lamb legs & bbqs


I am a happy omnivore. I do cook vegetarian meals on occasion (more occasions than the husband would like, I suspect), & those occasions will probably become more common when our French niece and her Scottish partner (hi, Mally! hi, Tony!) arrive on our doorstep next month. But I enjoy meat, as well. One of my favourites is lamb (whether or not this has anything to do with eating roasted lambs’ tails at docking time, when I was a kid on the farm & docking involved a sharp knife rather than those little rubber rings, I’m not sure). And lamb is rather cheap in the shops, at the moment.

So a couple of weekends ago I found myself early-ish on Sunday morning with a 2kg leg (bone in) of lamb in the fridge and the happy prospect of a slow, late lunch with friends. And the day was sunny – a great day for the first barbecue of the summer. First up, I needed to bone the lamb – lacking a turnspit, I can’t imagine trying to cook a leg, bone in, on the barbie. Now, I used to have a proper boning knife, but it disappeared a while ago; I suspect the husband nicked it for cutting up bait on one of his fishing trips. So these days I use a knife with a fairly narrow straight blade. Being a zoologist hath its uses as I’ve got a nice mental image of where the bones actually are.

Boning a leg is no big deal, really, although I know perfectly well that my way probably isn’t the most efficient way to do it (& one day the elder of my brothers, who is a Very Good Cook Indeed, will probably take me to task for it): basically I cut down to & along the shin at the point where the flesh is at its thinnest, & then work around the bones & deglove them as I go. Then I make a couple of slashes where the meat is thickest, so it will lie fairly flat under grill or on barbecue, & there you are. (The bones go to my little dog, Ben, & make him very happy for quite some time.)

The last time I did this, the next step was a fairly conventional marinade involving olive oil, lemon zest & juice, rosemary & garlic.  Did I mention that we have quite a bit of garlic still to use from last summer’s crop? Anyway, this time I felt like something different. So I peeled the cloves from a couple of bulbs of garlic (I’ve got one of those silicon tube-thingies that you use to skin garlic cloves & it works rather well) & put them in a mortar with a tablespoon or so of ground cumin & a couple of teaspoons of rock salt, & ground the whole lot into a coarse paste with the pestle before thinning it with some olive oil & a little sesame oil (because I thought it would taste good. Which it did). That was spread over both sides of the lamb, which I then put into a dish, covered it with gladwrap, & left it to its own devices for 3 hours.

During which time we all went to the Hamilton Farmers’ Market & bought various yummy things, & then the dog & I walked home while the rest of the family drove back with our purchases 🙂

By the time we got home it was about an hour until our guests were due, so I fired up the barbecue (gas bottle, three burners, nice semi-cylindrical hood) & when it was at around 200 degrees C I turned off one of the burners & carefully placed my butterflied lamb leg on the grill over that burner, skin side down. Then I closed the lid & turned the other burners down to medium, & left the meat to cook over that indirect heat (turning it once, about 30 minutes later) while I went in to deal to the rest of the meal.

Which was pretty straightforward: the first of our new season’s potatoes (Swifts, ready in about 60 days from planting), to be boiled & served with a littlebittabutter; a nice big head of fresh brocolli, cut into florets & steamed just before we were ready to eat, along with fresh asparagus from the market; a sweet red pepper coulis; & a lemon-thyme scented hollandaise sauce. Our guests arrived & exclaimed, drooling slightly, about the lovely smells from the barbecue. The lamb was done and, after resting it for 10 minutes while dealing with the veges, I carved it into thick luscious slices, still pink inside but brown & crisp with garlic & spice on the outside. The eight of us sat down to a veritable feast, & no-one complained that there was no dessert to follow.


About alison

Uni lecturer (& ex-school teacher); involvement in NCEA standards & NZ curriculum development; keen blogger & general science communicator. In 2010 I won a national (NZ) Tertiary Teaching Excellence Award & through this became a member of the Ako Aotearoa Academy.

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