A Virtual Merino Lamb Adventure in New Zealand

Silere Merino Lamb Loin Fillets Mustard Seed Sauce, Cannellini Beans Pickled Fennel, Carrot, Parsnip Cilantro, Mint, Borage

Silere Merino Lamb Loin Fillets
Mustard Seed Sauce, Cannellini Beans
Pickled Fennel, Carrot, Parsnip
Cilantro, Mint, Borage

Are you up for an adventure? Come with me on a virtual culinary trip to New Zealand. Our voyage of discovery takes us to the South Island where we climb high up in the Southern Alps. As we explore an area rich in flora, covered with tussock grasses and wild herbs and flowers, we navigate the pristine silence of nature in rarefied air and brilliant sunshine. We breathe in nature’s sweet fresh bouquet.

Notice the snow-capped peaks that feed the clear alpine streams. Take note of the fauna too. Exquisite Merino sheep, historically treasured for their fine soft wool, are nibbling on those herbs and lapping up that pure water. This is an ancient breed, originally from central Spain, whose fleece has been prized for centuries and is made into the finest luxury clothing.

In recent years, particular strains of Merino sheep have been bred for their meat and are recognized as the finest breed for eating. Breed (Merino) plus Appellation (Southern Alps) equals 5 star blue-ribbon meat suitable for the world’s top restaurants. And now, us! Merino lamb just became available to the U.S. market, courtesy of the fine folks at Marx Foods here. “Good on ya, mates!” And “chur” for the free lamb samples.

Unlike cattle, lamb meat has not been designated by breed. Chefs and diners alike know the difference between Angus beef and Wagyu beef. But lamb, up until now – has been marketed by appellation – such as Colorado or New Zealand, regardless of the breed. Like wine, though appellation is important, it does not tell the whole story. That fine glass of Burgundy you sip, reflects the terrior where the grapes were grown, yes. But are you enjoying Chardonnay or Pinot Noir? Very different, indeed.

Readily distinguishable from their lowland cousins who chew on grass and lollygag around the flat plains, Merino sheep are hearty. Their healthy athleticism makes them well suited to forage for their tasty meals in the steep mountain ranges where this highland lifestyle produces a meat that is naturally leaner and less gamy, in fact, barely gamy at all. Their slower rate of maturation results in a more nuanced and refined flavor of meat.

My friend, you must be starving after our long hike in the Alps. Do come back to the lodge with me, and I will prepare Silere Merino Lamb Loin Fillets for dinner – a dish designed to showcase the elegance of the meat.

The fillets are not coated nor crusted. They are simply rubbed with olive oil and seasoned with Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, then seared in a hot pan. This way, you can focus your attention on its rich delicate savoriness. To accompany the meat, I pair it with a range of flavors, spices, and textures that are well-known to complement lamb dishes over the globe.

Merino Lamb Loin Recipe

Silere Merino Lamb Loin Fillets Mustard Seed Sauce, Cannellini Beans Pickled Fennel, Carrot, Parsnip Cilantro, Mint, Borage

This Dish’s Flavor Profile:

  • carrot
  • chile
  • cilantro
  • cinnamon
  • cumin
  • fennel
  • mint
  • mustard
  • parsnip
  • star anise
  • turmeric
  • vinegar
  • white beans

Merino Lamb Loin Fillets:

Temper the meat. Rub the whole fillets very lightly with olive oil. Season with Kosher salt and fresh ground black and white peppercorns.

Cook fat cap side down in a hot dry non-stick skillet for about 6 minutes. Flip and cook the other side, about 4 minutes.  Remove the fillet from the pan, let rest for 10 minutes. Slice the meat into thick medallions. Sear the cut sides in the hot pan, about one minute per side.

Chef’s Choice:  Either serve the meat with the fat cap still attached, as I did. I cook the loin with the fat cap intact, because fat equals flavor and the rendered fat enhances the flavor of the meat. Optionally, the fat cap can be removed before the final searing of the medallions.

Silere Merino Lamb Loin Fillets Mustard Seed Sauce, Cannellini Beans Pickled Fennel, Carrot, Parsnip Cilantro, Mint, Borage

Mustard Seed Sauce:

  • 4 T. olive oil
  • 1 t. mustard seeds
  • 1/2 t. cumin seeds
  • 1/2 t. fennel seeds
  • 1 t. turmeric
  • 1 t. chili powder
  • 2 T. dry mustard
  • salt to taste

Heat oil in a small sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add mustard seeds, cumin, fennel, and cook for a minute or two. Add turmeric, chile powder, dry mustard and stir to combine.

Silere Merino Lamb Loin Fillets Mustard Seed Sauce, Cannellini Beans Pickled Fennel, Carrot, Parsnip Cilantro, Mint, Borage


Prepare the pickled fennel, carrot, and parsnip ahead of time. My favorite pickle recipe with cinnamon and star anise can be found here. Be sure to pickle each vegetable separately to preserve their unique tastes.

Gently toss warm cannellini beans with half of the mustard seed sauce. Using a pastry brush, paint the serving plates with sauce. Arrange small mounds of beans and pickled fennel, carrot, and parsnip. Place lamb medallions on the sauce. Garnish with cilantro, mint, and borage.

