Do you ever stare glumly into the freezer, wondering what gnarled old thing you can defrost for supper for a grumpy and hungry family? I did the frantic freezer hunt yesterday, and for the first fifteen minutes of ploughing through fields of snow and chipping away glaciers turned up nothing but a few fossilised fishfingers, a powdery packet of celery soup and a puppy who went missing in 2005. And then - aha! - right at the back in the permafrost, a big box of cubed Karoo lamb, cut from the leg. It looked okay after defrosting, and after two hours in a simple marinade, and a quick grilling on my gas braai [barbeque], tasted sensational. Even though it had been frozen for - at a guess - four or five months, the lamb was still juicy, flavoursome and meltingly tender, so there's a smart smack in the broeks for kitchen purists who denounce freezing. If you don't have a rosemary bush in the garden, use ordinary kebab sticks and add fresh or dried rosemary needles to the marinade.
Image above by botanical artist Louise M Smith. See more of her work at Greenstems.com
Garlicky Lamb Kebabs with Fennel Seeds, on Rosemary Skewers
For the marinade:
1 T [10 ml] fennel seeds
1 T [10 ml] coriander seeds
3 cloves fresh garlic, crushed or finely chopped
juice of two fat lemons [save the squeezed-out lemon halves]
1/2 cup [125 ml] olive oil
salt and freshly milled black pepper
For the kebabs:
2 kg lamb, from the leg or shoulder, cut into 2cm x 2cm cubes
6-8 fresh woody rosemary stalks, about 30 cm long
To make the marinade: first dry-roast the seeds. Put the fennel and coriander seeds into a hot, dry frying pan and toss for 30 to 60 seconds, or until they are just beginning to toast and release their scent. Now, using a mortar and pestle [or a flat, heavy knife blade against a chopping board] lightly crush and bash to produce a slightly coarse grind. Put the seeds into a flat shallow dish and add all the remaining marinade ingredients. If you're not using fresh rosemary skewers [see above] , add a tablespoon of fresh or dried rosemary needles. Now tip in the lamb cubes and the squeezed-out lemon halves, toss well to coat, cover with cling film and set aside in a cool place to marinate for two hours, or overnight.
To make the kebabs: strip the leaves off three-quarters of each rosemary stalk, leaving a tuft of leaves at one end. With a good knife, or penknife, strip off the bark of the bare end of each stalk, and sharpen it to a point. Thread the lamb chunks onto the stalks, taking care not to pack them too tightly. Braai, barbecue or grill over a good heat, turning frequently and basting occasionally with the remaining marinade, for about 2o-30 minutes, or until the lamb is browned and sizzling on the outside but ever so faintly pink on the inside. You might be forced to pull off a piece of lamb and taste for yourself.
Excellent with lemon wedges and tzatziki.