"When designing dishes or looking for inspiration, it is most helpful to look at the natural environment of the main ingredient. More often than not it is nature that will suggest the best partner. Is it mere coincidence that the classic pairing of tomato and basil are also friends in the garden? In companion planting, basil is used as a natural pest-repellent to protect the ripening tomato. In the garden of the ocean, fish and seaweed are synonymous. If there is any better accompaniment for white-fleshed fish than seaweed butter I'm yet to find it. So it is with lamb. I imagined the wee beast frolicking in the sun with zephyrs rushing through the spring grass and little white heads of chamomile nodding in agreement. Gee, they taste good together. " ~ Mark Best.
1.2 kg (2 lb 10 oz) suckling lamb leg (long leg, rump on)
2 tsp sea salt
1 garlic bulb, cloves separated and peeled
50 ml (1 3/4 fl oz) olive oil
50 g (1 3/4 oz) best-quality chamomile tea
2 onions, roots removed, cut into quarters
Splash of white wine for deglazing
Small bunch of fresh chamomile
Remove the lamb from the refrigerator 1 hour before preparation to allow more even cooking. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).
Evenly score the skin of the lamb to a depth of 5 mm ( 1/4 in) and rub the salt all over the meat.
In a food processor, blend the garlic and olive oil into a paste, then rub this all over the lamb. Sprinkle over the chamomile tea leaves.
Heat a heavy roasting tin in the oven until hot.
Put the lamb and onion in the tin and cook for 1 1/2 hours (25–30 minutes per 500 g/1 lb 2 oz), basting the meat with its fat from time to time. Cook the lamb to your preferred temperature (I prefer medium 65–70C/149–158F for the best flavour and texture). Remove the meat from the oven to rest for 20–30 minutes prior to serving.
Tip off some of the fat and deglaze the tin with a splash of white wine. Reduce the wine to nothing then add a little water. Bring to the boil, scraping the pan with a wooden spoon to make a jus and pour it over the sliced lamb to serve.
Garnish with the fresh chamomile flowers and carve the lamb at the table.
Credits: This is an edited extract from Best Kitchen Basics by Mark Best published by Hardie Grant Books RRP 59.95 and is available in stores nationally.
Photo Credits: Photography by Petrina Tinslay. This is an edited extract from Best Kitchen Basics by Mark Best published by Hardie Grant Books RRP 59.95 and is available in stores nationally.