TRADITIONAL WELSH FOOD -
BWYD CYMREIG TRADDODIADOL
MODERN WELSH COOKING -
COGINIO CYMREIG CYFOES
A Leg of
Lamb Roasting Drama -
In the Allegheny Foothills
By Ken Thorne, Ninnau Food Editor
this being in the right place at the right time? “We are fond of Welsh food
particularly lamb. You may be interested to know that we put on a lamb roast
every summer at my West Valley, NY farm for the Buffalo St David’s Welsh
Society (BSDWS). It’s a picnic and it is something I look forward to
hosting.” The place and time was the 2004 Buffalo Festival of Wales event and
the voice was that of Dorothy Shaw who with the mere mention of an outdoor lamb
roast riveted my attention.
Woodworth, the Society’s President, told me “Dorothy’s lamb roast is a
wonderful picnic every year and we all look forward to it.” A Society member
for more than twenty years, Dorothy has had the roast for at least fifteen
and Dorothy kindly offered an invitation and a year later, my wife Pat & I
together with friends, David and Janet Williams of
had no difficulty finding the farm, heading north on Rte 219 from Ellicottville
we soon spotted Y Ddraig Goch Welsh Flag at the end of the driveway.
arriving early, we had the thought that if help was needed we were available, if
not, we would entertain ourselves. Dorothy instantly made us feel at home and
not slow to react, would put us to work.
picnic site was on the grassy banks of a small lake stocked with trout that
spent the day gliding leisurely among water lily pads. The surrounding mature
oaks, maples, cherries and pines provided welcome shade on this warm sunny
August afternoon. In such a shady spot, soon wife Pat and Dave and Janet
Williams were shucking corn and setting up the tables. As one who loves outdoor
barbequing, the tending of the Weber grill and Dorothy’s unique “wood fire
in an automobile wheel” naturally fell into my lap.
magic moment was approaching but Dorothy, as if trying to restrain our
heightened anticipation said, “I am eighty five years old and a very casual
chef. The lamb roast is a very easy and casual one, nobody gets excited about
anything and it all comes together. It seems to work even when you think it
couldn’t possibly happen.” I would soon become very aware that Dorothy is a
very young and energetic person for her age and nothing fazes her..
the legs of lamb, Dorothy said, “I buy my legs of lamb fresh from an abattoir
just down the road. The lamb feeds free range in the rolling hills of
she stressed, “I do not trim the legs at all but I do cut crisscross marks
into the fat side without cutting into the meat. I give it a good coating of the
rub before wrapping each leg in multiple layers of Reynolds Heavy Duty Aluminum
Foil®. This is the only foil to use. It is the one for best results and I buy
it as wide as possible. My secret is to generously wrap each leg in many layers
of foil in both directions then crunching the aluminum edges to seal the whole
package well. I wrap at least four complete layers of foil in both directions. I
don’t know what the American Indians did without foil!”
Dorothy said, “This lamb roast is very unsophisticated. All I do now is put
two of the foil wrapped legs on my Weber grill and a third on metal bars above
the wood fire and I don’t worry about the lamb. I just pray a lot!” Having
said that, she indicated she had the confidence that I could successfully turn
and rotate the lamb for the next couple of hours or so. Well, what she did was
immediately shift the act of praying to me! About every half hour or so I
diligently turned and rotated each leg in turn. After about an hour the bone end
seemed to break through the aluminum on all three legs releasing a continuous
but gentle stream of aromatic vapor into the air. Because of the leak I was very
concerned the lamb would dry out but, each time the legs were turned I heard
copious amounts of juice sloshing around inside the package. A perfect day -
what more would anyone want than to be tending roasting lamb while enjoying a
cold beverage and mouth watering cooking aromas!
friend Shirley Loveless from
people arrived, Dorothy said, “I expect about thirty people will come, our
same group just about every year. The three legs will serve the group with as
much as they want to eat and provide generous quantities for anyone wishing to
take some lamb home.”
the latter part of the roasting David Williams and I would look at each other
and from his look I could tell he was also thinking, “Should the lamb be taken
off the heat now?” But we would leave well enough alone and think to
ourselves; Dorothy did say they will take about two hours. Our concern was the
lamb was virtually laid right on the hot coals in the Weber and almost on the
burning logs in the wheel fire. The lamb was being subjected to an intense
amount of heat.
