Let’s skip the preamble in which I wax lyrical about some boyhood reminiscence or other inspiration and cut to the chase; of late I’ve been quite inspired by North African flavourings and also entertaining a lot and this is the (easy) way I’ve been doing it:
Barbecued Moslem Spiked Lamb with Roasted Veg Cous Cous – Serves 10
• 1 Big Leg of Lamb, butterflied (get the butcher to do it)
• 4 Garlic Cloves
• 1 Lemon
• 1 Preserved Lemon
• 3 Tablespoons Cumin Seeds
• 1 Onion (red or sweet white)
1 week before the party; smash the garlic with the flat of a knife, toast the cumin seed and chop the preserved lemon, put it all in a mortar with a healthy pinch of salt and smash it about into a rough paste. Grate the onion and add it with some peppercorns, oil and a bit of tomato paste to the mortar before grinding it all together some more, add the juice of the lemon and mix through.
Take a sharp knife and lightly score (in a hatched fashion) the lamb on both sides and then put the lamb into a large freezer bag. Tip the marinade in, seal the bag and massage it like a drunken teenager attempting foreplay.
Let the meat marinade for a few hours before popping into the freezer.
36 Hours before the party; take the meat from the freezer and let defrost in the fridge. The freezing is only for convenience and can be omitted as long as the lamb gets a 24 hour marinade.
The day before the party; finely chop/cube/dice:
• Red onions
• Assorted peppers
• Courgette and Aubergine
Toss in oil and roast for half an hour then pop in the fridge.
The day of the party; take a good handful of fresh Mint, Oregano and Chives and chop well, stir into some Greek yoghurt along with some garlic paste, add a pinch of sugar and salt and mix well – check for seasoning, perhaps some white pepper or some more salt, but not too much sugar.
You might also want to spoon some harissa (to taste) into some more Greek Yoghurt to make an alternative, spicy sauce.
Make a pile of cous cous and when drained work through a healthy knob of butter and the roasted veg – ideally so it’s still warm for service.
So now, barbecue the lamb, keep an eye on it so it doesn’t char too much – spray down any flare ups and turn often so it doesn’t burn, it’ll probably take 30 minutes. If you have a lid on the barbecue you might want to build the coals at one side and initially char it there before moving the lamb to the other side and covering it to let it roast through.
Now carve the lamb for your guests and let them help themselves to the cous cous, the yoghurt sauces and a green salad (bought mixed from any supermarket).
It’s easy for the cook, tastes great and looks really impressive. But mainly it tastes great, according to 3 of my cousins and 2 of their children it was the best lamb they’d ever had.
Well, except for Heather (aged 6) who didn’t like the charred bits. Little critic. Still, Uncle Ross doesn’t mind, and he certainly will have forgotten by Christmas. Probably.