Thanks to a combination of the recent spell of good weather, a lovely customer and a leg of lamb, I enjoyed a truly great barbecue experience. I know I’ve mentioned barbecuing quite a bit recently, but one of the hallmarks of the traditional Irish barbecue is that we tend to play it safe and cook individual items like steaks, burgers, sausages or kebabs. Far too few of us are brave enough to try and barbecue an entire joint of meat for the whole family to enjoy, but if you stick with me this week I might just encourage you to take the plunge. If you follow the instructions I can promise you a culinary triumph.
Perhaps my favourite thing about working in the shop is that I get to meet so many people. As the years have gone by many of my customers have become friends, mainly through the bond of our shared love of food. People who have an interest and a genuine love of good food are also usually quite generous souls. To be honest, the food hobby practically demands it. We can’t help our selves; we love to share recipes, techniques, different food combinations, interesting ingredients or ingredients used in interesting ways. Listen in on food conversations and you’ll hear lots of, “have you tried…..”, “the secret is……”, “I find that…..”; always with wonderful gems and nuggets tacked on that not only improve your own cooking and eating but little tips and tweaks that can revolutionise an entire dish. Food is all about sharing, nurturing and giving. Unlike say fashion, sport or investments which often rely on covetousness or at least withholding information in order to be successful, people who like to cook generally like to cook for other people. Recently a very good friend of mind received a wonderful gift of a Kitchen Aid food mixer; the Rolls Royce of baking equipment if ever there was one! Since she acquired it we are all enjoying batches of cup cakes, lemon slices and decadent chocolate cakes. That’s just the nature of food lovers; generous to a fault.
Because of this generosity and compulsion to share, I was the lucky recipient of a wonderful recipe for barbecued butterflied leg of lamb by one of my customers. It was one of those recipes that just sounded good even on paper, so naturally I couldn’t wait to try it. Butterflied leg of lamb is something that has become very trendy and fashionable recently. I’m quite the purist when it comes to leg of lamb. I like it cooked on the bone with traditional additions such as rosemary and garlic, however cooking it on a barbecue is another matter entirely and so this method is super. Put simply, to butterfly a leg of lamb you just get your butcher to remove the bone and that way you end up with a large piece of meat that you can lay flat onto the barbecue. By the way, butterflied leg of lamb works just as well in the oven.
If you’ve been following this column for the past few weeks you should be an expert in barbecuing by now. One of the main points I’ve been making about great barbecue food is that it often depends on the sauces and marinades used in conjunction with the meats. Like most things in life, good success depends on preparation and barbecuing is no different. Fortunately many good butchers do a range of ready prepared barbecue foods these days, but the recipe I have for you this week gives you the chance to do it yourself.
The advantage with most marinades is that they need to be prepared a good 24 hours in advance to achieve optimum flavour. At least if you are having friends over to share this, all the work and the mess can be sorted the day before, leaving you plenty of time to just barbecue and enjoy. Just in case you don’t have a small army to feed and there may just be two of you, there is nothing to stop you using the marinade recipe below to liven up some simple lamb chops before grilling. Just adjust the quantities of the paste ingredients accordingly or make up a full batch and put half in a clean jar to keep for another time. (Or give to a friend or neighbour like a real food lover would!)
Butterflied Leg of Lamb
- 1 Butterflied leg of lamb (8-9lbs)
- 1 medium onion (coarsely chopped)
- 1 piece fresh ginger 3 inches x 1 inch long, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 7 gloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
- 6 fl oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tblsp ground coriander & ground cumin
- 1 teasp garam masala & ground turmeric
- ¼ teasp ground mace, ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon, ground pepper & ground cloves.
- 8 fl oz Olive oil
- 2-2 ½ teasp salt
- Spring Onion to garnish
Whizz the onion, ginger, garlic and 4 tablespoons of lemon juice together to make a paste. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Take the meat and cut off all the fat and tissue. Stab the meat repeatedly with the point of a sharp knife, creating little holes. Rub the paste into the meat and make sure it goes into the holes. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours. Turn it over several times during that period. Barbecue when ready.
We hope you enjoyed reading this post by Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers. Pat is a 5th generation butcher, cook book author and the director of James Whelan Butchers with shops in Clonmel, the Avoca Food Market Monkstown and Avoca Rathcoole. Sign up to our newsletter for more updates from James Whelan Butchers