
kilograms   sq = sufficient quantity (add to taste)
grams   pc = piece, meaning a whole one of

Enjoy your Mutton Ham and bon appetit . . . . .

Recipe from professional
Chef Tallyrand

Email Hub-UK : info@hub-uk.com