Roast lamb with coffee – suspend your disbelief for WTSIM


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Much as I love ordering reasonably adventurously when I’m eating out, when it comes to cooking at home, I have to admit that I’m not one for wacky food combinations.  Lamb is served with mint sauce for a good reason: the tastes really do work to complement each other.  Ditto fish and lemon, chips and vinegar, and tomatoes and basil. Ambitious home cooks who go: “heeeeey, prawns and caramel/kale and strawberries/oysters and Coca-cola!  I’ll bet nobody’s ever thought of that before – let’s give it a whirl!” scare me shitappetiteless.  There is a good reason why nobody has thought of these combinations.  That reason is that they Do Not Work.

The above probably explains why this recipe has been sitting in my big black index book of recipes for approximately 10 years, unused.  I clipped it from a magazine back in South Africa back in the days when I was still collecting recipes like other peopele collect stamps: more for the curiosity value than for actually wanting to use them!  Each time I flick through the index book, it sits there hopefully under the L tab, batting its eyelashes at me in the hope that today will be the day that I make it, and up to now it has been unfailingly disappointed.

But then Johanna chose roasts as the theme for this month’s Waiter, There’s Something in My… event and I realised that the planets were aligning in such a way as to nudge me gently towards making this recipe at last.  And who am I to argue with planetary alignment??

As it turns out, I am so smitten with this recipe that it’s just not funny.  It’s dead easy (always a big plus) and the flavours are complex and truly surprising.  The coffee gives a rich, slightly bitter depth of flavour, much in the same way as chocolate does in a mole sauce.  In fact, if you don’t tell your guests what the flavour is, I sincerely doubt that anybody would guess – it’s deliciously intriguing and elusive.  The mustard as well as the sugar in the coffee balance the bitterness and the rosemary is, of course, a classic lamb pairing.  It’s harmonious perfection!  And the cooking time leaves the lamb tender yet perfectly pink.  All in all, I am totally sold, and you will be too.

Maybe it’s time to try prawns and caramel…!

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1 boned and tied leg of lamb (about 1.2kg) – I used a deboned neck roast instead
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp rosemary
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
125ml (1/2 cup) strong black coffee
1 Tbsp cream
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp brandy
125ml (1/2 cup) chicken stock


Pre-heat the oven to 190C and lightly oil a roasting dish.

Rub the salt, pepper and rosemary into the lamb  and spread the mustard on top.

Combine the coffee, cream, sugar and brandy in a pot over gentle heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.

Place the lamb in the prepared roasting dish and pour the coffee cream over it.  Roast for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 160C and roast for a further 15 minutes.  Baste every now and again, picking up the caramelising juice at the bottom of the pan and brushing it over the lamb.  Remove the lamb and allow to rest outside the oven for at least 10 minutes before carving.

If your roasting dish can stand direct heat, add the chicken stock to the cooking juices and heat on top of the stove until it is bubbling, and allow to reduce slightly. Alternatively, pour off the cooking juices into a small saucepan and proceed as above. [NOTE:  I was a bit heavy handed with the salt rub, so I thought my cooking juices were quite salty enough without adding chicken stock.  Instead, I added some boiling water to dilute the salt and thickened the sauce with a tsp of cornstarch mixed with a little cold water.]

Slice the lamb thickly and spoon the juices over.  Serve with garlic and sage sauteed potatoes, and kale with Parmesan (a combination which does work!).

If you have followed me every day in November as I completed National Blog Posting Month – a post a day, every day, for 30 days – I hereby repeat my challenge to you! 

I blogged for 30 straight days and sacrificed my sleep to entertain you, and now I challege you to donate 30 of your local currency units to the UN World Food Programme – be they Dollars, Rands, Pounds, Euros or whatever. That’s what I’d call a fair trade 😉 And remember – it could mean the difference between life and death by starvation to somebody in Zimbabwe. 

If you missed a day or two, here’s everything I wrote this month.

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  1. says

    Yeah you did it! Thats an accpomplishment. I was a total failure in my little project. To much going on. So will you be taking a hiatus or back to regular posting?I love, love, love lamb BTW.

  2. says

    My mom made pork chops with coffee once and my hubby was appalled by the idea, so I’ll have to sneak this lamb onto his plate… combos are getting more and more interesting by the day..In this month’s Fresh Living(PnP) Magazine, they have caramel with chicken liver patee……so caramel and prawns might not be as bizarre as you think!!!
    Your lamb is cooked to perfection.

  3. says

    Congratulations on a whole month of posting – and never a cop-out post among them, loads of great writing there!
    I’d never have thought of combining coffee with lamb, or cream and brandy for that matter – you’ve almost persuaded me though!

  4. Merry says

    Sounds excellent! I don’t think that is such a strange combination – both coffee and lamb have thick rich tastes – I can see how they would combine.
    My husband is Brazilian and they eat avocado with sugar – how is that for weird?!

  5. says

    Yay! Well done on completing NaBloPoMo! You must be mentally exhausted!
    The lamb looks awesome! I’ve actually had lamb with coffee before and I was also sceptical, but it really does work. I’m surprised that it hasn’t become a modern classic, but I guess many cooks/chefs are even more sceptical than us!

  6. Browniegirl says

    Perfection on a plate – wow wow wow…that sounds and looks soooo delicious. Flavour combinations intrigue me :o)Well done on completing your month of postings xxx

  7. says

    I’ve had some coffee-tinged sauces and when done right…it’s fabulous.
    You roasted the lamb to a perfect pink and I too would be smitten with this dish.

  8. says

    this looks delicious… as you know I am not a big lamb person, but i do like the sound of that. i have been wanting to make a coffee-roast pork for a while and never got myself to do it… maybe i must follow your lead.
    well done on your blogging challenge, does that mean you have more time to meet up now? xx

  9. says

    Just wanted to let you know that the Grow Your Own roundup is now up on the Crispy Cook. Thank you for your tasty entry. And I commend you on your 30 days of bloggery for such a great cause.

  10. says

    hhmm, Jeanne, I’m not sure about prawns and caramel (although, honey prawns are pretty delish?), but it looks like you’re definitely onto something with this lamb and coffee! ;D

  11. says

    This is such an unusual sauce for lamb… I am intrigued and will bookmark it. Isn’t that so fun when a recipe with weird ingredients turns out so tasty?

  12. says

    Sounds like a good thing to me, I’ll give that a whirl. Reckon the prawns with caramel might work, if you battered the prawns and added some chile and maybe some fish sauce to the caramel.

  13. says

    I’ll have to find out how we say ‘rosemary’ in French, but the rest looks doable enough. And I’m willing to try adventurous food (within reason).
    Did I ever send you the recipe for Ghormeh Sabzi? It’s a dream.

  14. says

    You rock woman! That’s all there is to say. And maybe: the lambs looks great, and that’s from a person that eats very little lamb. Hardly ever, in fact. This, I’d eat :)

  15. says

    Wow! Mouthwatering! I want to see the prawns and caramel next (after you rest, of course.) 😉 The UN World Food Program sounds like a very worthy cause.

  16. says

    We often put unsweetened chocolate into gravy but I hadn’t thought of adding coffee. What a good idea!
    That lamb looks delectable!! In fact, it looks good enough to convert me from pretty much loathing lamb into begin someone who adores lamb (I’ve never seen why people love it so much; I just don’t get it.)
    The kale with parmesan looks fabulous too, Jeanne.