5 Tips for the perfect #LambBraai (for the non-braaimasters!)
 

By Marina Bester

How would you describe “the smell” of a South African December holiday? To me it’s a combination of coconuts (sunscreen), citronella oil (for the mozzies) AND a burning wood fire reporting for “braai” duty! I know every family or group of friends has that self-proclaimed “Braaimaster” but herewith some tips worth remembering, just in case you are not that person and you have to take the reins on the odd occasion!

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1. Timing is everything when it comes to braaiing, but sometimes even the best braai masters can get it wrong! Keep your lamb chops from drying out while you wait by placing them on a bed of fried onions.

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2. Lamb Loin Chops and Lamb Leg Chops (Chump chops) must be treated with the same respect as any steak, braai them quickly over hot coals to keep them juicy and full of flavour.

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3. For succulent and tender lamb riblets, smother them in lemon juice and pre-cook them in
the oven for 60 minutes @ 180 degrees Celsius.

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4.  Let your lamb chop tell you when it’s ready to be turned- when it doesn’t stick to the grid anymore! Then turn and rotate it 45 degrees  to get those fancy criss-cross grid marks.

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5. Stuff rosemary between some skewered loin chops to infuse some flavour into the meat
while you crisp up the fat.

 
Lamb Mutton
Sweet Lamb Knuckle Tagine with Honey and Dates

By Marina Bester

First things first, please don’t leave if you don’t have a Moroccan Tagine at home, this recipe also works well in a good old casserole or even a flat bottom “potjiekos” pot! Moroccan cuisine is a mish-mash of a variety of delectable cuisines but what it comes down to is combining juicy meat cuts with fragrant edible flowers, fruit and other fragrant ingredients such as cinnamon, saffron, cayenne pepper and sesame seeds. If your family likes pumpkin fritters and “soetpatats” I can guarantee this recipe will become your “go-to” lamb knuckle dish for eat-in date night (see what I did there) or when you want to wine and dine The Joneses’! Its super easy but highly impressive, especially if you top it off with some cinnamon sticks and fancy edible flowers!

 
 

Ingredients

500g lamb knuckles

2 onions, roughly chopped

¼ cup of olive oil

1 tbsp ginger, chopped

1 tsp garlic

½ tsp turmeric

¼ tsp cardamom

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

3 cinnamon sticks

1 cup dates

½ cup pecan nuts

1 cup lamb stock

1 tsps dried cinnamon

1 tbsp honey

2 cups dry Cous cous

 

1. Pack two roughly chopped onions  at the base of the tagine/ casserole and cover with ¼ cup oil

2. Add the Lamb Knuckles, ginger, garlic, spices, chopped dates and peacan nuts. Cover with lamb stock

3. Place the lid on the tagine/ casserole and place in the oven at 220ᵒC for 3 hours

4. Remove the tagine/ casserole from the oven and place the tagine base/ casserole on the stovetop, add the cinnamon and honey and let the sauce reduce to the desired consistency

5. Serve with cous-cous

 
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Lamb Mutton
Die WAT van die skaap??

Skaapstertjies. Ek gaan nie vir jul jok nie, die eerste keer toe iemand vir my ‘n skaapstertjie aangebied het, het ek hierdie vreemde storie maar baie versigtig benader. As stadskind het ek nie grootgeword met hierdie lekkerny op die spyskaart nie (het ek ooit geweet ‘n skaap se stert is eetbaar?). Nou is skaapstertjies hoog op die lys van my gunsteling kosse, solank dit reg gaargemaak is natuurlik!

