LOOK FORWARD, NOT BACK.
How to celebrate both beginnings and endings, raise a cup of kindness, and cook up herby, garlicky, lemony roast lamb for a happy new year.
This is an image of the cattle-pit that marks the dividing line between the country home in which I grew up, in the western district of Victoria, Australia, and the rest of the world.
One Christmas, I almost wrecked the low-slung under-carriage of my Alfa Romeo Spider trying to get across it, so I now think of it as the spider-pit.
I took the photo this week on Boxing Day, after the last Christmas we will spend there as our living family home, where all four kids grew up. So many Christmasses, birthdays, droughts, storms, fires, crops, shearing days, cats, dogs, ponies, water-skiing, chook-feeding, lamb-feeding, tree-climbing, orchard-raiding, and raising wheelies in dry, dusty paddocks under the guise of driving lessons. So many grilled lamb chops, mashed potato and peas, barbecues, cups of tea. I learnt to cook here, watching Mum bake scones, make butter and brew beer. I learnt to write here, too, inundating the kid’s page of The Age with my letters. I learnt to drink here, too, with a little shot glass of wine for Sunday lunch. My late Dad is commemorated by a plaque and a bloody big rock just off to the left, under the trees.
The farm isn’t ending, just evolving, as my brother and his wife move into town. He’ll keep farming it, not least because his hay is much sought-after in the district. (I once offered to pay for the Christmas lobsters that a mate of his used to dive for on Christmas Eve, but was told my money was no good. The bloke was paid in hay bales).
It’s always tempting to look back and mourn what has gone. I prefer to look forward and celebrate.
On that note, just a quick thank you for subscribing to Jill Dupleix Eats this year - and I know you did it this year because my very first post was exactly one year ago today.
One of the things that has saved my sanity this year has been putting this newsletter together each week and building my little community on Substack. I love coming up with the ideas, testing the recipes and shooting them, or interviewing the chefs and experts on whatever I think will be helpful and/or inspiring. And I always get a thrill out of hitting ‘Publish’, and sending it out in to the world.
Originally set up by journalists for journalists who could see the uncertain future of print media, Substack has developed into a platform for all manner of wonderful voices, from the intellectual to the activist. Check it out here, and go down your own rabbit-hole to find the people you might like to subscribe to, free or otherwise. Not just food writers, but musicians, academics, gardeners, obsessives of all kinds, and so many terrific thinkers and writers.
As is popular at the end of a year, I could look back and review the last 52 blog posts and analyse the most popular recipes, but I’m not sure it’s healthy to wallow self-indulgently in data and warm myself with stats. So it’s all about moving on into a bright new year.
Scarred, sure. A little frazzled, definitely. But very, very thankful for everyone in my world. Here’s cheers, then, to the old year and let’s raise a cup of kindness to the new.
THIS COULD BE NICE FOR NEW YEAR’S EVE?
Who knows what the weather will be like, but you can’t go wrong with a roast leg of lamb, slashed to the bone so the outside is crisp and the inside is pink. Easy to serve hot or at room temperature. This is one of my oldest recipes, developed in honour of the family sheep farm.
Slashed roast leg of lamb
3 tbsp roughly chopped parsley and maybe some mint as well
2 anchovies in oil, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp salted capers, rinsed
1 tbsp coarsely grated lemon zest
80g soft fresh breadcrumbs
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 leg of lamb (approximately 2kg)
cress or rocket leaves, to serve
1 lemon, quartered
1. Heat the oven to 220C. Combine the parsley, mint, anchovies, garlic, capers, lemon rind and breadcrumbs in a bowl. Add the olive oil and squish the mixture into a soft mushy paste with your hands.
2. Holding the leg of lamb with its meatiest side on top, cut right through the meat, almost to the bone, at 2cm intervals. Push the stuffing down between each lamb 'steak', re-shape the meat and tie with kitchen string. Place in a large roasting pan.
3. Drizzle a little extra olive oil over and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 200C and bake for one hour more, then leave to rest for 10 minutes.
4. Remove the string and carve, parallel to the bone, to form chunky fingers of crisp skin and meat. (see pic below, it’s hard to describe)
5. Arrange on one big warm platter, drizzle with the juices from the roasting pan and scatter with cress or rocket. Serve with lemon wedges.
TIP: Don't be scared to slash the lamb meat to the bone. Check out the pics below - it looks weird, but it’s only hard to do the first time.
Thanks for reading! And liking, commenting, subscribing, or sharing.
Special thanks to my right-hand man, Terry Durack, for getting us through a crazy year and still making it fun: that’s quite an art you have there.
I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands and waters upon which I work, live, cook and play; the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. I fully support the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice to be enshrined in Australia’s Constitution.