I'm Asian. I love freebies and I'm a sucker for good food.
The cunning pants at Meat & Livestock Australia and Hausmann have played me right into their hands with a sacrificial offering of Hay Valley lamb ham, gourmet mustard and sourdough tucked neatly into a red linen-lined basket. If Little Red Riding Hood had a hoarding habit and accepted her goodies in styrofoam boxes, we could very well be twins.
There was a lovely note slipped in beneath the bread, just in case I'd been struck by a sudden case of amnesia and forgotten the email I'd received two days prior confirming my availability to accept a perishable delivery from so and so.
"Thanks for all of your hard work - taking pictures of random things, chowing down on free food and taking more pictures, posting said pictures with delirious comments attached on a blog that nobody in their right mind would ever read. Lots of love from the seedy man in admin who signs notes under exotic female aliases to build customer rapport."
I'll pretend to be frank for a moment. I was intrigued yet dubious about the concept of lamb ham from the beginning for the following reasons:
1. I've never ever heard of 'lamb ham', thus it must be a terrible concoction of farce and nitrites. Perhaps past tasters in market research groups contracted botulism and were unable to speak of its delicious flavour and paralytic effects.
2. This so-called 'lamb ham' contains 20% less fat than the traditional porker. Since fat is flavour and a lubricating agent, the proportionally lower fat content of lamb would no doubt result in a despicable product with the dry and unpalatable texture and flavour profile of shredded cardboard.
3. Google Images reveals numerous pictures of lamb that appear about as appetising as a dinner party consisting of two girls and one cup.. minus the girls.
I don't normally say this because it never ever happens except maybe just this once ..but well.. I was wrong. Cured in maple syrup and smoked, it was as good as (if not better than) a traditional pork ham - unbelievably tender, succulent, oh so moist.
To enhance the subtle ingrained smoky sweetness, I sloshed together a fairly traditional ham glaze with maple syrup, Dijon mustard and cider vinegar. Hmm.. There wasn't anywhere near as much fat around the outside so I bypassed the scoring and clove studding and added a light dusting of allspice. Oh what the heck. Lamb is the epitome of the modern Australian diet. In went a blob of Vegemite.
A whole lot of basting, cursing, basting, peering, and basting later, the lamb ham was removed and allowed to rest for two hours. Admittedly I was upstairs watching an enthralling episode of Better Homes & Gardens but it needed to rest anyway. All that basting would have tired the little lamb out.
I dug out my biggest knife and sliced into the cooled meat with trepidation, but I needn't have worried. All of my niggling doubts and expectations flew out the window as the quivering pink flesh touched my lips. No words can describe the elation of discovering a ham that surpasses all other hams, or the Kodak moment when one tastes the first sliver of barely warm lamb that's been cured, smoked and basted for an hour with maple syrup and rich Vegemite. This is definitely a recipe that I'll be keeping in the books for next year, and possibly one to overthrow past traditions.
Maple Syrup & Vegemite Glazed Lamb Ham
1 x 2 kg Hay Valley lamb hamTrim the skin off the lamb, leaving as much fat on as possible. Remove any visible sinew.
200 g light brown sugar
60 g maple syrup (real maple syrup, none of that flavoured fake stuff)
60 g apple cider vinegar
50 g Dijon mustard
25 g Vegemite
1.5 tsp allspice, ground
Cover the bone with foil to keep it nice and clean.
Leave for an hour or until it comes to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 180˚C.
Chuck all of the remaining ingredients into a bowl and whisk until sugar is dissolved and Vegemite is thoroughly combined.
Place a rack over a tray and half-fill it with boiling water.
Place the lamb ham on top (make sure the water doesn't touch the lamb), covering loosely with foil.
Roast for 40 minutes.
Remove the foil, top up the water and baste with maple syrup and Vegemite mixture.
Return to the oven and continue roasting for 40 - 50 minutes, basting lightly every 10 minutes or until a beautiful golden brown.
Stick a thermometer into the centre to make sure that the meat has reached 60˚C.
Remove tray from oven and rest for 2 hours before slicing.