David was worried; frankly, I think we both felt the lamb would be burnt to
the whole group now in attendance, hors d'oeuvres were enjoyed including
Dorothy’s selection of homemade cheeses – plain and three she had blended
with herbs. The cheeses were made from the milk of her three goats. A pet lover,
she also owns two Corgis, Pat and Diva.
the moment had come to slice the lamb, just how would it be? Would
opening the foil reveal a dream or a nightmare? For me, this lamb roast turned
out to be an experience in pretending to act with unconcerned casualness.
Only praying and keeping faith kept me on track!
sliced through the aluminum wrapping releasing an aromatic plume that on
clearing revealed a just beautifully cooked leg of lamb. Given the honor of the
first slice, I found it to be just succulent - very tender and moist. It was a
miracle! Incredibly, the lamb had been immersed in a large pool of delicious
natural juices – also a wonderful serving sauce. It was a ‘dream roast
lamb’ – the layers of tender meat were carved off from well done to medium
to rare allowing everyone a choice of their favored doneness. Amazing!
and Bill Woodworth shared the carving duties and now it was time to eat. In
addition to the lamb, we selected from a serving table just crowded with
members’ luscious side dishes. Soon after we sat down I believe Mel Palmer,
the group’s Secretary was heard to remark, “How quiet it gets when we are
eating.” Janet Williams replied, “It speaks well for the food.” Left-over
fans, Stan and Ethel Morgan Bird of
glorious day was the consequence of a visit that Dorothy, who is not Welsh in
the traditional sense, made to Conwy and
Eich Coes O Gig Oen – Enjoy Your Leg of Lamb!
“Alliff rhywun ddim byw heb fwyd Cymreig da - One cannot live without good Welsh food!”
For Society information - contact Barb Woodworth at 716 481-0711 or email@example.com
Photos by Ken Thorne
Copyright © 2005 Ken Thorne
Dorothy Shaw’s Lamb Roast
As Observed by Ken Thorne, Food Editor, Ninnau
Servings: 30 to 40
3 ea legs of lamb, whole, untrimmed about 12 to 15 lbs each
Rub: 1 cup of salt; 1 Tbsp of rosemary, fresh, finely ground; 4 tsp of pepper, black to taste and 1/4 tsp of ginger, ground. Vary herbs and spices to taste.
Order the lamb making sure the butcher provides an untrimmed whole leg including the butt - the leg should have three joints. Use sufficient charcoal (or other medium) to last two hours or add additional amounts as needed. Light the grills placing the cooking grate on the lowest setting. Make crisscross cuts into the fat without cutting into the meat. Make the rub by mixing all the dry ingredients. Divide into 3 portions then thoroughly coat each leg.
Make a note of which is the fat side of the leg. Using wide Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil, wrap each leg crossways at least four times and seal. Turn the leg 90 degrees and wrap vertically at least four times and seal. Place the legs on the hot grill with the fat side down. The fat quickly melts providing an immediate moist environment for the lamb as it roasts in its natural juices and oils. With elbow length oven mutts carefully rotate and turn the legs over after three quarters of an hour and then a half hour between future turns. The bone at the bottom end of the leg may burn through the aluminum which is normal but be careful of any steam.
After about two hours remove the lamb from the grills and allow them to rest for 15 minutes or so. In turn, carefully open the top side of the foil on one leg. Remove the leg to a carving board reserving the juices in a saucepan. Reserve the aluminum foil. Carve the leg while keeping the juices warm. Should some portion of the meat near the bone appear under cooked, rewrap in the reserved foil adding some reserved juice and return to the grill for 15 to 20 minutes. In the meantime, open and start to carve the second leg and so on. Serve the lamb slices with the warm lamb’s natural juices and Shirley’s Mint Sauce.
Shirley’s Mint Sauce
Take 1 cup of vinegar, 2/3 cup of chopped mint (spearmint) with 3 to 4 tablespoons of sugar (or to taste). Bring to the boil, let stand to cool and serve. Shirley says, “Tastes even better if served the next day or the next week! The mint sauce recipe is the traditional Welsh one that has been in the family for a very long time. I learnt the recipe from my mother some sixty years ago and she had been making it all her life.”
Lessons in Carving a Leg of Lamb!
Copyright © 2005 by Dorothy Shaw, Shirley Loveless and Ken Thorne.