Lamb is such a core ingredient in South Africa and it has been so since the earliest days. Within a few years of Jan van Riebeeck’s arrival at the Cape, there were enough sheep to supply the population with all the mutton they needed. O.F. Mentzel, a German soldier who came to the Cape in 1733, mentions that most farmers kept fat-tailed sheep. According to him, preference was given to hoggets (yearlings). These terms refer to fully grown sheep less than two years old. In contrast with buying patterns of consumers today, who mainly prefer lamb, the meat of young, fully grown sheep is of better quality in many respects. The meat of these sheep is more flavoursome and the fat ratio is usually lower than that of lamb, as well as it being a more economical choice.
Saddle of mutton was a popular cut of meat at the Cape. Leftover saddle of mutton was also served cold for breakfast, processed for use in pies or bobotie, or stewed for fricassée. This recipe for roast saddle of lamb from our Cape Winelands Cuisine cookbook, is the ideal family meal for Easter Weekend.
5 cloves garlic
2 tsp (10 ml) coarse sea salt
2 Tbsp (30 ml) chopped fresh rosemary
½ tsp (2.5 ml) grated nutmeg
1 Tbsp (15 ml) chopped fresh marjoram
1 tsp (5 ml) ground cumin
1 Tbsp (15 ml) lemon zest
1 saddle of lamb, deboned (loin, fillet and belly flap intact)
4 Tbsp (60 ml) olive oil
2 tsp (10 ml) coriander seeds, crushed
2 cups(500 ml) dried apricots
2 tsp (10 ml) freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp (15 ml) butter
Preheat the oven to 120 ° C (250 ° F)
Place the garlic, rosemary, marjoram, lemon zest and 2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil in a mortar and grind to a paste.
Add the coriander seeds, pepper salt, nutmeg and cumin, and then rub the mixture into the meat. Place the apricots down the centre of the saddle and roll up the meat tightly. Secure with string.
Heat a large frying pan and add the remaining olive oil and the butter.
Brown the meat on all sides and place on a roasting tray. Roast in the oven for 6 hours.
Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 30 minutes. Heat a little more oil in a frying pan and slowly crisp up the outer fat layer, or place the meat under a preheated grill for a few minutes.
Carve and serve with lamb’s traditional partner, 2010 La Motte Cabernet Sauvignon.