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Sacrificing the Lamb
© Sue Courtney - text and photos
22 March 2002

We didn't want lambs last year. The ewes and rams were kept separate on purpose. But when tupping time arrived the ewes went on heat and the rams could smell them. Randy rams can jumps fences, you know. One of our rams would make the Sheep Olympics team with its exploits in the high jump, the hurdles and the cross country race, when it jumped not one fence, not two, but three in its eagerness to tupple. Medal winning performances, for sure.

Neil with new born lambs Instead of medals the result was 16 embryos resulting in 15 live births over a period of three weeks. So many lambs. What were we going to do with them all? Nature had its way with some. Others we gave away and we even sold a couple. But the big one stayed. I had plans for him.

And so six months later the brother-in-law came around to help Neil sacrifice his first lamb. We decided to call it "Baa-b-cue". But by that time it was a carcass.

The carcass was cleaned and encased in mutton cloth, then hung in the shed for 24 hours while the skin and wool was put into in the freezer, waiting for when we have time to cure it and turn it into another sheepskin rug for the floor. After hanging, we refrigerated the carcass for two days until the time came to cook it.

Whole Lamb on the Spit

I recommend a gas spit rather than a natural fire spit. Although the fire spit is cheaper, it is messier, it is smokier and the cooking may be more uncontrolled. And in Auckland weather it is difficult to guarantee that the weather will be fine for the planned occasion. The spit we hired from Browns Bay Hire Services charged a minimal amount for delivery and pick-up and the total cost was under $100. We covered the walls of the spit roaster with silver paper to make the cleaning up, afterwards, easier.

You will need - 1 whole spring lamb - preferably organically raised on your own farm. Lemons
Olive oil
Branches of rosemary and sprigs of thyme
A bulb of garlic

First make the marinade. Mix together equal quantities of the oil and lemon juice to make up about two cups. Take some rosemary leaves and thyme leaves, crush with a mortar and pestle and add to the lemon and oil mixture. Also add whole, uncrushed leaves from the herbs. Put aside for the herb flavours to infuse into the marinade.

Place the whole lamb onto the spit rod. Place little cuts at various places around the lamb carcass and place a whole clove of garlic into each slit. Into the body cavity place whole branches of rosemary and sprigs of thyme, a couple of bulbs of garlic, lemon wedges, lamb's kidneys and heart. Sew up the body cavity with wire.

Attach the lamb on the spit rod to the spit roaster. Rub the whole of the outside of the carcass with lemon juice and fire up the gas.

After about an hour of cooking, brush the carcass frequently with the marinade of oil, lemon juice, rosemary and thyme. If you really want to play the part, you could use a brush made from rosemary branches. We, however, used a paintbrush.

Part of the marinade was reserved for the liver. The liver was immersed into the marinade for about an hour, then baked in the oven and served with the meat.

The lamb should be ready after about four to four and a half hours of cooking. As the legs will be ready before the rest of the meat, you could cover them with foil to stop them burning to a cinder.

The spit rod was elevated for carving. Baa-b-cue easily fed 20 guests, with plenty left over for meals the coming few days.

I have to say that this particular lamb on the spit was quite delicious. The rosemary and thyme flavour really infused the meat giving it a delicious savoury herb flavour.

Using the left overs
A couple of meals had the lamb skin rendered to provide some juicy dripping. This was made into gravy, such as one would make for roast meat. Slices of the leftover cooked meat were reheated and simmered in the gravy to make an easy roast-lamb look-alike meal. Bones from the leftovers were used to make lamb stock.

Pink Lamb Risotto
Use the leftover meat and the lamb stock made from the bones.

For this recipe, use quantities of rice and liquid to satisfy the number of mouths you have to feed. Cook the risotto to your favourite methodology.

These quantities are for two people.

Saute 1/2 red onion and 1 clove of crushed garlic in a combo of butter and oil, then add about 1 cup of rice and coat the grains well. For the liquid start with 1/4 cup white wine (I used a riesling that was open), then water or lamb stock if you have it and lastly 1/2 cup of pinot noir.

About halfway through cooking add 1/2 cup "Craisins" (this is a brand of sweetened dried cranberries - a product of the US but distributed in NZ via Australia).

Just before adding the pinot noir, add 1 cup cooked lean lamb left over from the whole lamb on the spit.

At the same time add fresh herbs to taste. Whatever takes your fancy and what you have available. I used thyme, mint, parsley and chives. The "Craisins" add a lovely sweet flavour and the pinot noir gives a pink tinge to the rice.

We served the cooking wine - a Central Otago pinot noir from the 2000 vintage as an accompaniment. It really had too much acid and we found a fruity youthful Merlot a better match.

You could use Merlot instead of pinot in the cooking if you wish.

Bon Appetit

© Sue Courtney
March 2002.

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