 
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Die twee belangrikste dinge om te verstaan as dit by skaapstertjies kom is dat dit ‘n stukkie vleis is wat bietjie voorafbereiding verg en dat dit definitief nie in die nuutste verslankingsdieet gaan verskyn nie! Maar dit beteken nie dit steek af by ander snitte nie, en is ook glad nie soveel moeite as jy dit nou en dan vir ‘n spesiale geleentheid maak nie. Dis eintlik so eenvoudig soos ‘n pot kokende water op die stoof! Party mense stel voor mens kook die stertjies in soutwater omdat die temperatuur van die water dan hoër is, waar ander weer ‘n goeie ou stoompot verkies.  Ek persoonlik is bietjie versigtig vir ‘n stoompot en het nog nie ‘n elektriese stoompot in my trousseaukis nie, daarom verkies ek ‘n pot met kookwater op die stoof. Dit vat so 90min vir skaapstertjies om sag te kook, en as dit wegtrek van die beentjie af is dit reg om uit te die water, en op die kole te kom. Dit was Oom Francois (Floors) Botha van die Vrystaat se skaapstertjies wat my guns die eerste keer gewen het. Oom Floors het hierdie jaar by die Bloem Skou groot naamgemaak met sy skaapstertjies wat hy sorgvuldig by die huis gedokter het voor hy dit by die skou kom braai het. Volgens hom lê die sukses van ‘n stertjie nie net in die “pre-cooking” nie, maar ook in sy sous. Nie noodwendig die tipe sous wat jy by die stertjie sit nie, maar meer die tydsberekening van die sous se byvoeging. Oom Floors vertel my hy het per toeval uitgevind het, toe hy haastig ‘n hele klomp stertjies moes voorberei, dat dit goed werk om die vuurwarm stertjies wat uit die stoompot of kookwater kom direk in die sous te sit en net so te vries. Dis asof die warm stertjies die sous opsuig en dit dan goed behou as dit weer ontvries en gebraai word.

Skaapstertjies is ook glad nie ‘n vreemde gereg vir Noord-Kapenaars nie. Hier het ek by die “Williston Mall” se restaurant heerlike Karusaf skaapstertjies geëet. Hierdie heerlike karoo skaapstertjies was goed vooraf saggekook en toe net oor die vuur gebraai totdat die buitekant lekker krakerig was, met net sout en peper oor, sodat mens nog die heerlike geur wat eie is aan skaapvleis uit die karoo kon proe. Daar was ook groot feesgevier met skaapstertjies by hierdie jaar se Hantam Vleisfees in Calvinia. Al was daar 4 verskillende stalletjies wat skaapstertjies gebraai en verkoop het, was daar nie ‘n enkele skaapstertjie oor in Calvinia na 2uur die middag nie. Skaapstertjies is verseker die gunsteling “feeskos” op die platteland, wat maklik in die loop geniet kan word deur oud en jonk!

Na my besoek aan die Noord Kaap was ek baie hartseer dat stadskinders so moet uitmis op een van die lekkerste bederfies wat uit ‘n skaapkarkas kom. Ek het bietjie gaan ondersoek instel oor waar mens skaapstertjies in die stad kan kry. Dit is nie sommer ‘n produk wat op ‘n supermark, of selfs ‘n stadslaghuis, se rak lê nie so ek moes lank soek voor ek by die manne van “KLH Oos-Kaap Lam” uitgekom het deur hul sosiale media blad. Hierdie manne het as studente agtergekom die aanvraag vir “die 5de kwart” in die stad is genoeg om goeie besigheid mee te maak, maar die produkte is nie naastenby so maklik bekombaar soos in die platteland nie. Hul het hierdie geleentheid aangegryp en met ‘n waentjie die langpad aangepak en by ‘n paar kontakte by abattoirs skaapafval, skaapstertjies, beesstert en beestong aangekoop. Die stadsjapies het hierdie produkte soos soetkoek opgeraap en hierdie manne bedryf jare later steeds deeltyds hul 5de kwart besigheid in die stad vanaf hul Facebook blad.

Ek dink dit is net ‘n kwessie van tyd voor die “food market” kultuur in die stad skaapstertjies beetkry, tot dan lyk dit my skaapstertjies is een van die beste geheime wat die platteland inhou!

Sheep in the winter are more than just a woolly knit!

I am currently on a culinary journey to discover the new and classical uses of the delicious cuts of lamb and mutton and to experiment with it.  In this series I discovered and got acquainted with the leg of lamb, shoulder and tails (Red Meat Magazine December 2016, February and April 2017) but a few surprises still remains on the lamb and mutton carcass!  Join me on this journey!

I do not like the winter.  There are too many dark hours in the day, you need to dress and wrap up like an ancient mummy just stay warm and your favourite summer fruits are only available on the pages of December through February’s food magazines!  I am whole heartedly convinced that we as South Africans are designed and made for the summer sun shine and therefore need something extra to make us feel warm and fuzzy from the inside during the winter months.  I am not talking about the trusted comfort of Old Brown Sherry (although it does help), but about a lekker lamb stew, breyani or potjie.

