Klephtic Lamb

Kuzu Çevirmesi

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

Appears in

Yashim Cooks Istanbul

Yashim Cooks Istanbul

By Jason Goodwin

Published 2016

  • About

A whole lamb, rubbed with mountain herbs, spiked with garlic and cooked by lowering it slowly through the day into a fire pit, is something I like to imagine, read and even write about. In Turkey it is known as tandir kebab, and I know how it should taste–melting off the bone, slightly smoky, conjuring up memories of stepping on short meadow grass on a hot day, of scrambling over rocky scrub, and swimming in the Aegean. Best of all, the carcase is shaken over a dish to let the meat slip from the bone, with a stuffing made from currants, nuts, onions and herbs mixed with rice.The past masters at this were the klephts, Greek mountaineers and villagers who had turned bandit. The sheep was rustled, and the pit hid the smoke issuing from their mountain lairs. If you have space, and no need to hide the smoke, you can cook a whole or half lamb by a fire in about seven hours.

Ingredients

  • whole lamb
  • white wine a bottle
  • water 4⅛ pints
  • salt 500 g/1 lb
  • garlic 2 heads, peeled
  • olive oil
  • cumin seeds 1 tbsp
  • pul biber 1 tbsp
  • juice of two lemons
  • chilli 2
  • rosemary, oregano/marjoram,
  • mint, thyme bunches

Method

  • Fix the beast to a stout cross-shaped frame, using strong wire. Hazel makes a good frame: mine is a steel clothes rail. Rig up some means of support, so that you can prop the lamb at an angle to face the fire.
  • Get in a good supply of clean wood and build the fire an hour or two before you begin cooking.
  • Prepare a briny marinade by mixing wine and water, salt, lemon juice, crushed garlic cloves, bruised chillis and herbs. The choice of aromatics is up to you. This is the basting liquor, with which you will repeatedly anoint the meat to prevent it drying out too fast. You can splash it on the meat from a jug using a rosemary twig, if you like, but a plastic bottle with a hole punched in the lid is also useful for squirting the basting juice upwards. Brush some of the liquor over the meat on all sides to begin with.
  • When the fire is hot you should just be able to hold your hand to it, about two feet away, for ten seconds. This is just where you want your lamb to be over the next six hours. Lower the frame onto its support(s) and work it into position. Dig holes in the ground to anchor the feet of the frame if you need to. You are roasting at the fire, not over it, so don’t lower the frame too far.
  • Keep the fire reasonably lively throughout the process: as the logs burn and the embers build up the heat will increase, so you should need to feed it less as time goes on.
  • Begin with the underside of the lamb, and turn it after a few hours, for another two hours, before finishing it off in its original position. Children, dogs and other men present are sure to take an interest in the entire process, for which wine and music are the natural accompaniments.
  • A whole lamb feeds 30-40 people.