As is to be expected here in New Zealand, storm warnings have been issued to summer campers. Tents in campgrounds in Northland and The Coromandel have blown away and only the very stoic have not headed home days or weeks early.
Some things don’t change and while I do feel sorry for the campers, it’s not as if this didn’t happen last year, or the year before nor the 10 years before that. If there’s something you can guarantee, it’s that tents will fly at New Year somewhere in New Zealand. Weather is always best here in late February and March.
It’s been a fun week of celebration and food for our family. I was feeling particularly smug on Christmas Day when a fellow church goer at my old school told me I hadn’t changed a bit and promptly called me by my younger sister’s name (truth be told, I was also feeling pretty smug that I’d managed to get us to church as a family on Christmas morning).
That was until yesterday when out with Mum and an old family friend we ran in to mistook me for my Aunt. While Aunty looks fantastic, the fact remains that she is 71 years old. What was he thinking?!
Another thing that does not change when staying with Mum is the daily fight as to who will cook each night. Mum usually wins as she still hates me “messing her kitchen”. I’m pleased to say that I’ve won the battle the last few days and spent yesterday’s dismal morning looking through Mum’s new Rick Stein “Venice to Istanbul” book. I loved the telly series and get seriously hungry looking through the book (which would be even better if every recipe was photographed).
Everyone knows I’m a bit of a chose-atarian when it comes to protein. One meat I will eat, when slow cooked, is lamb. It’s pleasing to see that Rick’s book is crammed with delicious looking lamb recipes. I gave one a crack and am pleased to report that it was mighty fine. The recipe calls for a leg of lamb. While that was my intention, a boned leg was on special at the supermarket, so that’s what we used.
I decided at the outset that I would cook as Rick did so followed his lead and didn’t brown the lamb (which is something I’d usually do). It was perfect, which was probably something to do with the higher cooking temperature. The recipe is pretty much as written by Rick, with a few modifications and additions.
Just remember to allow plenty of time – the prep is fast, but do start about three and a half hours before you want to eat.
What you’ll need
1.5 kg waxy potatoes (I used agria – which are more floury – from the garden, and have no idea of the quantity I used
Freshly cracked pepper
1 large capsicum, deseeded and chopped into strips (I used half a red and a whole green capsicum)
3 large ripe tomatoes – I chopped into large chunks
1 bulb garlic – I used around 5 cloves as that’s what I had
A few sprigs of rosemary (I added this as love rosemary with lamb)
2 bay leaves
Leg of lamb – Rick’s was around 2.5kg, my boneless leg was around 1.8kg
1 juicy lemon
200ml hot or boiling water
100g feta –I used 150g
How to make it
Find a heavy bottom casserole with a lid, or a deep baking dish and some foil.
Heat the oven to 190C.
Peel and chunk chop the potatoes. Dry off with a disposable kitchen towel and put in a single layer at the bottom of your cooking dish. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Add the capsicum, tomatoes, bay, rosemary and garlic. Rick suggests chopping the bulb in half horizontally, I just threw in the whole cloves. Season again.
Season the leg of lamb and put on top of the vegetables. Pour the lemon juice over the lamb, following by a good drizzle of olive oil.Then sprinkle dried oregano over the lamb. Pour the water over the vegetables. Cover the lamb and put into the oven.
Cook for 2½-2¾ hours until lamb is falling off the bone. (I turned my lamb half way through, but not sure you need to. I seasoned the new top side with more oregano.)
At 2½ hours, I removed the lid, turned the lamb over again, put in largely crumbled feta and continued to bake for another 20 minutes. I had loads of liquid, but add more if you don’t.
I removed the lamb from the cooking dish and covered with foil, then removed the veges and put on to a serving dish, with the crumbled feta. I put the covered lamb on top of the veges and left it covered while I reduced the liquid down (I threw away about half of it first) and thickened to make a gravy.
Just before serving with the gravy, I removed the foil and pulled the lamb apart with two forks.
Despite being little piggys and eating far too much, there was loads left to make next night rissoles (watch out for that recipe).
Despite taking a while to cook, once it’s in the oven, you are free to kick back or duck out to the New Year sales. And, it’s worth the effort. While this would usually be something I’d cook in the winter, it’s perfect for this stormy cold spell we’re experiencing right now.
Oh, and if you hear my family calling me “Milly”, that’s my Aunt’s name. They all think it’s hilarious.