So, with an open mind and no idea which cut to use, I went to my favourite butchery.  To my surprise the first cut my butcher suggested was a whole sheep’s neck.  He believes that if you want red wine, you drink it out of a glass and if you want to cook tomatoes, you put it in soup, and I tend to agree with him.  He describes neck as a “self-saucing pudding” which only needs a little of the correct liquids to ensure you have a tender and succulent piece of meat after a few hours.  I decided to use my favourite staple ingredients in my first attempt to cook the perfect lamb’s neck (well, I had three…), these ingredients are fresh lemon juice, some white wine, a cup of strong brewed Rooibos tea, and spice mix of cinnamon, aniseed, ginger and cumin.  Exactly like most recipes suggest, I closed the casserole and went on with the day as the meat simmered in the liquid and spices mix.  I will be honest, after about three hours, I started to get a bit worried about this stiff-necked situation (I really need to invest in a proper pressure cooker for my kitchen).  After the fourth hour, all my concerns melted away as the tender meat literally fell off the bone, ready for tasting!

It was love at first bite.  The taste is almost difficult to describe.  While the leg of lamb had a subtle elegant taste, and the shoulder was a bit sweeter, the neck has the very satisfying taste described as umamiUmami is the savoury taste sensation you experience from eating brown onion soup or Marmite, the only difference here is that the neck produced this flavour without the addition of any artificial flavour agents.

The average weight of a sheep’s neck (from a C2 lamb) was 792g, and reduced to a cooked weight of about 360g.  The meat easily came away from the bone giving you the perfect pulled lamb for any tasty dish.  I decided to use the pulled lamb in a bowl dish, served with winter vegetables (sweet potato, butternut, carrots, and onions).  This pulled lamb will also work very well with any pie, pasta, pita or sandwich recipe!

The other cut suggested by the butcher, is the trusted winter favourite lamb shank, cut into smaller pieces.  His first recipe suggestion to use this with, was a good old potjie.  The trick and secret to a successful potjie is to leave it alone!  This will give the fresh vegetables and herbs a fair chance to marry with the flavours of the shank.  I had a different idea, and decided to try something a bit more exotic but still true to the flavours South Africans love.  This idea however required a stop at a different store - a local Indian spice shop, where an elderly lady combines a mix of secret herbs and spices called “Garam Masala”.  Within this mixture you can find coriander, cumin, mustard and cardamom seeds, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, chillies and cloves.

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Compared with the neck, the shanks had a wilder aroma for this city-girl, when I opened the packet.  This might be the reasons why our Australian neighbours like to tell stories of this cut (now sold at higher prices) being used for dog food.  Luckily I remembered an old tip my aunt taught me, to rinse the shanks with warm water, to get rid of the strong wild smell.

I would not categorise lamb shanks as a cut to use in stews.  Stewing meat sounds as if it should be tough and have a bone, which will take days to cook.  The meat to bone ratio of these lamb shanks were good and did not take more than two hours to simmer in the meat stock.  In preparing the meat, I sprinkled it with lemon juice, rolled it in the masala mix and quickly browned it in a hot pan.  I then placed the shank pieces in a pot with homemade meat stock with a bit of tomato paste, and some more of the masala mix to taste.  I placed the lid on and left it alone, only stirring to prevent burning.  After about 90 minutes, my shank curry was tender, full of flavour, and just right for my exotic Bunny-chow bowl.

To me, lamb or mutton curry is synonymous with Bunny-chow – an Indian dish which is sold in almost every restaurant and café in Durban.  Traditionally Bunny-chow is a lekker saucy and aromatic curry inside a hollowed out bread, topped with slap chips.  My Bunny-chow bowl is a healthier version of this favourite.  I stay true to the curry, with my lamb shank curry, but replace the bread and chips with croutons (roasted bread cubes) and oven-baked orange sweet potato slices, and added some fresh coriander leaves.  The croutons and sweet potato slices are very easy to make and can be roasted in the oven at the same time.  I sprinkled the bread with olive oil, salt and pepper before roasting it to golden perfection.  Place the sweet potato slices in the bottom of the bowl and dish the shank curry on top, garnish with croutons and fresh coriander leaves.  You can also add steamed green beans or sugar peas to the curry for added fibre and nutrients!

