Darren Robertson We Love Our Lamb Interview

Darren Robertson We Love Our Lamb Interview

We Love Our Lamb

Summer is here and Australians love nothing more than getting together over a lamb barbecue or tucking into a spiced lamb salad. No matter your guests' background or culture, lamb is the one meat that can bring everyone to the table.

To help Aussies celebrate summer together, whether it's with an impromptu gathering or a planned feast, We Love Our Lamb has teamed up with top chef Darren Robertson, from Three Blue Ducks and Rocker, to create two delicious and flavoursome lamb recipes that are easy to make and perfect to share.

Featuring fresh and colourful lamb chops and spicy butterflied lamb leg, these barbecue recipes are sure to impress your guests and leave you with plenty of time to enjoy their company.

Darren Robertson said, 'One of my favourite things to do in summer is to get friends and family around for a barbecue. Wanting to spend time with them rather then slaving over a hot stove, or barbeque, has led to me to create these simple and tasty dishes that everyone will love.

'From topping your lamb chops with a fresh salsa verde, to teaming a leg of lamb with a summery salad, these twists on the usual barbecue classics will keep your guests coming back for more."

Harissa Butterflied Lamb Leg, Smoked Eggplant and Watermelon Radish Salad

Simple and tasty, a fresh twist on the traditional leg of lamb and perfect for a barbecue with mates.

Preparation: 40 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4-6

1 x 1.5kg leg of lamb (butterflied)
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp Aleppo pepper
1 1/2 large red chilies
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 bunch coriander stalks
1 pinch pepper corns
6 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar

Smoked eggplant yogurt
100g plain yogurt
1 small eggplant
1 pinch sumac

Watermelon radish salad
200g piece of watermelon, peeled
1 lime
1 handful of picked coriander leaves
1 handful of picked mint leaves
1 Lebanese cucumber, peeled
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large red chilli, sliced
8 baby red radishes, washed
1 vine of tomatoes
1 small red onion, finely sliced
1 pinch grated garlic
Salt and pepper

For the smoked eggplant yoghurt, preheat the barbecue to 200°C and cook the eggplant for 5 -10 minutes on the chargrill or naked flame until charred. Leave to cool then peel away half the skin and discard. Blitz the eggplant with the yogurt and season with sumac.
For the butterflied lamb leg, roast the spices then blend to a powder. Grind the chili, garlic, coriander stalks and mix in the olive oil, vinegar and spices. Marinade the lamb in half of the paste, ideally over night in the fridge, or for at least a couple of hours.
When the barbecue is preheated to 200°C, season the lamb with salt and place in the centre of the barbecue, skin side up. Barbecue with the hood down for 20 minutes, turning and basting with the remaining harrisa paste regularly. Once cooked, leave to rest for 20 minutes then carve.
For the watermelon radish salad, wash the radishes and cut them into quarters. Peel and dice the cucumber. Remove the eye from the tomatoes and roughly dice.
Very thinly slice the chilli, dice the watermelon and mix all the ingredients into a good size bowl, seasoning with a little salt, pepper, lime juice, garlic and olive oil. Add the herbs and red onion. Toss and serve.

Cooking tips
If you are barbecuing with the hood up, cook the lamb leg for 40 minutes and remember to turn and baste the remainder of the harrisa paste regularly so that the leg does not dry out.
The time taken to rest will depend on its size of the meat; a butterflied lamb leg is best rested for 10 to 20 minutes before carving. A rule of thumb used by some chefs is 1 minute resting time for every 100g of meat.

Lamb Loin Chops, Charred Shallot Salsa Verde and Zucchini, Fennel, Apple and Almond Salad

These quick and easy lamb chops are full of flavour and perfect to entertain friend.

Preparation: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4-6

8 x 100g lamb loin chops
Salt and pepper
1 tsp ground fennel seeds and cumin

Charred shallot salsa verde
6 shallots
A pinch of grated garlic
Juice and zest of half a lemon
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp capers chopped
2 tsp gherkins chopped
2 tsp Dijon mustard
6 tbsp olive oil
2 handfuls of picked flat parsley to be chopped
1 handful of picked basil to be chopped
1 handful of picked mint to be chopped
Salt and pepper

Zucchini, fennel, apple and almond salad
1 green apple
1 zucchini, shaved
2 tbsp whole roasted almonds
1 small head of fennel, thinly sliced
2 sliced shallots
20g Parmesan
1 lime
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt, pepper

Season the lamb chops with salt, pepper and spices. Next season the shallots with salt, pepper and a little oil.
For the charred shallot salsa verde, chargrill the shallots for 2-3 minutes then set aside. Put aside 3 of the shallots, along with a little handful of the herbs to garnish.
Chop the rest of the shallots and add to a blender with all the other salsa verde ingredients. Blend to a coarse green sauce then season with salt and pepper.
For the lamb chops, preheat the barbecue to 200°C. Place the lamb cutlets in the centre of the barbecue. Chargrill the lamb chops for 2-3 minutes each side, until cooked pink. Rest the lamb for 3-4 minutes before serving.
For the zucchini, fennel, apple and almond salad, cut the apple into matchsticks and to a bowl. Add the shaved zucchini, throw in the shallot, almonds and fennel. Season with lime juice, salt and pepper. Place in a serving bowl and grate Parmesan over the top.
Serve the lamb chops on a sharing dish garnished with the whole shallots and herbs, serve the charred shallot salsa verde on the side.

