Bob Hart’s recipe for Lamb leg on the Barbie
OZ DAY LAMB LEG ON THE BARBIE
Nobody really needs an excuse to barbecue lamb. But as Australia Day offers one, I suggest we accept – enthusiastically.
And surely the most memorable barbecued lamb dish of all is a boned leg – carefully butterflied (your butcher will do it for you) and worked over so it is a consistent thickness throughout.
The flavours we often associate with lamb still work best with this cut which should be cooked, on a hot grill, to a gloriously pale pink, but no more. And served, perhaps, with tzatziki. Or, if you prefer, red currant jelly. Or both.
Also, follow the Greek lead in terms of initial flavourings, but then cook your butterflied leg according to best Australian barbecue principles rather than overcook it over a bonfire like the one roaring in your Greek neighbour’s backyard.
The reason for this is simple enough: the Greek tradition is to cook lamb, a whole one or at least a shoulder, to the point where it is meltingly tender, almost falling off the bone. Which is delicious, naturally.
But not as delicious as a premium cut of lamb such as a leg which must be allowed to remain pink within, and thus retain all of its moisture and flavour. Overcooking one should be regarded as a criminal offence.
Now, nothing could be simpler than the initial preparation: open out your butterflied leg, outer side down, and ensure the meat is roughly of an even thickness. Drizzle with EV olive oil and then sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, a generous sprinkle of Greek oregano – the crumbly one with heads attached which is available in good herb shops or through Greek grocers (ask that Greek neighbor!) – several cloves of pressed garlic and a squeeze of lemon juice. Place in a large, resealable plastic bag, or in a plastic container, and marinate overnight.
On the big day, remove the leg from the fridge around 2 hours before you intend to cook it, and unroll it on a cutting board. Sprinkle generously with crumbled Feta. And that’s it.
Any barbecue will get the job done, but if you have the option of cooking over solid fuel, go for it. I cook mine on a Primo XL – hot, covered of course, with the meat at the centre of the grill, and with a few hickory chunks tossed on the coals. Look for a cooking temp a tick over 200C, starting closer to 220C if you like that crunchy char on the outside, and pulling it back to a touch under 200c after that first blast.
Cook the leg, flat on the grill, for up to 20 minutes a side, depending on weight (the lamb’s, not yours) but use your meat thermometer and don’t let that internal temperature rise much above 50C before you take it off. Rest the meat for at least 20 minutes, loosely tented in foil and in a warm (never hot!) spot, before serving – sliced across the grain, and draped over warm Turkish bread with a drizzle of any juices that have accumulated during resting and carving and perhaps a dollop of tzatziki.
Then eat – ideally with a decent cabernet sauvignon, and while singing our national anthem. In Greek, if you like.