Monday, 13 July 2009

A lamb obsession

An idle thought that it might be cool to spit roast a lamb one day finally became reality on Saturday night ... not my thought I hasten to add, I merely came along for the ride. I've spoken about this friendly little festival on the blog before, so finally, after what felt like months of waiting and talking, the Brave and I high-tailed it from London on Friday night and made our way to Worcestershire for a couple of days of lamb, camping, music and beer.

Our home for the weekend was a field in Malvern, a little encampment centred around an enormous round marquee. Friday night brought tent pitching, chickpea and spinach stew cooked on the fire ... beer, more beer and heart to hearts. By the time tea arrived on Saturday morning work was a mere twinkle in my eye.

But on the the important stuff. The lamb was cooked over a huge fire spread into a halved oil drum. The spit was elegantly crafted from scaffolding poles ... which were inelegantly rammed into the lambs with a sledge hammer and pure effort of will.

Total cooking time was around 7-8 hours, the lamb was turned on the spit, and basted diligently with all the usual suspects - olive oil, garlic, salt and lemon juice. The scene when the lamb arrived revealed the basest elements of human nature. Take twenty or thirty ravenous revellers and present them with wonderful fragrant meat after several cans of lager, and you can imagine what happens.

My contribution to the weekend was to be Sunday lunch, so after seeing off the Brave we got cracking. There was always going to be far too much food. Numbers for the festival were lower than expected, but though we only fed sixteen in the end, the meal described could easily have fed thirty of us.

I get told off for saying things like this, but cooking lamb stew which could feed thirty is really really not that much more difficult to cooking it for four of you. The principle remains the same ... make stock with the bones of the lamb, remove them, reduce it ... and add lentils, spices, chopped tomatoes and diced cold lamb, then bring the thing slowly up to a simmer again and serve it with hunks of bread.

More details then ...

Lamb stew

2 lamb carcasses
2 heads celery roughly chopped
4 onions roughly chopped
Bulb of garlic peeled and chopped
2 kg red lentils
4 cans chopped tomatoes
40g cumin
20g paprika

Into a very large pot place one of your stripped lamb carcasses, add the onions, celery, carrots and garlic, cover with water and place on the fire for around 90 mins – it should be on a good rolling boil for the last 30. It’s worth mentioning here that our ‘stripped’ carcass in fact included the whole haunch of one of our lambs which had been a little too pink for comfort the previous night.
Set about the rest of the cold lamb from the night before. Our ravening hoards had been less than thorough, and I managed to rescue a very large mixing bowl full of diced meat to add to the stew.

Once the stock is ready, the hard part – removing the bones. On a small scale this is a relatively simple task, involving perhaps some straining, maybe a colander or a slotted spoon ... and perhaps even a second pot. On a large scale it involved four people, a washing up bowl, two cheap kitchen knives and a set of 99p bbq tools form Asda. And a ladle. It’s a miracle we emerged unscathed.

Into the stock then went the lentils, the diced lamb, the chopped tomatoes and the spices. I turned my attention to stripping the stewed haunches of all the remaining meat, before adding this to the pot. If I’m honest there was an awful lot more meat to be had, but the numbers and the awkwardness of dealing with the lamb with very few tools ... not to mention the effects of the previous evening slightly dampened my enthusiasm.

The result? Not a thing of great beauty, but hearty and wholesome enough to make hung over people happy ... which after the weekend we'd had was all we needed.


  1. Wow, what an incredible feast - I would love to do that! I just need to get me er, a whole lamb. Where did you get yours from out of interest? Was it massively expensive?

  2. Hi Helen,

    It was great, and actually not that expensive I don't think. Also, I think we could have been a lot more dligent with the carving on the night and made it go much much further. The guys sourced the lamb locally ... I'll have a look into it and get back to you.