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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Lamb Fest

Going through the freezers before Christmas, trying to clear some space, we found a previously unknown hidden cache of lamb. Specifically legs of lamb in varying sizes, and no memory of having bought them. So, in trying to use them up in a more interesting way than just making standard roast lamb, I recalled a photo I'd seen in one of my cookbooks of a piece of lamb coated in yoghurt roasting on an oven tray. It took me a while to find the photo, in my sole Jamie Oliver book - Jamie's Dinners, and it looked pretty good, but I didn't have all the ingredients (fresh mint, tinned chickpeas - my supermarket is always out!), so I combined it with another yoghurty, minty marinade I found in Nigella's How To Eat. It was a bit of an experiment, but one that paid off.

I pulled out my mortar and pestle for about the first time in a year and ground up a 2 teaspoons of coriander seeds with 2 tablespoons black peppercorns. Then added 2 tablespoons dried mint, 2 garlic cloves, salt and some oil to make a paste. Then measured 250g yoghurt and juice of 1/2 lemon and mixed it all up.
Jamie's recipe was for a lamb leg, but one that had been boned and butterflied. My leg was a half size, and looked pretty manageable, so I decided to have a go boning it myself. It was....ok. Didn't help that I had to defrost it first and the inside was still hard: frozen meat, sharp knife and greasy hands don't make for a good combination! Eventually I got the bone out, randomly cut it down the middle and kinda managed to butterfly it into something almost even. Not the most sophisticated butchery skills, but full points for perservering!
The marinade goes into a freezer bag with the meat, and I left it for the afternoon at room temperature. We don't have many veggies in the house at the moment, so I found some old pumpkin, a few potatoes and red onions and sprinkled them with ground cumin, sumac (which I love) and olive oil.
Butterflied meat cooks much quicker than meat on the bone, so it only took 45 minutes at 200C to cook the lamb. It was more well-done than I'd choose, but it suited this recipe. The smells coming out of the oven were amazing; my brother, who was going out for dinner, was practically delirious and hung about the oven sniffing and watching the meat cook. It was a nicely novel way to cook it as you placed it directly on the oven tray, so it browned all over, and dripped its yoghurty, meaty juices into the vegetables below. Consequently the veggies were astoundingly good! It kind of reminded us of Indian tandoori cooking, but without Indian spices.
Because there were some pretty strong flavours happening in the marinade and spicing up the veggies, I made a pot of plain boiled peas to go along with it; their simple sweetness was a good foil to all that partying in our mouth.
And the leftover lamb makes a wicked sandwich!

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