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Friday, 05 February 2010


In the beginning of this week, I received one of the nicest e-mails one can probably get. It was entitled 'Leave' and came from my manager: 'you have an excess of unused leave. We appreciate your dedication, but from now on, we would like you to stay home one day a week...'
Since sitting still is not really my thing, from the evening I received the e-mail, I started doubling my sourdough starter (natural leaven) every day and decided to bake a larger batch of Portuguese mountain rye bread today, just like the ladies in Sabugueiro, a village in the Serra da Estrela would do it:
Talking about leave and mountains, I went on a splendid hike in the Magaliesberg mountains the other day:
After a long hike, there is nothing better than a good meal. A Karoo leg of Lamb for instance. I received the nicest compliment about the below recipe from a lady I recently invited for dinner: "Normally I don't eat lamb, but this is simply delicious".
Slowly roasted leg of lamb and sweet potato gratin

This is a perfect dish to serve if you are inviting people for dinner as everything can be prepared well beforehand and is cooked in the oven; this leaves you with a clean stove and kitchen while your guests arrive.

  • a leg of lamb (1,2 kg)
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 2 onions
  • 1/2 kg potatoes
  • 750 g sweet potato
  • 400 ml cream
  • 150 ml milk
  • olive oil or grapeseed oil
  • 50 g of butter
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 3 juniper berries
  • fresh rosemary (2 branches)
  • fresh hyssop (3 branches)
  • ground cumin
  • ground curcuma
  • dried or fresh savory
  • thyme
  • dried oregano
  • sweet paprika powder
  • nutmeg
  • salt
  • pepper 


Two oven dishes: one for the leg of lamb and one for the gratin.

The night before, mix 5 tablespoons of olive oil with 5 crushed cloves of garlic, a full teaspoon of cumin, a tablespoon of salt, a teaspoon of curcuma, a teaspoon of paprika, the freshly chopped rosemary and hyssop leaves, a tablespoon of oregano, some thyme, the crushed bay leaves and juniper berries and some freshly ground pepper.
Rub this mixture well into the leg of lamb, cover and let rest in the fridge overnight.
Take the leg of lamb out of the fridge 6 hours before serving.
Peel the potatoes and sweet potato and make slices of about 2-3 mm thick.
Mix the remaining crushed clove of garlic with the cream and the milk, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Place the slices in a buttered oven dish in alternating layers: potato - sweet potato - potato... and poor the cream liquid over it until all the slices are completely covered (if needed, add a little more milk/cream to the mixture) 


4 hours before serving, drizzle some olive or grapeseed oil into an oven dish and place the marinated lamb on it. Cover with thin slices of butter.
Place in the lower part of a preheated oven at 180 °C.
Reduce the heat to 140 °C and let roast for about 2 hours. Spread the roughly cut onions around the roasting lamb; they will release their unique aroma to the lamb and the juice. Regularly spoon some of the juice over the lamb to prevent a dry crust.
After 2 hours, remove the lamb from the oven, cover it with some foil and put the gratin in the oven at 200 °C. After 20 minutes, reduce the temperature to 160°C and leave for another 40 minutes. Remove the gratin from the oven, turn off the oven and put the lamb inside to heat it again (25 minutes). You are now ready to serve; if reheating is needed, leave the gratin with the lamb for another 10 minutes.

Slice the lamb on a preheated plate; it should be beautifully pink and tender; spoon some of the roasting jus over it. Serve with the sweet potato gratin and seasonal vegetables. 

Hints and tips
  • Add enough salt to the gratin cream mixture. Taste the mixture; it should be very hearty. Alternatively, replace the milk with chicken or veal stock.
  • Use freshly ground nutmeg
  • Freeze the remaining meat jus if any is left; it can serve as the perfect sauce for your next roast.