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Monday, September 19, 2011

Lamb Souvlaki - Food of the gods

Charcoal grilled lamb has a beautiful aroma that you can smell a mile away and although this recipe does not use the charcoal grill it still has the potential to fill the kitchen with a very welcoming aroma.  Grilling meat to be eaten in unleavened bread dates back many years and the Ancient Greeks seemed to have a good knack of it and have passed these traditions down the generations.  Today you don’t need to be in Athens to enjoy a Souvlaki – why just the other day I was making a right mess of a souvlaki on Brunswick Street right here in Melbourne.  The humble “souva” is the go-to fast food, that Saturday night out-on-the-towners, who need a huge hit of sustenance in the early hours of the morning, after a big night, turn to almost religiously.  I must admit that it is one of my guilty pleasures on such nights that I surely regret the next morning - but will gladly do again next time.
Nevertheless, souvlaki can be enjoyed in the home and if you get the marinade right, turn up the music and eat this at odd hours, it is almost like a night on the town.  Or you could just have it for a late lunch as we did - and boy was it was good!  Start the day before with the meat marinating and 24 hours later you are bound for a treat as you dish up some home-made goodness.  I use a nice leg of lamb trimmed of any excess fat and opened up with the bone still intact.  If you do not like the idea of wielding a knife and carving into the meat then ask your butcher to do it.  The idea is to open the meat so that you can season the inside with marinade and then roll it back up as it was to roast like a big joint of meat.  It is advisable to use cooking twine to truss the meat on leg so that I stays intact through the cooking process.   

2.5kg Lamb, leg joint
½ cup x Lemon Juice
¼ cup x Olive Oil
4-5 cloves Garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp x Dried Oregano leaves
5 sprigs x Thyme, leaves picked
Store bought pita bread loaves

Prepare the leg joint by cutting 1 cm deep gashes along the outer side
Cutting the leg open along the bone and turn it out so that the meat which was once rolled is now flat
Keep the bone intact as this will add to the flavour and assist in cooking.
Combine all marinade ingredients in a cup, stir well to mix
Massage the marinade into the inside of the lamb, apply a thick amount of the herb mixture
Roll the meat back around the bone as it was and tie with the twine to secure
Now work marinade onto the outside of the lamb especially in the gashes
Place the remaining marinade and any drippings into a plastic bag along with the lamb
Secure tightly and leave in the fridge for at least 12 hours
Preheat oven to 220 degrees
Place lamb in a roasting dish with the marinade
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes on the high heat
Turn the leg over and turn heat down to 175 degrees
Cook for another 40 minutes and turn leg again
After another 15-20 minutes check the internal temperature with a thermometer
A temperature of 77 degrees (170 degrees Fahrenheit) is ideal
Remove from the oven and rest the lamb for at least 30 minutes before carving

Make up the souvlaki by taking a store bought pita bread loaf and filling with a generous serve of lettuce, tomato, onion and then topping this with chunks of lamb.  Squeeze on some fresh lemon juice and garlic sauce (Yoghurt infused with garlic).  

Roll the pita up as best as you can and then chomp into it – there is no other way.  Keep napkins at arm’s reach because it is sure to get messy – but oh so good!    

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