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A few years ago, we went to visit some friends living in the Waikato. They had a bouncing baby called Angus, a mean yellow-eyed goat called Robert at the front gate and two lambs frolicking in the front paddock.
"Oh, look at your lambs," I cooed to Simon.
"Yeah," he grinned back, "we’ve called them ‘Christmas’ and ‘Dinner’.
I was momentarily slightly shocked by this, but then I remembered that I’d grown up on a sheep farm and, well, I knew where lamb chops came from.
Lamb, even when veering towards mutton, is imbued with the sweet taste of nostalgia. It’s the original grass-fed, free-range, home-grown protein — even if most of us don’t live anywhere near sheep farms anymore. Despite occasional inner conflict about eating it, lamb remains my meat treat of choice. Here’s how we eat it most often at my house.
Prep time 10 minutes
(Plus 48 hours to marinate)
Cook time 34 minutes
(plus 15 minutes to rest)
This recipe, from my wonderful sister-in-law Jenny Corry, is world famous in my family. Stick rigidly to the instructions to end up with perfectly cooked lamb. The varying thickness of the joint means that some bits will be well done while others are delectably pink.
1 butterflied (boned-out) leg of lamb
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp soy sauce
6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 small red chillies, finely chopped (include the seeds)
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
1/4 cup malt vinegar
Place the lamb in a large, flat dish. Mix the remaining ingredients together, then pour over the lamb. Massage it in, then cover tightly with clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 48 hours.
Bring to room temperature (take it out of the fridge at least an hour before cooking), then barbecue over a medium-high heat for 17 minutes per side exactly. Cover with a foil tent and rest for 15 minutes, then carve into slices.
Serve with mint sauce , which you can make while the lamb is cooking. You could also serve it with minted garlic yoghurt or date, chilli and red capsicum salsa.
For the mint sauce
about 40 fresh mint leaves, finely shredded
2 Tbsp grated palm sugar or soft brown sugar
good pinch of flaky sea salt
½ cup rice vinegar
Pack the shredded mint leaves into a small bottle or jar and set aside. Put the sugar, salt and vinegar in a small pot. Stir well, then set over a medium heat. Bring to the boil and stir to dissolve the sugar, then remove from the heat and pour over the mint leaves in the jar. Leave to cool.
Store in the fridge until needed.