This Sichuan peppercorn spice rub offers an unusual but delicious variation to the usual leg of lamb. The meat goes very well with spring onion pancakes but, if you don't feel like making those, serve the lamb with cumin-flecked rice pilaf.
Slow-cooked butterflied leg of lamb with Sichuan peppercorn spice rub
Have the butcher butterfly the leg of lamb, so it's of a fairly even thickness. It will never be perfectly even, though, but that's OK because not everyone likes their meat medium-rare, and the thinner parts will be more well done.
1 butterflied leg of lamb, about 2.2kg (weighed after the bone has been removed)
10 grams Sichuan peppercorns
5 grams cumin seeds
5 grams fennel seeds
10 grams granulated sugar
1 tsp chilli powder, or to taste
3 large garlic cloves, about 15-20 grams
Fine sea salt
Cooking oil, such as canola
Lay the lamb on the cutting board. Sprinkle salt over both sides of the meat, using less on the thinner areas and more on the thicker parts. Place the lamb in a large bowl or on a plate, cover it with cling-film and refrigerate for at least an hour (although two or three is better).
Make the spice rub. Put the Sichuan peppercorns into a small, unoiled skillet and place it over a medium flame. Shake the skillet constantly to toast the peppercorns: they'll darken slightly, but do not let them burn. Put the peppercorns into a small bowl. Toast the cumin seeds and fennel seeds separately the same way, then add them to the peppercorns. Grind the toasted spices to a fine powder in a spice grinder. Mix the ground spices with the sugar, chilli powder and five grams of salt. Finely chop the garlic cloves and mix them with the other ingredients, then add enough oil so the mixture forms a rough paste. Rub the paste over the lamb, using less on the thinner areas and more on the thicker parts. Refrigerate for an hour.
Take the lamb from the fridge about an hour before you want to cook it. Place it fat side-up on a flat rack in a roasting pan. Preheat the oven to 95 degrees Celsius. Insert a probe-type, leave-in meat thermometer into the thickest part of the lamb leg and programme it to go off when it reaches 53 degrees (for medium-rare), and place it in the oven. When the lamb reaches the correct temperature, leave to rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 250 degrees then place the meat back in the oven and cook until the surface is sizzling and browned (about 10 minutes). Carve the meat against the grain and serve.
Spring onion pancakes
600 grams plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for rolling
18 grams fine sea salt
About 350ml boiling water
40 grams finely minced spring onions
10ml cooking oil, plus extra for the griddle
10ml sesame oil
Put the flour in a bowl and mix in the salt. Pour the boiling water into the bowl and stir well with chopsticks to form a rough dough. When the dough is just cool enough to handle, knead it with your hands: if it's sticky, add a little more flour, if it's dry, add more boiling water. Knead until the dough is smooth and cohesive, then divide into eight even pieces. Shape each piece into a ball, cover with cling-film and leave at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Mix the cooking oil and sesame oil together in a bowl. Very lightly dust the work surface with flour. Working with one piece at a time (keep the others covered with cling-film), roll the dough into a rectangle that's about 15cm x 20cm. Lightly brush the oils over the rectangle, leaving a 5mm border around the perimeter, then scatter some of the spring onion on top and press them in gently. Starting at one of the long sides of the rectangle, roll the dough into a tight cylinder and when you get to the other side, pinch the edge to seal it. Gently stretch the cylinder to lengthen it, then roll it into a tight coil and tuck the end under it. Place the coil on a baking tray that's been lightly dusted with flour. Shape the other seven pieces of dough the same way. Leave to rest for 30 minutes.
Heat a griddle (I use an Indian tava) over a medium flame and when it's hot, rub it lightly with oil. While the griddle is heating, quickly roll one coil of dough into a circle that's about 3mm thick. Place the dough on the hot griddle and cook for about 30 seconds on one side, or until it's slightly charred. Flip it over and cook the other side for 30 seconds. Flip it over again and press on the surface with a spatula: it should puff slightly. Lower the heat slightly, cover the pancake with a lid and cook for about a minute. Flip the pancake over, press with a spatula, cover with the lid and cook for a minute. If it sticks, lightly oil the skillet. Remove the lid, increase the heat and cook the pancake for about 15 seconds on each side, or until the surface is crisp and lightly charred. Wrap the pancake in a clean, dry tea towel. Cook the other pieces of dough the same way, keeping them warm by stacking them and wrapping in a tea towel. Serve them warm.
Styling: Nellie Ming Lee