Yesterday, I cooked two things I had never cooked before: a whole baby lamb and stuffed tripe (post coming up). If I’d wanted whole lambs in the past, I relied on Mohamed at Al Waha to provide them. And if I’d wanted stuffed tripe, there was my wonderful mother who never minded spending the time cleaning and stuffing both stomach and intestines whenever I visited. But my mother is far away and I wanted to roast my own lamb and stuff tripe, so, I took the plunge and prepared my own.
And with my friend Naomi, who was visiting London, we went up to Green Lanes, to Andy, the most wonderful man and butcher, to get the lamb, tripe and other offal including two beautiful heads that were remarkably small and although skinned, in much better condition than those you get at nearby Turkish butchers.
The lamb had been frozen — I did not give Andy enough notice — but it was a proper baby with tiny legs and shoulders, and a lovely thin waist. It could have won a beauty pageant! Andy had wrapped it in caul which was not only pretty but also good for keeping it moist during roasting. We carried it away, Naomi helping me until she got to the tube station, and then on my own until I got home. Luckily it was only 4 or 5 kilograms, so, not too heavy. And here is how it looked splayed out on my chopping board.
I curled it back up and stuffed it in my refrigerator wishing I had more space in there for me to already rub it with the marinade. The longer it is left to marinate, the better. But the upshot was that as I looked at the picture of the lamb, I had the rather amusing idea of taking another shot of it with an action man I had lying around. The proportions are amazing. The action man looks like a child petting an Alsatian dog, albeit one without a head!
Anyway, to go back to my cooking, I prepared my marinade with all kinds of spices, including bzar (a heady Emirati spice mix) and saffron, crushed garlic and rose water and rubbed the lamb inside and out with it. I forgot to keep some marinade for the heads which was a shame but the heads were really there for ceremony and not for eating although I have to say that from now on I will be roasting them. They come out of the oven a lot more presentable than when boiled.
Also, I had soaked the heads for a few hours which was a good move because this cleaned them of all the coagulated blood and made them look more appetizing, at least for me. I let the lamb marinate for a couple of hours which is really the minimum then roasted it at 220º C for 1 1/2 hours. I should have laid some foil loosely over it half way through to stop the caul from burning. Still, as you can see from the top picture, it came out of the oven looking pretty stunning. And it was delicious despite having been frozen. I was too exhausted at the end of dinner to clear up and here is what I woke up to the following morning. I guess I am one of very few to would consider this a pretty sight!
Marinade for the Baby Lamb
good pinch saffron threads
1/2 cup rose water
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon Emirati spice mix (bzar)
½ tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground
½ tablespoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground dried limes
4 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
juice of half a lemon
Soak the saffron in the rose water for 15 minutes. Then mix all the spices, the crushed garlic, the lemon juice and the saffron rose water in a bowl. Add salt to taste. Use to rub the baby lamb inside and out and let sit for at least two hours to absorb the flavours.