Saturday, November 9, 2019

Cape Town Lamb

Like many countries, South Africans have developed their own style of barbecue, which is called "braai" or "grilled meat."  Although that term is Afrikaans, the word has become so eponymous in South Africa that each of the twelve official languages recognizes "braai" as what many would call  barbecue. Not only has the word been adopted into all of the languages of South Africa, but the social custom of a braai is enjoyed by all social classes, from the rich to the poor.   

The subject of barbecue is one that is near and dear to my heart.  I have spent a lot of time learning about different barbecue styles across the United States and around the world.  When I came across Steven Raichlen's recipe for Cape Town Lamb, I decided that I had to look a little more into the South African barbecue generally, and, this recipe in particular.  

There is a lot of information out there about the social custom of a braai.  A braai is like a potluck, centered around a wood fire over which different meats are grilled over direct and indirect heat.  The meats include sausages, kebabs, marinated chicken, pork chops, lamb chops, and even steaks.  If the braai takes place near the coastline, it is not uncommon for fish to appear on the grill. Once the meats are finished, they are served alongside side dishes and salads. 

I could go more into a braai, but that may very well end up as part of my culinary challenge, Around the World in 80 Dishes, to prepare a main dish from South Africa. 

Unlike the braai, I had a much more difficult time learning about the history of the Cape Town Lamb recipe.  Every thing I found ultimately led me back to Steven Raichlen and his Barbecue Bible book.  With that said, I turned to the recipe itself.  There is some information in that recipe that provides some insight.  The use of soy sauce and Chinese hot mustard is a nod to the Asians who have made their way to South Africa, as is the use of ginger, as the largest producers of the root include China and India. In other words, the use of these ingredients gives us a glimpse into the diversity of the people who call the Rainbow Nation their home. 

I made a couple of changes to the recipe.  Although this recipe calls for a bone-in leg of lamb, I decided used a boneless leg of lamb, which was tied up so that it was a tight ball. This helped to ensure that the meat cooked evenly. It was also a necessity given my second change.  The recipe calls for indirect cooking. I decided to go full-on barbecue, smoking the meat with a combination of apple and pecan wood. I smoked the lamb in my Weber Smokey Mountain, and, a boneless leg of lamb fits better int that smoker than a bone-in leg of lamb.

In the end, I think this recipe produced a very tasty lamb barbecue dish that, much like barbacoa, opens one's eyes to how different peoples approach a common cooking technique.  

Recipe from Barbecue Bible
Serves 12

Ingredients (for the lamb):
1 bone-in leg of lamb (6 to 8 pounds) 
     trimmed of any papery skin
6 cloves of garlic, cut into thin slivers
6 thin slices of peeled fresh ginger, cut into thin slivers
(Optional: apple and pecan wood for smoking)

Ingredients (for the glaze):
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons hot Chinese style mustard
     or one tablespoon dry mustard
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced, peeled fresh ginger
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1.  Prepare the lamb.  Using the tip of a sharp paring knife, slits about an inch deep all over the surface of the lamb.  Insert a sliver of garlic and ginger into each slit.  Place the lamb in a non-reactive roasting pan and set aside while you prepare the glaze.

2.  Make the glaze. Combine the Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, mustard, lemon huice, minced garlic adn ginger in a small, heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Cook the glaze until thick and syrupy, about 3 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.  Remove the glaze from the heat and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as necessary. Let cool to room temperature. 

3.  Continue to prepare the lamb.  Pour half of the cooled glaze over the lamb in the roasting pan, brushing to coat it on all sides.  Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator, for 3 to 8 hours (the longer the better).  Refrigerate the remaining glaze, covered.

4.  Prepare the grill. Set up the grill for indirect grilling (preferably, you'll have built a wood fire; let it burn down to glowing embers), place a large drip pan in the center, and preheat the grill to medium.  Toss the wood chips on the coals.  

5.  Cook the lamb.  When ready to cook, place the lamb on the hot grate over the drip pan and cover the grill.  Cook the lam until done to taste, 1 to 1 1/4 hours for rare (internal temperature of 120 to 125 degrees); 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours for medium rare (130 to 135 degrees); 2 hours for medium ({145 to 150 degrees).  Start brushing the lamb wit the remaining glaze during the last 45 minutes of grilling, brushing it two or three times.  If using a charcoal grill, you will need to add 10 to 12 fresh coals to each side every hour. 

6.  Finish the dish.  Transfer the lamb to a cutting board and brush it one last time with glaze, then let it rest for 10 minutes for carving.  While the lamb rests, heat any remaining glaze to serve as a sauce with the lamb. 


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