Preparing lamb with gratitude and respect

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Preparing lamb with gratitude and respect

Whether it’s crisply rendered skaaptjoppies or a fall-apart no-carve leg,
you can always win over Sam Woulidge when lamb is on the menu.

Polite society once decreed that one should not discuss politics, sex or religion at the dining-room table. But, quite honestly, I think that an evening has not quite gone according to plan unless politics, sex and religion have been fervently debated. I only ask that the vegans give us a break, not because I dislike vegans (I don’t) or disagree with them (I don’t), but simply because I know that when I prepare meat, it is indeed a sacrifice. Sacrificial lamb being my favourite of all.

While I feel guilty about it (I have Calvinist blood coursing through my veins), my greed is greater than my guilt, and so I prepare lamb with gratitude and respect. The only lamb I don’t love is one that needs to be carved – the one they say should still be pink inside. I’m particularly unimpressed with an English paper-frilled, crown-roast-style rack of lamb that arrives with what looks like miniature chefs’ hats on each bone. Too fussy. Too uptight. I like a lazy lamb – ’n lui lammetjie – the way Afrikaners make it: slow-cooked until it falls off the bone. Fit for cutting with a fork or serving with a spoon.

My husband Jacques’ specialty is an April Bloomfield slow-cooked lamb love affair with the unapologetically strong ingredients of anchovy, orange peel and chilli. It reminds me of a holiday in New York when we stayed at The Ace Hotel and ate at April’s restaurant The Breslin. We ordered too much food and Seb, still small and dressed in a forest green velvet jacket, happily fell asleep on the banquette. Those were good times, when mask-free travelling was still an option. But for now, we stay at home and celebrate what we have and what we know. And I know my husband also makes very good lamb chops on the braai. He renders the fat well. I would leave him if he did not. Seb eats a lamb tjoppie clean off the bone. I love that he does that. I, myself, make a tomato bredie that I’m really quite proud of. I make it the way my oupa Sam used to, with ginger, garlic, Cape Malay curry powder and enough brown sugar to caramelise the onion and tomatoes well. I know he would approve.

But that’s real mid-winter comfort food and although it almost always rains over the Easter weekend in the Cape, an unctuous heavy stew would leave no room for toasted hot cross buns, gold-foiled chocolate Easter bunnies and chocolate-covered marshmallow eggs. And that would be a sin. So my Easter lamb, while not exactly a light dish, is a lazy one that’s cobbled together with instructions from my friend Hannerie Visser’s mom and memories of lazy Stanford lunches at our friends Mariana and Peter Esterhuizen’s restaurant, where the twee-tand skaap (hogget – basically a teenage sheep) is prepared with thyme from their garden and home-made chicken stock. Mine is a simpler affair, for I’m lazier and less talented. Mariana’s is served with beetroot; mine with potatoes. Many, many potatoes. For I am also less wholesome.

This simple seven-hour leg of lamb is so good, it positively inspires religious passion. It compels you to speak lascivious things and want to take on (and take down) political opponents in the most vocal ways. Because having spent less time in front of the stove, you actually have the energy and inclination for these kinds of things. Cook lamb this way and let the conversation take care of itself.

Find the recipe for Sam’s slow-cooked leg of lamb here. 

Photograph: Andrea Van Der Spuy 
Production: Bianca Strydom 
Food assistant: Irinja Bekker

Sam Woulidge Article by: Sam Woulidge

Cape Town-based writer Sam Woulidge is a regular TASTE columnist, blogger and author of 'Confessions of a Hungry Woman'. Follow her on Twitter @samwoulidge

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