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.
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