Saturday, 9 February 2013

If you come to ours for a barbeque…

… it’s highly likely that you’ll be on the receiving end of a butterflied leg of lamb.  This dish has so many reasons for recommending – it’s easy, healthy, tasty and any leftovers are great.  An added bonus for me is that the MOTH does all the cooking – and he is the master of the perfectly cooked butterflied leg of lamb.

These days, you can often buy a pre-butterflied leg of lamb at the supermarket (or ask your friendly neighbourhood butcher to take to a lamb leg for you).  However, boning out a leg of lamb is actually really easy if you have a good sharp knife – so get your butcher (or anyone who confesses to knowing how to do this) to show you how. 

Butterflied lamb barbeque
Serves 4 or more – depending on the size of the leg and whether it is part of a broader selection of BBQ dishes

1.3kg leg of lamb (bone in) – served four plus leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch
Bone out the leg.  Slice into the largest part of the leg so that it opens out to a fairly uniform thickness.  Or put your pre-butterflied leg into a non-reactive dish for marinating.

Basic marinade for lamb
2-5 cloves garlic
Olive oil
1 lemon
Handful of fresh thyme (or rosemary)
Salt and pepper

Finely chop the garlic or pound in a mortar and pestle with some sea salt.  Squeeze the lemon (you can also add finely grated lemon rind for extra lemony flavour – but make sure you only use the really yellow outer rind and not the bitter white pith). 

At this point, I sprinkle over a few good pinches of sea salt, a good grind of black pepper, the thyme (sprigs removed if I can be bothered, but they burn/fall off when barbequed, so no need to fuss), a few glugs of olive oil and then rub in the garlic and lemon juice.  It’s all a bit messy, but it means that the flavours of the marinade ingredients get up close and personal with the lamb, which is the whole point of the marinade.  At this point, you can leave the lamb in the fridge for up to 24 hours, turning occasionally, if you remember.
You can easily adjust your marinade to provide any number of different flavours – add crushed anchovies for a real depth of flavour (believe me, no-one will pick that the flavour is anchovies), smoked paprika for a more Spanish flavour, Moroccan spices, chilli… my only rule is to steer away from sugary ingredients (sweet chilli, honey, maple syrup, etc), as they will tend to burn before the lamb is cooked.

At least 30 minutes (preferably 1 hour) before cooking, get the lamb out of the fridge and allow to come up to room temperature – cooking from cold is too much of a shock for the lamb and will give you a tougher end result.  Heat the barbeque.

As an aside, we have a very basic gas BBQ – no fancy lid and 12 dials on the front.  Every BBQ is different and every day is different (in Wellington, the breeze varies from gale to hurricane, so cooking time always has to be adjusted).  So I can’t give you a definitive answer to how long to cook your lamb.  Put the lamb on the BBQ skin side down.  For the smallish leg that I’ve shown you here, about 12 minutes/side, with a roasting dish placed over the lamb for the second side did the trick (on a relatively calm day).  Generally speaking, you wouldn’t need longer than 15 minutes/side unless the weather is really against you.  With a lid and a good day, you may only need 10 minutes/side.  Remember to only ever turn your lamb once.

The MOTH keeps a close eye on things and will use his technical finger prod technique to judge when it is done to perfection – he is committed to delivering perfect lamb and has been honing these skills over the years.  He can now size up the depth of the lamb, the weather and the BBQ and deliver perfect results pretty much every time.
Don’t forget to rest the lamb.  This is utterly essential – take it off the BBQ, place it on a dish, loosely cover with foil (letting any steam escape) and pop a folded tea towel on top.  At least 15 minutes of resting and the lamb will relax, the cooking will be complete, and you’ll have tender pink lamb ready to slice for everyone.
Redcurrant jelly is our family’s traditional accompaniment.
We ate outside and the Crepescule rose looked lovely under the sun umbrella.


No comments: