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Roasting an animal

Look, there’s something I don’t understand – why does everyone seem to assume that cooking a roast is such a hard thing to achieve? As a vegetarian, it’s not a meal I’m aiming to consume anytime soon, but it seems to have become something of a specialty in my cooking abilities. I cook a mean lamb roast, apparently. It’s really not that hard, and if I can do it without having eaten one for close to 15 years, you can too.

You will need:

  • A piece of meat. This can be lamb, beef, pork or any number of different game animals. If you buy it from a supermarket, you’re an idiot, but we’ll look past that for now – just make sure it’s already been trimmed and cut for roasting. Better yet, go to a butcher and buy an organic leg of lamb. Tell the butcher what you plan to do with it, and they’ll advise on the best cut to use.
  • A large roasting dish. Cast iron is best – one of those gigantic black metal square ones that everyone’s grandmother owns is best.
  • One or two vegetables to sit your roast on. For lamb, use onion. For pork, use onion and apple. For beef, use potato.
  • Oil. Ideally a good olive oil, but failing that, canola will do.
  • Garlic. Lots of it.
  • Herbs. For lamb, rosemary. For pork, nothing. For beef, thyme.
  • Cooking string.

First up, truss your meat. If you’ve done the stupid thing and bought from Coles, it’s likely that your meat will already be tied up ready for roast. If not, do it yourself. Try to wrap the meat around the bone and pull it all together into a tight roll. Tie it up with the string.

Next, make a marinade. That’s just a fancy word for ‘wet thing that soaks into the meat’. So get your herbs, crush them with a mortal and pestle, mix with oil and then spend a good few minutes massaging them into the meat. Get your fingers right in there and give it a good massage. Remember, meat is actually muscle, and the more you rub it in, the deeper the flavour. If you’re cooking lamb, make a few small incisions in the top layer and slide in some slivers of garlic. They’ll liquify as they cook and soak into the surrounding meat. If it’s pork, do the same with slices of apple. Once you’ve got it all in there, cover the meat with cling wrap and leave on the bench to sit for about half an hour. Don’t put it in the fridge, but obviously also don’t leave it in the sun in summer. Use this time to prepare your accompanying vegetables.

Preheat the oven to 220c fan-forced. Cut up your chosen vegetable into three large slices and place the roast on top. This lifts the meat up out of its own cooking juices and fat. Stick it in the oven for about 30 minutes and then lower the heat a bit – about 180c is good. Now go away for a few hours. Check on it every now and then to make sure it’s not drying out. If it does, you can attempt to spoon some of the juices back onto the meat, or just re-douse with oil.

Now comes the bit everyone seems to mess up: choosing when to take it out. Basically, you need to get it out of the oven BEFORE you think it’s finished. Since I’m the vegetarian who’s not going to actually eat the meat, it’s something I’ve always been quite good at judging; I don’t care if my guests get salmonella, it’s their own fault for eating the meat. After it’s been in there a few hours and you think it might be close, get a sharp knife and make a substantial cut into the meat. Peer inside, and if you see a few centimetres of cooked meat – but with bloody meat in the middle – you’re ready. If it’s actually bleeding blood, it needs a bit longer. If there’s no red, you’ve fucked it up and should go order takeaway.

Take out the meat, cover with aluminium foil, and allow to sit on the bench for about 15 minutes. This allows the meat to keep cooking but at a much slower pace. You want it to get to the stage of just a tiny bit of blood oozing into the meat juices below. Cut as ridiculous thin as you possibly can and serve with some sort of sauce: gravy, apple sauce, cranberry jelly, mint sauce; whatever is appropriate. If anyone at your table complains about their meat being under-cooked and asks for it to be ‘just put back in the oven for a tad’, politely accept this constructive criticism and then de-friend them on Facebook once they leave.

Yes, there are hundreds of different recipes associated with large cuts of meat. But follow these simple steps and a basic roast can be so much more rewarding. Or so I’m told. Wouldn’t touch the shit with a 10 foot pole personally. But I’m happy to cook it.

Photo: CC licensed Flickr user luke.fabish

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