I am pleasantly surprised with the versatility of these two lamb cuts, and I am looking forward to cooking and experimenting with winter recipes for neck and shanks.  Please send me an email (posbusmarina@gmail.com) with your favourite recipes, and ideas or post it on our Facebook page at “Cooking with Lamb” or “Budget cooking with Lamb”.  Be on the lookout for great recipes on www.cookingwithlamb.com to keep you warm and fuzzy this winter!

Put your shoulder in it!

I am currently on a cullinary journey to discover the new and classical uses of the delicious cuts of lamb and mutton and to experiment with it.  The one cut I really did not want to cook was the shoulder.  This cut is big and heavy, a bit intimidating and you seldomly find a recipe in Ouma’s recipe book for it.  Without further a due and excuses I decided to make time and to put my shoulder in it, to show this cut who is boss.

 Lamb and Mutton SA has recently created a new Facebook page called Budget Cooking With Lamb to show consumers that it is possible to buy and use lamb and mutton on any  budget, diet and taste, with smart planning and the right side dishes.  In South Africa, Christmas means summer and summer means vacation, delicious foods and quality time with friends and family.  As Christmas  2016 approached, shelves were packed with the best and sweetest summer fruits, making it more affordable for the consumer.  This gave us the best opportunity to create and test lamb and mutton recipes without losing out on precious holiday and family time.  The ingredients available during this time are nutritious and filling, not to mention healthy and a great addition to your vacation mode diet.  The answer to a quick and healthy protein source to add to any meal is a big and flavourful cut of lamb or mutto meat.  After doing a bit of research and talking to people with real know-how, the cooking of the shoulder become less daunting and I decided it would be the best cut for our Christmas food series.  It is as easy as putting the whole shoulder (with the bone) in a big casserole with lekker white wine, lemon juice, herbs and spices in the oven at a low heat (about 180˚C) and basically forgetting about it for two to three hours while the flavours develop.  A food blog I stumbled upon described this cut as “succulent, forgiving and kind”, which describes my experience with this wonderful piece of meat exactly.  The best thing about the shoulder cut is the fact that it gives a lot of meat which is tender and succulent and does not dry out like the leg cut of a carcass.  In actual fact, it is difficult for anything to go wrong during the cooking process of the shoulder.  As long as you know how to switch the oven on and off, you will impress anybody with a tasty lamb shoulder.

The meat from the shoulder cut has a unique sweeter taste which complements the flavours of summer dishes very well.  The budget friendly Christmas dishes we selected to prepare from a single shoulder, were Tacos for two, Watermelon and barely salad for 6 people, and 8 Phyllo pastry triangles. The idea with these recipes was that people only have to cook one shoulder, remove the bone from it, and keep it in the fridge for 3 different meals.  The Tacos for two is a Mexican meal with homemade mint pesto, avo and diced tomato and onion salsa (chillies if you dare).  The watermelon and barley salad is a deliciously refreshing and light meal for the Christmas table or as a healthy lunch for the whole family.  The combination of the shoulder meat and homemade mint pesto with mozzarella cheese, wrapped in the phyllo dough triangles, might be a combination you haven’t tried, but it is really a quick and simple recipe for on the go snacks or even a picnic basket.  Even after these 3 dishes, there was still enough meat left over and because this series is about getting as far as possible with one piece of shoulder, we made some braaibroodjies just to spoil my family.

This meat cut has surprised me with its versatility, unique flavour and fool proof cooking method and has without a doubt become my favourite cut on the carcass.  If you have more ideas and recipes to share please email me at posbusmarina@gmail.com 

Visit our Facebook page Budget Cooking with Lamb or our website www.cookingwithlamb.com for more tasty and budget friendly lamb and mutton recipes.

Cut by cut Part 2:  The WHAT of the sheep??

I am currently on a cullinary journey to discover the new and classical uses of the delicious cuts of lamb and mutton and to experiment with it.  .  Join me in part two of this four part series as I discover delicious recipes and easy cooking methods for sheeps tails.

 Lamb and sheep tails.  I am not going to lie or deny it.  The first time somebody offered me a sheep’s tail, I was very hesitant and approached this with great caution.  As a city girl I did not grow up with this delicatessen on any menu (I did not even know you could eat the tail?).  Now, sheep’s tails are high on my list of favourite foods, as long as the correct prepping and cooking procedures are followed of course!