Silere Merino Lamb Loin Fillets Mustard Seed Sauce, Cannellini Beans Pickled Fennel, Carrot, Parsnip Cilantro, Mint, Borage

Note the almost-velvety smooth mouthfeel and the butter-tender texture of Silere Merino Lamb Loin Fillets. The meat is simultaneously mild and compelling. Now try a bite of the lamb loin with each of the flavor components. I notice your silence. Contented silence. Did you know that silere is Latin for “be silent?”

Merino Lamb Review Contest

Silere Merino Lamb Review

UPDATE 3/4/2015: Taste With The Eyes ties for second place in the Merino Review Round-Up!

From my friends at Marx Foods:

We had an amazing group of bloggers participate in our Silere Alpine Origin Merino Review Contest and their reviews did not disappoint! They were full of insight, drool-worthy photos, and some awesome recipes, too!

We conducted a public poll, a vote amongst the participating bloggers, and a staff vote to choose the winner. The results were as follows:

After tallying up the votes, we’re pleased to announce that Allyson of Reclaiming Yesterday is the winner of the Silere Alpine Origin Merino Review Contest! Congratulations, Allyson! Allyson’s excellent review was, thorough, thoughtful, informative, and personable. It also featured stunning photos and delicious recipes we couldn’t get enough of!

As the winner of the contest, Allyson will be receiving $500 credit to MarxFoods.com and will also make an appearance on our homepage and in one of our newsletters later this month!

Our runners up, Suzy of The Mediterranean Dish and Lori Lynn of Taste with the Eyes, also did an excellent job. Both posts featured thoughtful reviews studded with gorgeous photos and yummy recipes.

From Lori Lynn:

Extending a huge thank you to Becca and the folks at Marx Foods in Seattle for including Taste With The Eyes in the Merino Lamb Review. And kudos to Allyson and Suzy and all the participants in the contest. Great fun all around!

8 thoughts on “A Virtual Merino Lamb Adventure in New Zealand”

  1. Living across the Ditch in that other lamb country of Australia this has been a wonderfully heartwarming story. And tho’ our sheep do not always have the pleasure of New Zealand’s lush pastures, it is probably the meat most often eaten here also, especially for a Sunday family meal. Tho’ hardly ever plated quite as elegantly as you have achieved here. Lamb fits the profile of any of the dozens of multicultural ways of preparation: ’tis a sin to ‘coat’ or ‘crust’ 🙂 ! My favourite I guess is a dryrubbed shoulder slow baked where one just uses the fork to enjoy this splendiferous meat 🙂 ! Thank you for your beautiful way of prepping it!!!!

    1. Hello Eha My Down Under Friend – nice to hear from you. Thank you for the kind words about my lamb dish. Australian dry rubbed lamb shoulder sounds awfully tasty too. I am not opposed to “coating or crusting” just that Merino is a new product here in the U.S. so I wanted to taste it in its pure form. Very elegant I must say.

  2. I have bought lamb from New Zealand and it’s always good, but right now, there’s a lot of lamb in my freezer, bought from a friend who lives nearby and raises a half dozen or so each year. Can’t beat buying local. What I really want from your beautiful and delicious plate are those borage flowers that you insert into your dishes. You’re lucky to live where they grow and flower so much of the year, and you have inspired me to order some borage seeds to plant this spring.

    1. How lucky you are Linda to get local lamb from a friend!
      I do have borage all year, I am addicted to the color! I plant from seeds and have a 3′ tall bush in no time. Likes the sun so it is in the front sunny spot in my garden. So sorry about your East Coast weather 🙁 this year, pretty soon you’ll have a glorious spring for planting… I’ll look for borage on your fabulous dishes this summer 🙂

  3. Sounds delicious, and I love your presentation. Can’t wait to try this one – but mine will be cooked a little more. For some reason, the only thing I can bring myself to eat rare is beef, which is weird – you would think it would be an all or none thing but nope, I like rare beef. Although I loved your story-telling perspective, I’m sorry to say you were my 2nd pic for “review.” I did, however, give you a bonus point (in my head of course) for using complement rather than compliment but then forgot to take the point away again for leaving me with the Silence of the Lambs image at the end lol. 😉 Good luck with the challenge!

    1. Hi Chris – thanks for taking the time to comment. Regarding the temperature of the meat, a few of my guests agree with you, some people just like lamb meat cooked to medium. No worries. For them, I did the second sear for two minutes per side, which worked perfectly. Others enjoyed the browned exterior with the rare center.

      My concern is to serve the rare meat without having bloody juices spilling out onto the plate. The second sear solves that issue, as you can see in the last image.

      Appreciate that you liked my story-telling. Glad to have your input, I’m OK with being your 2nd pick 🙂

      Thanks Again!

      1. My brother-in-law will only eat meats at the “hockey puck” stage, so whenever there is a family dinner with some sort of roast involved, when it’s done, we’ll pull it out to rest, carve off an end and stick it back in the oven until he’s sure it’s dead lol. The rest of us like a little pink in the middle.

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