Wood-roasted lamb, hasselbacks, onions and lamb sauce

In 2015, Emily gave me the cooks dream birthday present, a Kamado Joe barbecue. Similar to the better-known Big Green Egg, the Joe has been a brilliant addition to our year-round cooking as a smoker, wood oven and grill.

Nestling in a corner of our tiny backyard (we have the Joe Jr), it’s just a few steps from the back door and is used at least once a week whether for a traditional summer evening cook up with kofte and blistering aubergines or the slow smoking of trout for a Christmas lunch starter. 

I like to think the smells of roast chicken, lamb and fish add to those often drifting down the alley to the south of Katherine Street, normally provided by the top floor windows of Sutcliffes of Saltaire on bacon-smoking day. 

I’m always amazed by the difference roasting with wood can make to simple food, whether it be brilliant wood-fired pizza just round the corner from us at The Hop or milk fed lamb from the assadors of Aranda del Duero in Spain. 

The following recipe relies heavily on the quality of the raw ingredients, particularly the lamb for roasting, and having made a really good stock from bones in advance (stockpile the remains from a few roast dinners and lamb chop suppers over time). This just won’t work with a supermarket joint and a stock cube. 

I won’t go into my methods for home stock making in this post, but you can find some good advice here.

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INGREDIENTS 

serves 2-3

for the lamb:

  • 1 seven rib lamb rack, trimmed and fat scored
  • sea salt and fresh pepper

for the sauce:

  • 1 pint intense lamb stock
  • 1 glass marsala
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon mint sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cornflour + butter, beaten
  • sea salt and fresh pepper

for the hasselbacks:

  • handful of baby potatoes
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and fresh pepper
  • a few thyme sprigs

for the onions:

  • – 70g butter
  • – 3 brown onions, peeled, halved and finely sliced
  • – ¼ a nutmeg, freshly grated 
  • – ½ tsp brown sugar
  • – 1 tbsp thyme, leaves picked
  • – sea salt and fresh pepper

WOOD ROASTED LAMB, ONIONS AND HASSELBACK SPUDS

SAUCE 

Set up your BBQ for indirect cooking/roasting. Light it about 1 hour before you want to begin cooking the potatoes and bring it to 190°. Alternatively preheat your oven to the same temperature. 

1. Combine all the sauce ingredients except the flour/butter in a saucepan and boil to reduce by half. Strain before whisking in the butter and seasoning to taste. Reserve and keep warm.

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2. Using a small, sharp knife, make incisions across the width of each baby potato ever millimetre or so all the way across its full length to a depth of about 2/3. Dress with the oil, salt, pepper and thyme and store in a snug, ovenproof dish. Roast for 45 minutes. Once tender, reserve and keep warm.

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3. Heat the butter over a medium flame before adding the onions, thyme, sugar and nutmeg. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow the onions to take on a golden colour but be careful not to burn them. Add a tiny amount of water to the pan if they begin to catch. After 30 minutes taste to ensure they are completely soft, sweet and fully tender. Blitz with a hand blender and pass through a sieve. Reserve and keep warm. 

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4. Lightly oil and season the lamb, ensuring the fat is scored in a diagonal pattern. If using a BBQ, lay the lamb fat side down on the grill with the bars running long-ways along the length of the joint. When the lamb has been roasting for 20 minutes, press the middle firmly. It should be springy with a little resistance, this indicates perfect ‘medium’ lamb. Remove and rest, lightly covered in foil or paper for 10 minutes before carving. 

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Plate up the components or serve them all together on a board.

We enjoyed this with lightly blanched purple kale but any iron rich vegetable would work well. Ideally you need something that will cut through the richness of the lamb and sweetness of the onions. 

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