Monday, 12 March 2012

Spit Roasted Lamb with Caper, Anchovy & Mint Salsa

Cooked over an oak wood fire
Inspired by an unexpectedly sunny and warm Sunday afternoon, I decided it was time to get outside and make some fire.

Our brazier had been stored in the garage since we went away at Christmas, the spit roasting kit was in bits in various kitchen cupboards and up in the garage roof were some beatifully seasoned oak branches that I had foraged last Autumn.

Something, of course was bound to go wrong. A critical piece of the spit roasting kit was not to be found, so in a last minute panic I cobbled together a support for one end of the spit from an old bicycle spanner and small G-clamp. I was determined not to be defeated.

As the spit roast was a fairly last minute decision, I needed to buy the food and get hold of some kitchen string, as mine had run out. I planned to call into a supermarket on the way back from taking our daughter to her drama class in Oxford. I was going to be pushed for time but it seemed the most sensible option. My list was not complicated; lamb leg (on or off the bone), capers, anchovies, fresh mint and a few other essentials whilst I was at it.

Parking in Summertown in Oxford can be hit and miss, so I considered two options. If I could park easily in Summertown, I'd get everything I needed from one or two of the supermarkets there. If not, then I'd head straight back to Witney and get everything I needed from Waitrose in the town centre. Luckily, as I was driving through Summertown, I nabbed a parking bay just as someone was pulling out. Great, time saved already. There are two supermarkets there, a fairly large Co-op and a Marks and Spencer.

I started with the Co-op to grab the essentials and anything else they had that was on my list. Essentials, fine. Capers and anchovies also fine. Mint? Lamb? Kitchen string? Nope. Fortunately M&S was just next door. I headed straight for the fresh produce, picked up two packets of lovely looking mint leaves then headed to the fresh meat section. Nothing. Diced lamb only. Not much good for spit roasting unfortunately. I re-calculated my options and realised that I now had no choice other than to head for the Witney town centre as well. Saving a bit more time I dumped the mint leaves to avoid the busy checkout, and legged it to the car.

The twenty minute or so journey gave me time to calm down a bit and re-plan the rest of my errands. There are two large supermarkets in the Witney town centre, a huge Sainsburys and the Waitrose. There was a fighting chance that everything I needed would be at either of the two. As I passed it first, I pulled in to Sainsburys. Easy parking, a good sign, so hopefully not too packed. I found two very nice packets of lamb leg, off the bone. They would be perfect to 'sandwich' them around the spit. Mint leaves, yes, fine. Now kitchen string? I hunted around the kitchenware area and saw nothing, I hunted for some one to ask and they didn't stock it. In a store the size of a football pitch. Can you believe it.

Waitrose, here I come. And it was the last place I bought kitchen string. Why didn't I just go straight there in the first place? By now I'm kicking myself. Easy parking again, another good sign. I headed straight for the kitchenware section and became immediately confused. The entire section was almost completely empty with a few odds and sods marked down for clearance. Not my day. I found someone to help, and was told that the kitchen ware section was being re-modelled. Great. And kitchen string? Please, I always buy it from here? Sorry, out of stock. I pleaded for to the poor assistant to help me and suggest where, at 3:40pm on a Sunday I might get some? I could try Cargo just opposite I was told. I bolted across the pavement, found someone straight away to ask. Sorry, we don't stock it. We looked at eachother and simultaneously said 'Lakeland'. A few minutes walk away. I was saved. They had some. By now I was at least 45 minutes behind my planned schedule, so we would be eating a little later than usual.

I finally got home. Six shops and about an hour later than planned. I relayed my disaster story to my wife who found it much funnier than I did. But, I had made it back, and now it was time to play. I grabbed a much needed cold beer, prepared and lit the fire, and retreated to the kitchen to sort out the spit roast.


For the spit roast:

- Lamb leg, off the bone
- 4-5 anchovy fillets
- 4-5 peeled and squashed garlic cloves
- 1 dollop of butter
- Mint leaves, roughly broken up
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil to rub on the outside
- Kitchen string (!)

For the salsa:

- Large handful of mint leaves, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp drained capers, finely chopped
- 1 medium tomato, finely chopped
- 4-5 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
- 1 spring onion, finley chopped
- 2 tbs good olive oil
- 1 tbsp wine vinegar
- 1 tsp of fine demerara sugar
- Salt and pepper


For the spit roast (can also be done in a oven or Weber):

Place the capers, anchovies, garlic, butter and mint on the inside of the lamb. Roll the lamb around the spit and secure tightly with kitchen string. Rub the outside with olive oil and season generously with salt. I added a few potatoes to either ends of the spit after giving them a 5 minute head start in the microwave.

Spit roast gently for about two hours. I started the fire with oak pieces, let it burn down and then occasionally topped it up with a few sprinklings of those charcoal dreggs that accumulate at the bottom of the bag.

Alternatively, prepare the lamb as above and bake on a baking tray in the oven for the recommended time depending on the weight of the meat.

For the salsa:

Simply mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and test for seasoning. You can adjust the proportions as you like, but the above quantities delivered a very moist and minty salsa, with a subtle hint of the anchovies and capers. It was a bit of an experiment, but it worked a treat.

By the time it came to serve the lamb it was delicous. Moist and tender with lovely crispy, caramelised bits around the edges. We had half of it last night, the remaining half is wrapped in foil in the fridge for later in the week. We devoured the salsa, even the kids (I didn't mention the anchovies or capers), so I will have to make some more. Soon.


Marina said...

Sorry you had to go through six stores on Sunday. I can't imagine going to just one it's always so packed! Great lamb.

the food dude said...

That lamb looks absolutely delicious, definitely worth the the time and trips to the different supermrkets!

fallen from flavour said...

against all odds your spit roast prevailed! it looks succulent and absolutely worth all the endeavour and supermarket trauma. bring on the better weather days!

Hester @ Alchemy in the Kitchen said...

What hoops you had to jump through - who knew kitchen string was such a rare thing in the UK. I hope you bought in bulk. However, it looks like the end result was worth all the effort. Wish I had a plateful of that lamb. Love the improvised repair to the bbq too!

Denise said...

Sorry you had a stressful beginning to this utterly delightful meal! Your experience is so interesting because I have been to the UK and know the difficulites you describe but here parking is not such an issue.We only have a few stores and there is no larger city close enough to run to if ours here in Fort Collins are out. I DO have much trouble finding kitchen string but, I just saw some in a store and was qutie happy to find it! For someone unknown reason I did not snatch it up and now I can't remember where I saw it. I will have to keep my eyes open but there are only a half dozen places here to buy things like this so I should find it.
Your lamb looks so succulent and wonderful!I have only cooked lamb chops but perhaps I should give it a try!

LoLy said...

WOW, this looks absolutely delicious:)

Mary said...

Your food always looks delicious. It really is a pleasure to visit here and I never leave empty handed. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

Lola Lobato said...

Looks really good!!! love the combination of all the ingredients for the salsa specially the mint.

All That I'm Eating said...

This looks and sounds brilliant. Shame you didn;t get the things you needed in Waitrose - I went at just the right time and picked up some bargains (sorry!).

firefoodie said...

My Waitrose timing was so unlucky, and wow am I jealous of the kitchen ware bounty you must have stumbled upon!

Anonymous said...

Looks amazing. I need to try and do lamb more. We've only ever cooked it once, and while it was good, I think yours would have been better.

easyfoodsmith said...

Seeing this beautifully roasted lamb, it looks like all the effort you put in were worth while! It looks succulent and done to perfection.

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