‘Pairing is Caring’
On an easy Sunday Morning, as I gently awake to the birds chirping which has become the norm during this lockdown, I smile. I don’t really wonder about my smile because the gift of life has become more precious to me than anything else before I proceed with whatever else.
As I express my gratitude for the day, I have had to get used to asking myself, “what’s for dinner?” And if I don’t think about in my morning/afternoon, there will no dinner considering the fact that I do not have that luxury of just ordering in or pulling into a restaurant like we used to in the old world.
Today, I dreamt I was lost in the Karoo and when I discovered my way out, Karoo Lamb was oozing out of my system right after my over-indulgence.
Despite the fact that I am not a meat-lover, with the lack of sufficient iron in my system, I have had to embrace the reds in meat with lamb being the boldest of the reds so far. The first time I had lamb in South Africa, my palate sung praises. These days, I get to savour it at least once a week if nothing else.
The Karoo is a very dry semi-desert area in South Africa, located in the central and western part of the country encompassing nearly 40% of South Africa with an annual rainfall between 50 – 250 mm. The name “Karoo” is derived from the Khoisan language, meaning “place of thirst”. with the main vegetation of the Karoo landscape consisting of smaller bushes, shrubs, aloes and succulents that survive with low water. The Karoo sheep mainly feed on this indigenous flora, which is nutritious as well as palatable to the sheep. These shrubs have a very herby aroma, varying from rosemary, thyme, sage, eucalyptus and lavender.
Can you imagine what happens when you allow the rich flavour of Karoo lamb to embrace the fire and smoke on your grill birthing a sensory explosion like no other? The grilling process accentuates the flavour of lamb and sheds off extra fat keeping this baby moist and juicy; ready to be devoured.
Generally, I normally start my grilling process by marinating my lamb steaks with a couple of ingredients depending on how I feel.
· 4 large fresh garlic – crushed cloves
· Fresh ginger – crushed 2 tbs or based on your preference.
· Fresh masala paste
· ¼ tea spoon mint jelly
· A few thyme or rosemary leaves
· A few coriander leaves
· Pinch sea salt
· 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
· Lamb steaks, about 2-inches thick
The next step is to mix up all ingredients and let the lamb marinate in the fridge for about an hour or two depending on how much time I have. Quite frankly, I rarely marinate because more often than not, I only think about what to prepare for dinner just around the same time I need to prepare it.
While the lamb is marinating, it’s time to prepare your chargrill.
Light the charcoal and allow the flames to burn out to achieve consistent heat by keeping the briquets close together. This helps the fire spread from coal to coal easily so they are ready to use faster and by this time, the coals should be evenly spread on the base of the grill.
Once it’s almost smoking, throw in your lamb steak onto the grill and keep turning every 6 minutes (use your discretion) depending on the intensity of your fire as it goes up and down randomly. To get pretty pronounced grill lines on the meat, try to limit the amount of turning and flipping especially when the steak is still red. Generally, I let my grill process go for about 10 – 20 minutes depending on how thick the steak is and how high the fire is until it feels good to pull out.
Pairing works well if your palate can discern flavour quite well. a good pairing is also dependant on the flavour of your lamb based on your marinade and your style of cooking. For example, if you cook lamb shank in a red wine sauce, a full-bodied wine with earthy and peppery flavours like a Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec could compliment it quite well, whereas a Shiraz, Chianti or Cabernet Sauvignon could pair well with lamb chops.
If it’s hot spicy and smoky with a hint of sweet from the mint jelly like my lamb steaks today, you may enjoy this with a Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz or Pinotage. Generally, I prefer my lamb with a bold Cabernet Sauvignon, however today I have paired it with my very own Pinotage (Liz Ogumbo, Mon Homme) for a change.
Feel free to experiment through your own unique experiences and share any interesting discoveries; the more, the merrier.
My lamb is served with a fresh Asian-inspired salad and couscous paired with ‘Mon Homme.’ However, feel free to pair with whatever ‘red’ sits well on your palate and allow me stop here so I can to get ready to savour every flavour of this smoky, succulent Karoo lamb.