Theme focus: Lamb; Hate it or Love it?

I fucking love lamb, do you? I don’t think there’s anything that splits the waters like our cloud-formed quadruped. Of course, a recipe will follow on how to slow cook lamb, yet keep the meat tender and pink, dont worry. I would like to discuss what makes lamb such an unappealing taste sensation to many. Some people find a profound aversion towards the barnyard flavours, whilst others simply have not acquired the taste for it.

In a Danish context, eating lamb is a somewhat new tradition. It wasn’t always the case that Easter or New Years allowed for a roasted leg of lamb on a bed of rosemary potatoes to sizzle in the oven. In fact, poultry and pork (as they still are for some) were the go-to meats in the 20th century. None too eager for things new, the early 1950’s cold war paranoia kept traditional conservatism buoyant and strict gender roles continued to be enforced. Guardians of high culture would shun the emerging rocknroll movement, creating widespread discord between the emerging youth culture, that embraced somatic expression, and their parents stagnant values that seemed stuck in the late 1930s. This period, however, also saw the advent of a sense of optimism and the era saw the emergence of the iconic Danish welfare state, and with this welfare, came also a broadened horizon on a culinary basis. Danes now seemed to be more curious and they began to seek taste-experiences outside their comfort zone.

In the 1950s, the everyday-dane would be treated to boiled hams with mustard, breaded pork meatballs, meatloaf drenched in gravy and on a rare occasion oxtail soup. With the emergence of the charter flight culture, Danes now had the chance to try exotic meals in the mediterranean south. We may take this for granted but the late 1950’s saw Danes board airplanes in full suit to acknowledge how special the event of flying was. With charter flights reaching the Spanish Costa del sol, and the Greek island of Rhodes, Danes finally got a taste of Spanish chulétillas and Greek spit-roast lamb. Increased availability came with the emergence of the cargo flights bringing in tons of New Zealand lamb to the European continent. Yet, despite widespread availability, Lamb remains somewhat pricey and the selection measly in the meat counters. I believe the danes haven’t really embraced lamb as a staple meat in the same way as the Britons, the Spaniards or the Greeks have. Understandable, Lamb has way more barnyard flavour than other commercially available meats, and I guess it is this acquired taste through tradition that keeps the southern europeans eager, especially during the easter. Lamb also has a distinct unctuous odour that may not appease the senses, and lastly, it can very easily be cooked wrong.

During New Years, I opted to cook a leg of lamb to some of my closest friends. As should be common knowledge, the working muscles of any given animal require extended cooking time in order to break down the muscle fibres and the ample collagen surrounding the connective tendons. Slow-roasting essentially liquifies the collagen into a silky smooth texture that is not only tender, but absolutely delicious. This is the same exact process that makes Osso Buco and Souris d’agneau melt in your mouth. Now these dishes totally break down the cut of meat, so i opted to ease down on the temperatures to allow for the natural consistency to remain somewhat intact in the centre of the lamb, Essentially, I wanted to slow-cook it but keep it pink on the inside. So how do you do this? Read on to find out.

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Leg of Irish Lamb with aromatic herbs.

First of all, get yourself a fresh leg of lamb, my experience has been best with Irish lamb. Score the fat surrounding the meat. I wanted a lot of flavour to permeate the meat so I prepared a marinade of:

  • A small can of tomato concentrate
  • 4 cloves of roughly chopped garlic
  • Tbsb Dried Thyme
  • Tbsp Dried Oregano
  • One birds-eye chilli
  • dash of nutmeg
  • 3 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Lemon infused- Raki (substitute Grappa)

Cover the leg of lamb thoroughly with the marinade, let it do its magic for up to 24 hrs. Once the lamb is ready, get a heavy skillet and sear all sides thoroughly. (5 mins per side) Place the leg with the bone upwards in a large cooking pot, cover the top with tin foil. Preheat the oven to 130 degrees and allow for 4 hours cooking time. Here is my technique. For every 40 mins that pass, reduce the heat by 10 degrees, once the lamb has cooked for 3.5 hours, you shold be down to 90 degrees. Remove the tin foil and blitz up your oven to a whooping 235 degrees on grill function. Allow the heat to sear the surface of the lamb for 15 mins and remove IMMEDIATELY.

Now its important to allow the lamb to rest for at least 20 minutes UNCOVERED (covering the meat in tinfoil will ensure the lamb continues to cook, which means you have wasted 24 hours). Once done, grate some fresh lime zest over the lamb, add some olive oil, lemon juice and fresh aromative herbs, on top.

I hope this inspires people to approach lamb with a more curious disposition, and I also hope people will spend more time prepping for these meals. This took a total of 30 hours to complete. Was it worth it? Fuck yes, it was.

 

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