Eating in New Zealand: Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Spicy Rub

Green lipped mussel fritters

Green lipped mussels, foraged from a nearby island

Eating is a serious business for my New Zealand family. When 14 adults and six children decamp for a week to a not-exactly-close-to-a-supermarket beach house – known as a bach – it takes on even more importance.

That house’s elastic roof – extended with a few tents and caravan – was shelter for four generations, from the roly-poly 6-month-old little smiler to her busy great grandparents.

We gathered together with terrifying regularity for normal breakfast-lunch-dinner, constantly supplemented by elevenses, afternoon tea, pre-dinner cheese and cracker fivesies and late evening herbal-tea-and-Christmas-cake.

Rather a lot of eating. And a hell of a lot of food.

It helps that we’re a bring-your-favourite-appliance family. There was a bread machine constantly in use, the yoghurt maker fermented quietly away, a rice cooker was hauled out occasionally and the Husband’s mother even included her own food mixer in the haul that she brought from home. To everyone’s everlasting gratitude, one family turned up with their sleek, stainless steel Sunbeam coffee machine and soon all the boys were steaming milk like pros.

Little Missy's food photography

"Don't touch the food, don't touch!" LM gets into food photography

But the real credit for providing the plan that fed everybody, every day without any panic has to go to the Husband’s mother, who graciously shared all compliments with her mentor: “the carrot salad with yoghurt dressing? That’s Annabel. The dukkah? Annabel. Why don’t we make these tortillas from Annabel for lunch?” Three of Annabel Langbein‘s books tucked into her bag, she was prepared for any food eventuality that came her way.

She came armed with a chilly-bin and boxes packed with her homemade pantry: there were tubs of pestos and hummus for fivesies, lemon cordial for hot afternoons, caramelised onions for sandwiches, dried homegrown lemon verbena or lemon balm for nighttime cuppas, a couple of Christmas cakes, a secret stash of Chocolate Chippies and this spicy rub, which turned a butterflied leg of lamb into a gloriously barbecued joint of meat.

Annabel may have provided a lot of inspiration but the hard work all took place before any of us arrived. Like any army, this family marches best and most peacefully on a full stomach. Easy to do when you’re so well organised. Thanks Mandy!

Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Spicy Rub

Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Spicy Rub

Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Spicy Rub
The entire quantity of rub, from The Free Range Cook, comfortably coats three legs of lamb so I’ve adjusted quantities below. We cooked this on a barbecue but, weather not being orientated towards outdoor cooking at the moment in Ireland, it’s just as easy to do it in an oven.

Spicy Rub
2 cloves garlic, crushed
zest 1 lemon
60mls lemon juice
1 fresh chilli, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated
2 tablespoons olive oil
¾ tablespoon ground cumin
¾ teaspoon ground turmeric
¾ teaspoon sweet paprika
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
¾ teaspoon sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
A good grinding of black pepper

1 2.5-3kg leg of lamb, boned and butterflied – ask your butcher to do this or, do as the Husband’s father does, and find a sharp knife, a useful Youtube video and do it yourself
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper

Make the Spicy Rub ahead of time:
Combine garlic, lemon zest and juice, chilli and ginger in a bowl and set aside.

Heat the oil in a small, heavy-based pan and warm the cumin, turmeric, paprika and cinnamon stick on a medium heat until you can smell the spices – about 30 seconds – then add the garlic-lemon-chilli-ginger mixture and cook for another 30 seconds.

Remove from the heat, add the sugar, salt and pepper and cool.

At least two hours before cooking, place the lamb in a large non-reactive dish and massage with Spicy Rub. Cover, refrigerate and marinade for between two hours and 48 hours.

Preheat oven to 230°C (210°C fanbake).

Season meat with salt and pepper. Roast for 30-40 minutes or until cooked to your liking. Allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before carving in thin slices.

Serve with roast carrots, roast potatoes and some braised broccoli with lemon and garlic.

Adapted from The Free Range Cook by Annabel Langbein.

Dinner time, Kiwi-style

Feeding time at the zoo, ahem, with the family

More Kiwi cooking
Picnic days: Bacon and Egg Pie
The Free Range Cook by Annabel Langbein
A New Zealand classic: Ginger Gems
Choc Chip Cranberry Cookies (by way of Chocolate Chippies)`
Dukkah by post


Food writer. Broadcaster. Blogger. Author. Married to Eight Degrees Brewing. Member of the Irish Food Writers' Guild, founder of Irish Food Bloggers Association and co-author of Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer & Cider (New Island)

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2 Responses

  1. Katie says:

    That looks really delicious! I think I’m going to try and cook that dish for our Sunday brunch. I would love to have mashed potatoes with that one. If I can cook that correctly, I’m sure it’s going to be a big hit with my family. Thanks for sharing!

    • Caroline says:

      It’s a great prepare-ahead dish, Katie. You can make the spice rub at any stage and get that out of the way. The day before you want to eat, marinade the lamb so it’s all ready to go the next day.

      If you like your meat pink, it’s a good idea to bring it to room temperature before you put it in the oven. Bear in mind that the timings are based on people who like their meat with plenty of pink – you may have to adjust for your own family!

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