The first holiday that we ever took our son on was a camping holiday. We went out into the bush, slept in tents and cooked over wood fires. And now that’s all we hear about.
“Daddy, don’t go to work. Let’s go camping.”
“Daddy, today is camping day.”
Last weekend he started on about camping again and I had a devilishly good idea: what if I could simulate camping in the back yard? A friend had given me a fire pit, and my Mum had given us a camp oven so it seemed only logical to put the two together. And roast some marshmallows of course!I decided that we’d have a roast leg of lamb with veggies. The ingredients are common, cheap and simple. And with just a few simple seasoning tricks taste absolutely sensational.
Almost all of the ingredients are in the picture above. You just need a leg of lamb, brown onions, carrots, potatoes, pumpkin and fresh garlic and rosemary. The only other things you need are some extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Before you start to prep your food, you’ll need to prep your charcoal. I like to put my fire pit on top of an old pallet to protect the grass underneath from being burnt off. (Remember to always keep a garden hose or a fire extinguisher handy!) Use a couple of paraffin fire lighters under a ‘charcoal chimney’. After some 25 to 40 minutes the charcoal will be white all over. That’s when you know the charcoal is ready to go. In the meantime…Take a small sharp knife and pierce the lamb leg in a cross-hatch about 2 centimetres by 2 centimetres. In each hole, slide in a slice of fresh garlic and a sprig of rosemary. Once you have finished with all the garlic and rosemary, pour some extra virgin olive oil over the lamb leg, pat it with your hands to make sure it’s an even coverage and season it with salt and pepper.
Make sure to oil your camp oven: pour in a little extra virgin olive oil and wipe it around with a piece of paper towel. Oil a trivet and put that in the bottom or you’ll end up with food blackened and stuck to your camp oven. Then cube your brown onions and spread the pieces around the bottom of the camp oven and place your lamb on top. The onions will serve to keep the lamb elevated off the heat source to ensure more even cooking and will also provide moisture as they cook which will help prevent your lamb from drying out. Then simply throw in your cubed potatoes, carrots, and pumpkin. It doesn’t matter if the food almost touches the underside of the lid: it will drop down as everything cooks.
By the time you’ve prepared your food the charcoal should be ready. My particular fire pit is a large ceramic bowl which can make airflow difficult when a large camp oven is put in the top. To get around this, I like to put in two bricks. The kind with the holes in them work best. I put them on their edges so the holes are parallel to the ground. Put some charcoal between the bricks and all around the outside. Sit your camp oven on the bricks and put some more coals on top. Then sit back and enjoy the fire, the smells, and of course, some roasted marshmallows!
After 90 minutes, check your roast. Remember: a camp oven is made of cast iron and will be equally as hot as the coals that you’ve had on there. You’ll need a good set of BBQ gloves or better yet a proper lid handle to remove the lid.
The best way to check the temperature is with a digital meat thermometre. You want to aim for a temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit or 70 degrees Celsius for medium when you’re cooking a roast lamb. If you don’t have a thermometre, slide a skewer in nice and deep. If the juices run out clear, it’s good to go.
To plate it up, simply carve the meat into slices and spoon up some vegetables. I like to serve my lamb with a side of Mint Jelly. It really compliments the garlic, rosemary and the richness of the roast lamb. Gently spread if over your meat, and enjoy.
So there you have it folks, a traditional, hearty family meal that you can cook anywhere in the bush… or even in the backyard in the middle of suburbia!
What are some fun things you like to get up to in the back yard? Let me know in the comments below.