Traditionally, South African Sunday lunch with family means a succulent lamb shoulder roast. Of course, this means you need all the trimmings, too. We’re talking about sumptuous roast potatoes and onions, fresh green beans or peas, and gem squash halves. What could be better than skaapboud and an excellent glass of red wine? Quite simply, it’s the recipe for the perfect Sunday afternoon – and you have one of those coming up, don’t you? This is the kind of Sunday where the kids run about in the garden and Oupa snoozes in front of the tv.
Those lazy Sunday afternoons are heavenly, and we’ve all experienced them in various ways. Time just seems to stand still, and the things that matter are discussed amongst our friends and loved ones. That’s what excellent food or should we say South African food does; it makes us slow down and smell the proverbial roses, or lamb roast, should we say!
South African lamb
History of the South African lamb
If we go further back to the days even before Jan Van Riebeck landed in the Cape, we see how lamb became a part of our South African food heritage. The first sheep to arrive in Africa came from Southern and Central Asia. They are said to have migrated from Egypt and then down to Africa. These were the sheep the Dutch saw when they arrived; they looked very different from the snowy white creatures of today. They were big with large tails and were covered with hair rather than wool.
These sheep were kept in herds by the locals at the time. The Dutch would barter with the locals for sheep to feed the crews of passing ships and the new colony they had set up. Payment for a whole sheep in those days could be made with a length of copper wire, beads, or plugs of tobacco. Over time the Dutch eventually brought in sheep from Holland which they then crossed with the sturdier variety found in South Africa, resulting in South African lamb. So, when you sit down to your Sunday roast, that’s a little bit of history on your plate!
When is lamb not lamb?
Have you ever wondered when a lamb is considered to be lamb for the table? So often, butcheries advertise spring lamb, lamb, mutton, and yearling mutton, but what’s the difference? Surely, it’s all the same thing? Not so friends, in the meat industry, lamb is sold at different ages because age can determine the taste and tenderness of the meat. Use the below list to buy your lamb the next time you pop to the butchers.
- Baby lamb 6 – 10 weeks
- Spring Lamb 5 – 6 months old
- Mutton 1-year-old
- Yearling Mutton 12 – 20 months old
The most common variety of lamb found in butchery shops and supermarkets today is spring lamb and mutton. Spring lamb is the most expensive due to its tenderness and flavour and is often used for roasting. While mutton being older and tougher, is less expensive and used in stews and casseroles.
South African lamb recipe
As with all South African food, there is always that one recipe that’s said to be the best. The one recipe that supersedes the rest and the South African Lamb recipe is no exception. Each South African family has their own version of the traditional South African Lamb recipe. This is no surprise, as often the recipes we use have been passed down from Ouma to daughter and daughter-in-law through the ages. Well, maybe not always to the in-laws!
Check out this traditional South African recipe for delicious-tasting lamb shoulder roast below.
What you need:
- 2kg Lamb Shoulder (bone-in)
- 2 large onions peeled and sliced in quarters
- 375ml water
- 5 medium potatoes peeled and sliced in half
- Salt and pepper to season
- Large casserole dish with lid
What to do:
- Preheat the oven to 180 C (fan oven)
- Pour the water into a deep casserole dish
- Place the onions and potatoes into the casserole dish
- Place the lamb shoulder on top of the onions and potatoes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Place the casserole lid on and put the lamb into the preheated oven.
- Bake for one and half hours, remove the lid, turn the lamb over; season with salt and pepper.
- Continue to bake the lamb with the lid on for an additional one and a half hours
- Remove the lid from the casserole dish and bake for fifteen minutes on either side. This will reduce the liquid in the casserole dish and brown the lamb until golden and crispy.
Serve with the usual lamb trimmings such as fine green beans, carrots, or peas; you already have the roast potatoes. Another fantastic side serving to have with lamb is roast butternut. Simply slice the butternut into quarters, leaving the skin on, remove the seeds, drizzle with olive oil, and pop into the oven about half an hour before the lamb is finished cooking. Alternatively, swap all the hot veg for crispy green salads, perfect for those hot South African weekends!
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