Cooking tips
To test for the doneness of the lamb you can use the -touch test' method. Press the outside centre of the meat lightly with tongs. If it feels soft, it's on the rare side; if it feels springy, it's medium. Any firmer to touch and its on its way to being well done.
Resting the meat will mean you lose less juice when you cut it, meaning the meat will be juicier and tastier. Chops should stand for about 5 minutes (at least 3) before serving.

Interview with Darren Robertson, Chef of Three Blue Ducks and Rocker

Question: Why do you love lamb?

Darren Robertson: Lamb tastes delicious and can be used in loads of different dishes and cuisines; it's perfect for any occasion. Whether you're grilling chops or cooking butterflied lamb leg on the barbecue, there's lots of simple and fast ways to cook with lamb. If you are cooking with a larger lamb cut, cook with the barbecue hood down to cut your cooking time in half.

Question: How do you find new ways to create lamb dishes?

Darren Robertson: Lamb is great with a variety of flavour combinations. I'm constantly inspired by the vast amount of different cuisines and Asian flavour influences in Australia. Coming up with new lamb dishes is always a joy and I'll test them out on the barbecue to keep things simple.

Question: What ingredients pair best with Lamb?

Darren Robertson: Luckily lamb can take on some robust flavours without losing its delicious taste so pairs well with lots of different herbs and spices. It's all about balancing flavours and experimenting with new combinations. A Moroccan inspired spicy marinade for your lamb served with a fresh watermelon or pomegranate is a delicious combination for summer.

Question: Can you tell us about the recipes you created for We Love Our Lamb?

Darren Robertson: The recipes I've created for We Love Our Lamb are all about cracking out the barbecue and enjoying lamb with friends and family this summer. The dishes are fresh, simply to prepare and perfect to share amongst a hungry crowd.

The first dish is barbecued lamb loin chops with a fresh charred shallot salsa verde and zucchini, fennel, apple and almond salad – perfect for impressing your mates.

The second is a spicy Harissa butterflied lamb leg, which is cooked on the barbecue in just 20 minutes with the hood down. I've paired this with a smoked eggplant and watermelon radish salad for a delicious, fresh summer meal. It's easy to prepare at home or you can head to Rocker in Bondi where this dish will be on the menu from 15th of January.

Question: What are your top tips for cooking the perfect lamb, this Summer?

Darren Robertson: Lamb is full of flavour and tastes delicious simply cooked with a little salt and lemon. If you're marinating your lamb, try to marinade over night for maximum flavour. If you're feeling adventurous try my spiced harissa rub that works perfectly with any cut of lamb.

Barbecue season in the UK is limited to say the least. Make the most of the long Aussie summer days and get barbequing outside. Super quick and easy, barbequing is ideal for chops, cutlets, steaks, burgers or rissoles. You can also cook bigger lamb cuts like ribs, butterflied leg or a mini roast on the barbecue, just pop the hood down to cut cooking time in half.

Leg of lamb isn't just for winter. Ask your butcher to butterfly lamb leg for a quick summer option. Whether you roast on the barbecue with the hood down or in the oven, it's delicious sliced up in salads and perfect for sharing as part of a big spread enjoyed with friends and family.

If you're stuck on ideas for your lamb, embrace the classics. Rosemary, preserved lemon, thyme and garlic are the classic go-to flavours for lamb. A slow cooked lamb shoulder with garlic cloves, salt, lemon, mustard and herbs is tough to beat and is an sure fire winner.

Chat to your local butcher and get to know how to cook your favorite lamb cuts because they all have their own particular qualities. Leg and shoulder for instance benefit from slow cooking, whereas chops and cutlets are perfect for the barbeque and will cook in a couple of minutes. Or do your research with apps like the MeatCuts app, designed to guide you in making the right decisions.

I love using lamb bones - and you should too! Keep your leftover lamb bones and freeze them for when the weather gets a bit colder. Full of flavour and nutrients they are perfect in soups, risottos and sauces. When making a lamb stock add a little lemon juice which will assist in breaking down the bones to extract even more of that delicious lamb flavour.

Interview by Brooke Hunter