 
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There are two very important things to remember when it comes to sheep’s tails.  This little piece of meat requires quite a bit of preparation and it will not be included in any type of weight loss plan.  This however does not mean it is any less of a meat cut when compared to the other cuts of the carcass, and the preparation is not that complicated when preparing it once in a while for special occasions.  Come to think of it, it is as easy as a pot of boiling water on the stove!  Some people suggest that the tails should be cooked in Salt water – then the temperature will be higher, while other prefer to cook it in a pressure cooker.  I am wary of old fashioned stove top pressure cookers and do not have an electric version in my trousseau as yet (hint-hint) and therefore prefer the saltwater method.  The cooking time is about 90 minutes for the tails to be tender.  When the meat pulls away from the bones it can be taken out of the water to be grilled on the braai.  It was Oom Floors’ (Francois Botha) sheep tail recipe and method from the Free State that won me over.  He prepared and made these little delicious tails at home to be braaied at the Bloem Show and made quite a name for himself.  According to him the success of the recipe lies in the pre-cooking and the secret ingredients of is marinade and sauce.  The type of sauce is really one of preference, but the timing of when you add it to the process will determine the success of the recipe.  Oom Floors told me that he had accidentally determined this method, when he had to prep sheep’s tails in a hurry.  It works particularly well when you dunk the boiling hot sheep’s tails (straight from the pot) into the sauce.  This allows the meat and fat to absorb the flavours of the marinade.  After cooling a bit, the marinated tails can be packed and frozen for a braai at a later stage.

Sheep’s tails seems to only be a “foreign-food” to Gautengers.  The Northern Cape locals are very accustomed with this delicacy.  I had some very tasty tails at a restaurant in the Williston Mall, supplied by Karusaf.  These Karoo tails were pre-cooked to perfection, seasoned with only salt and pepper and then braaied for that lekker taste of chargrilled chrunch.  The salt and pepper seasoning compliments the natural flavours which are only offered by the Karoo region.  The Hantam Vleisfees in Calvina is no stranger to celebrating this occasion with these meaty treats.  Event hough there were about four food stalls selling skaapstertjies by 14:00 that afternoon, all tails were sold out.  Stertjies are without a doubt the favourite food at these type of feeste in the platteland, loved by young and old!

After my visit and experience in the Northern Cape, I was quite sadden about the fact that kids growing up in the cities are missing out on this delicious spoil.  This motivated me to go and find out where in Pretoria I could find some stertjies.  It’s not really an easy cut to find in any butchery or supermarket fridge.  Through the power of social media, I finally found a reliable supplier in “KLH Oos-Kaap Lam”.  These guys started their company as students when they realised there was a demand for the so called 5th-quarter in the city, due to the reason that it is not readily available in our butcheries and supermarkets.  The stadsjapies reaped up their stock and ever since then, they almost couldn’t keep up with the demand.  They very successfully run their business from their Facebook page.

I think it is only a matter of time, before the food market culture in the cities, discover the taste phenomenon of these little delicacies.  Until then, it will remain one of the platteland’s best untold tales. 

Leg of lamb: Rustic or the rough diamond of modern cooking?

I am currently on a cullinary journey to discover the new and classical uses of the delicious cuts of lamb and mutton and to experiment with it.  Join me in this four part series as I discover delicious recipes and easy cooking methods a long the way.

On any farm the “tannie” in the kitchen will without a doubt be comfortable with the different meat cuts from a lamb carcass, not even to mention that the recipes for these delicious cuts are known by heart.  But what happens to these cuts of meat, when it ends up on the counter of the modern house-cook, glamour chef or cyber kitchen?  I am embarking on a culinary journey to find out what is trendy and new, but still true to classical roots and fool proof methods, when preparing these favourites.  First up in this “Cut by Cut” series, we will be looking at the old favourite… leg of lamb.

