Harvest festivals are held around the world. Whether it is Holi in India or Olivigando in Magione, Italy, or Thanksgiving in Canada, people gather to celebrate.
I was invited to a celebration with friends where their daughter, Sarah Coutts, my namesake and a passionate foodie, planned the feast.
Rather than opt for the traditional, she ordered a half lamb from the local butcher and barbecued it low and slow as a centrepiece of the day.
Side dishes need not to be complicated. These recipes can be prepared in advance so no one spends her feast day in the kitchen.
Whole lamb is roasted in a number of ways. In Argentina, it is splayed with sticks and suspended over hot coals and seasoned only with salt and smoke. Pit baking is another option. Coutts used a smoker. The smoker was large enough that the hot coals could be pushed aside and the lamb cooked by indirect heat with the lid down.
Low, Slow Barbecue Lamb
Using cured wood, build a fire in the smoker and let it burn down, making a thick bed of hot coals. Push coals to one side and continue to add wood as required to keep heat for about four hours. Rub lamb on all sides with seasonings.
Place lamb on the grill with no hot coals under it. Close the lid. Cook for about four hours or until done and a nice bark or crispy exterior has formed on the meat. Serve with mint pesto on the side.
A half lamb is approximately 10 kilograms (22 lb) and will feed about 30 people. Because the thickness of the carcass varies, the doneness level also varies and everyone at the feast will find what he or she likes. With the low and slow cooking, the meat is tender regardless of cut.
Seasoning rubs for lamb can be as simple as kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. A Greek style rub is made with equal parts dried oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Lemon zest, sea salt and fresh or dried rosemary are a popular combination.
Another option is to infuse olive oil with the flavours of lemon zest and herbs like rosemary or oregano and garlic and use as a rub.
Potato and Green Bean Salad
- 1/4 c. olive oil 60 mL
- 4 tsp. tarragon vinegar 20 mL
- 4 tsp. whole grain mustard 20 mL
- 2 tsp. chopped tarragon 10 mL
- thinly sliced red onion
- boiled baby potatoes
- steamed green beans
Whisk first four ingredients together. In another bowl, slice potatoes into halves or quarters. Add beans and red onion. Add dressing, toss and serve.
- 1 eggplant, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
- 1 sweet onion such as Walla Walla or Bermuda, quartered
- 12 baby tomatoes
- 4 kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
- 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar 45 mL
- 2 tbsp. olive oil 30 mL
- 1 tbsp. capers, rinsed 15 mL
- 1 tbsp. golden raisins
- 2 tsp. sugar 5 mL
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground 3 mL
- black pepper
- Preheat grill. Place onions and tomatoes on skewers and brush with olive oil. Brush eggplant with oil. On hot grill, cook eggplant and tomatoes for about five minutes and onions for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from grill. Place a small amount of olive oil in a large saucepan. Add tomatoes, eggplant, onions, red wine vinegar, capers, raisins, olives, sugar and pepper. Toss well. Cook for 10 minutes over low heat and let cool. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
- 1 c. packed fresh mint 250 mL
- 1/2 c. packed fresh 125 mL
- cilantro leaves
- 2 tbsp. pine nuts 30 mL
- 2 tbsp. freshly grated 30 mL
- Parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice 15 mL
- 1 medium garlic clove, peeled
- 1/2 tsp. coarse kosher salt 3 mL
- 1/2 c. or more extra-virgin 125 mL
- olive oil
- Place all ingredients into a food processor and puree until smooth. Serve. Can be refrigerated for up to four weeks in covered container.
Greek Potatoes with Lemon Vinaigrette
- Although this recipe calls for russet potatoes, I have great success with red potatoes.
- 1 1/2 c. olive oil 375 mL
- 5 tbsp. fresh lemon juice 75 mL
- 2 tbsp. chopped shallots 30 mL
- 2 tbsp. chopped fresh 30 mL oregano or 1 tbsp. 15 mL
- dried oregano
- 1 tbsp. chopped fresh 15 mL Italian parsley
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 lbs. large russet 1.5 kg
- potatoes, peeled, cut into six wedges lengthwise
- 1/2 c. chicken stock 125 mL
- or canned low-salt chicken broth
- Preheat oven to 425 F (220 C). Whisk olive oil, lemon juice, shallots, oregano, parsley and garlic in bowl to blend. Season with salt and pepper.
- Toss potatoes with 1/2 cup (125 mL) vinaigrette on heavy large rimmed baking sheet. Reserve remaining vinaigrette for serving. Pour chicken stock around potatoes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Roast until tender and golden brown, turning occasionally, about 45 minutes. Cool completely. These can be prepared three hours ahead. Let stand on baking sheet at room temperature.
- To reheat, preheat oven to 425 F (220 C). Warm potatoes until crisp, about 15 minutes. Drizzle with re-served lemon vinaigrette and serve.
Pumpkin Cheesecake with Triple Ginger Crust
- 6 tbsp. melted butter 60 mL
- 1 1/2 c. graham crumbs 375 mL
- 2 tbsp. finely chopped 30 mL
- crystallized ginger
- 1 tbsp. finely chopped 15 mL
- fresh ginger
- 1/2 tsp. ground ginger 3 mL
- 8 oz. cream cheese 225 gm
- 2/3 c. mascarpone cheese 80 mL
- 1/4 c. brown sugar 60 mL
- 1/2 c. pumpkin puree 125 mL
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract 5 mL
- 1.4 tsp. ground ginger 1 mL
- pinch ground nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).
For the crust, place all ingredients into a food processor and process until finely ground. Press three tablespoons (45 mL) into each jar.
For the filling, beat all the ingredients in a food processor or with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Pour a generous 1/4 cup (60 mL) filling over crusts. Bake for about 20 minutes or until cheesecakes are firm.
Cool and serve. Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream and a piece of crystallized ginger or pumpkin seed brittle.
Makes eight 250 mL jars or one nine-inch (24 cm) cake. Bake a nine-inch cheesecake for about 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in filling comes out clean.