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 shit appetiteless. 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…!
ROAST LAMB WITH COFFEE (serves 4)
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!).
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.