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When she got married to my grandfather, my dear grandmother Bester, wasn’t very nifty in the kitchen.  Luckily, my grandfather knew how to prepare and cook a few dishes and could (like any smart man) teach my grandmother how to cook these dishes just like his mother.  These recipes became the staple dishes she cooked week after week.  I am convinced that Oupa, might have forgotten a few steps in the leg of lamb recipe, or the meat just stayed in the oven a bit too long while we were in church  on Sundays.  Whatever the reason, nobody ever said a word to Ouma about the dry and stringy meat and just drowned the plate of food in gravy.  After a lot of Christmas, birthday and family dinners, I was not in the least motivated to ever cook a leg of lamb, until I discovered that the leg does not need to be in the oven for ages or dry!  A leg of lamb is actually a very tender and lean (for the health conscious home cooks) meat cut and does not require long cooking times for it to remain tender and juicy when cooked.  Due to the lower fat content of this cut, the leg of lamb as subtle flavours and will quickly dry out in the oven.  I delved into the vastness of the internet to find and discover some secrets from modern home cooks and restaurants to prepare and cook the perfect leg of lamb.

A delicious leg of lamb boils (just kidding) down to two basic principles; shorten the cooking time to prevent the meat from drying out, or boost the moisture and or flavour content of the meat.  Let’s first talk about the cooking time.  To shorten the cooking time is as easy as deboning the leg to either cut open, fill and roll the meat or dice it up in smaller cubes.  From our very own YouTube sensation, The Bearded Chef, and well known health-cooking food personality Heleen Meyer, I learned about cutting open the leg of lamb to cook on the braai.  The cooking time for this method is between 60 to 80 minutes to be medium to well done.  The Bearded Chef uses white wine soaked wood shavings to smoke the meat in while it cooks in the Weber.  The meat it rubbed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper before placed in the Weber.  Instead of serving it with the traditional mint jelly, he makes a pumpkin puree which complements the smoked meat perfectly (recipe and method on Cooking with Lamb’s YouTube channel).  Heleen prefers to add a bit more flavour with a rosemary, garlic, thyme, and lemon zest herb mixture.  She then rubs the herb mix, avocado oil and lemon juice on the meat, before it is placed in a closed Weber to be cooked for about 80 minutes.  Because the leg of lamb is cut open, the meat is much thinner and will cook faster and more evenly than compared to a whole leg in the oven.

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Chump steaks are smaller lamb leg products and are very convenient for the modern home cook, to quickly cook in a pan, in the oven or on the braai.  Mini-roasts are cut from a main muscle from the bigger leg cut and are normally the rump or top side cuts.  The portion sizes of the mini-roasts are enough for two people to enjoy and really cooks extremely well and tender, without losing moisture and flavoursome juices.  Another discovery I made is that any good butcher or restaurant makes their lamb-kebabs from the tender meat of a leg of lamb, and not the offcut pieces.

A whole leg of lamb in the oven isn’t that old fashioned and still impresses when it is served at a big gathering on a beautiful plate.  This perfectly fits into the rustic look and feel, which are dominating the glossy food magazines.  The most important thing to remember when cooking a whole leg of lamb in the oven is to keep moisture in.  I know you are probably thinking about the hassle of larding the leg with oils and chunks of fat, but that is not necessary at all – I mean who still owns a larding needle?  Can you even buy it at Mr. Price Home or yuppychef.com?  I found a fool proof secret to cook a juicy whole leg of lamb in the oven.  The method receives a lot of commendation and is super easy and uses a salad dressing marinade.  On a very popular South African recipe site, www.foodloversrecipes.co.za, people chatted about this “slaaisous” marinade.  A lot of people prefer the whole leg to marinade in a Greek or Italian salad dressings overnight, while others prefer to cook the whole leg in the dressing and basting it from time to time throughout the cooking process.  A very important, classical cooking tip, is to rest the meat for 15 minutes before cutting.  This allows the meat juices to evenly disperse through the meat.  Never cut your meat during the cooking process, as the moisture with all the flavour will evaporate and leave the meat stringy and dry.

I had the opportunity to enjoy the best lamb I have ever tasted at an Indian restaurant in Johannesburg called Ghazal.  This medium curry, a Lamb Korma, had ingredients such as coconut milk, ginger, chillies and nuts in.  The coconut milk is perfect for adding a bit of fat to the lean meat of a leg of lamb (some recipes uses yoghurt) and compliments the other ingredients.  The flavours all married well, while the meat kept its natural flavour.  From now on this is the only way I will be serving my leg of lamb.  How will you be doing it?