Sarah and I both lived in Brisbane when we were undergraduates, but despite having friends in common we never met. But we must have passed one another on the street during all those years because when we talk about Brisbane we tell the same stories: of living in old Queenslanders that creaked in the heat, bats dropping mangos from the sky, and the lemon potatoes from Lefkas Greek Tavern at the top of Hardgrave Road in West End. Separately – we both always went there to order take away lemon potatoes which we would eat straight from the box out the front of the restaurant, not even waiting to get them home. I’ve been dreaming of recreating those potatoes since leaving Brisbane and this comes very close.
This recipe for lemony lamb (Arni Lemonato) has been passed from friend to friend – Michelle made it for a winter wedding feast this time last year, but it’s only this month that Sarah and I have been making it for ourselves. The lamb cooks for two and a half hours on the stove top in lemon juice and fresh oregano until succulent and you can pull it apart with your fingers. The potatoes added in the last hour are infused with the lemon flavour. We served the lamb with sautéed rainbow chard for opposing freshness and colour and ate hot lemon potatoes to remind us of Brisbane on a grey Melbourne afternoon.
Adapted from Raw Materials, by Meryl Constance
1kg boned leg of lamb, (ask the butcher to bone it for you)
2/3 cup lemon juice
2 tbsp fresh oregano
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1kg small new potatoes
salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
This recipe also works well with lamb shanks, breast or best end of neck. If you do use these fattier meats make the dish a day ahead, refrigerate it and remove the fat that coagulates on top. If anything the dish gains added depth of flavour when made ahead and reheated.
Trim skin and all excess fat from a boned shoulder or leg of lamb. Open out the meat and rub both inside and outside surfaces with some of the lemon juice and sprinkle with salt and pepper. On the inside surface of the meat, sprinkle a tablespoon of fresh oregano. Roll the meat up and tie securely with twine. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pot large enough to take the roll comfortably and brown the meat on all sides. Turn the heat down to low and add the rest of the lemon juice, the garlic, and the remaining oregano. Cover the pot and simmer very gently, turning occasionally, for about 2 and a half hours till very tender. Add small new potatoes to the pot about an hour before serving. To serve, remove the string and slice the meat into the centre of a heated serving platter. Surround with potatoes and pour lemony juices over the meat.