My love letter to lamb

Like many in the 1970s and 1980s, the meat we ate most often was chicken, then mince, followed by fish, followed by gammon. Lamb was a rarity and the very best roast beef was saved for Christmas dinner.

But growing up, lamb was always a treat – be it a Sunday roast with mint sauce or Grandma’s lamb with special gravy. When we were told to slam in the lamb, we knew it was an important occasion – Easter, guests or just to empty the deep freeze to make room for more of mum’s cooking to be frozen for a rainy day.

This is why you see me cook lamb more often than not. It’s not just meat, it reminds me of the happiest meals of my childhood. It’s all the best of memories evoked in one satisfying roast. In short, it makes me happy.

Whizzing back to today and to another Saturday in lockdown, and another barbecue and another feast for the flames. This one I made up on the spot, counting on the lemon to keep the lamb juicy and the sauce tangy. Think of it as my love letter to lamb.

When the roasting is done you have juicy lamb with a deep, rich sauce.

I left the lemon husks in the stock during cooking – this gives the dish a deep, almost bitter umami flavour that you balance out with sugar/honey when you’re decanting the stock. If you’re worried, just leave the skins out.

Music to listen to while preparing this dish: ‘Breathe’ by Blu Cantrell and Sean Paul

Ingredients

  • 1.5kg leg of lamb
  • Juice/flesh of two unwaxed lemons (keep husks if using in stock, but not necessary)
  • 1 bunch of rosemary, leaves stripped
  • 2 onions quartered
  • 1 large clove garlic, quartered
  • 350ml dry white wine (I used a Viognier)
  • 2 litres of hot chicken/lamb stock
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Runny honey/sugar (only if you are adding the lemon rinds to your stock)

Method

  1. Rub the lamb with the olive oil and put it in a roasting dish that can sit on your barbecue. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. To the pan add your lemon juice and flesh, rosemary, onions, garlic, white wine and 1.5 litres of your stock.
  3. If you are adding the lemon rinds, add them now.
  4. Cover your pan with a loose fitting lid or tin foil and put over your prepared coals (you know the drill, when they are covered with a fine coating of ash).
  5. Roast for one hour, with the BBQ vents open. Remove foil, turn the meat and top up the stock if necessary – which it will be.
  6. After 30 mins, check your levels again, you really don’t want the stock to dry up.
  7. After a total roast time of 1hr 45mins remove the lamb from the BBQ and decant your juice to a pan. Reduce/add stock to suit your preference,
  8. Remove the lemon rinds if used and taste – if it’s on the bitter side, add a tablespoon of honey and mix through. It should balance the flavours while keeping that deep umami sensation. Use as much honey to suit your taste but don’t make it too sweet.

Serve with the carved lamb and cubetti potatoes.

Drink with a Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc 2019 – it may be young but it has a depth and a light acidic touch that belies its age.

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