Mrs. Holst is famous in New Zealand for her many cookbooks, her television shows and her cooking classes. Since lamb is about as popular in New Zealand as beef is here, Mrs. Holst knows her lamb. She visits Canada regularly to tell us about New Zealand spring lamb, because she feels that as a lean meat it suits the nutrition-conscious Eighties. Lower in cholesterol than pork, beef or chicken, it has only 7 per cent fat, half of which is unsaturated.

Mrs. Holst uses a microwave oven for a large percentage of her cooking, and lamb is no exception. She prefers to microwave roasts under two pounds in weight, since a small roast cooks more evenly. And because lamb is lean, it really needs slow cooking to develop its tenderness and flavor to the maximum. She feels a small roast cooked at 50 per cent or less power for 14 to 16 minutes to the pound and then allowed to stand for about 10 minutes can be superb. She microwaves the rest of the meal during the roast’s standing time.

She defrosts frozen lamb as slowly as possible, for the best flavor. If short of time, she defrosts it in the microwave, using a lower power than the “defrost” setting, which is about 30 per cent on most ovens. She sometimes defrosts it in cold water in the sink, but prefers to defrost it in the refrigerator for a day or more. She always lets the meat reach room temperature before microwaving.

Because lamb meat is lean, a marinade will tenderize as well as add flavor. Most lamb recipes call for marinating. Before defrosting the meat in the refrigerator, she usually unwraps the meat and puts it in a plastic bag with her favorite marinade – one or two tablespoons each of dark soy sauce, oil and lemon juice. She squeezes the air out and ties the bag, and the meat marinates as it defrosts.

Of course, you can use any marinade you like. If you are short of time, even a half hour of marinating on the kitchen counter will make a difference.

Before microwaving, she often coats her roast or chops with a mixture of mustard and dark soy sauce for flavor and color. She starts with about a tablespoon of imported mustard, mixing in enough soy sauce to make a coating that will stick and stay on.

To find out when it is done, she takes the meat out of the oven and uses a meat thermometer. The finished temperature, after standing time, should be about 150 degreesF. for rare, 160 degreesF. for medium, and 175 degreesF. for well done. The temperature can rise seven to 10 degrees during standing time. (Mrs. Holst likes it with some pink in the middle – overcooked lamb tends to get tough.) She don’t use a probe, because many of them are not really accurate, and also, they can be affected by a bone or a pocket of fat.

As well as lamb roasts, she likes to microwave lamb chops. They can be microwaved on High power in a browning dish, especially the loin chops. The boneless loin can also be done on the browning dish, but you can also microwave it on a microwave oven rack, at High power.

“Then of course there are always stews, stir-fries and shish-kebabs – the boneless shoulder is a good cut for those. And how about a lamb balls as a party appetizer, or served on rice for a dinner dish?”

HONEY GLAZED LAMB BITES

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground lean lamb
  • cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 can (5 ounces) water chestnuts,┬ádrained and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. coarsely ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. ground mace
  • 1/8 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/2 cup prepared mustard
  • 1/2 cup honey

In a large mixing bowl, combine lamb, wine, bread crumbs, egg, water chestnuts, salt, pepper, mace and allspice; then mix well. Shape lamb mixture into balls about one inch in diameter.

Arrange 20 to 24 lamb balls on microwave roasting rack in flat casserole. Cover with waxed paper. Microwave at High for 10 or 11 minutes. Use tongs or two spoons to turn lamb balls after five minutes of cooking. Remove lamb from oven.

Repeat process with remaining lamb balls.

Combine mustard and honey in two-cup glass measuring cup or bowl. Microwave at High for two minutes. Remove sauce from microwave oven. Stir well. Pour sauce over hot lamb balls to serve as appetizer.

Makes four dozen lamb balls.