Sunday, May 24, 2009

Halal Lamb in yoghurt

My Pakistani butcher on Atlantic Avenue is a different place from Los Paisanos on Smith. Bare bones as opposed to crown roast with frills. And the prices are very different, too. Here you find freshly slaughtered (so not not aged at all) lamb - as well as goat, which I've never investigated, veal and chicken. Not investigated, either. But all you see in the display case is lamb. Lamb. Lamb. Lamb. For a South African, the lambless American scene can be a bit of a shock. To us lamb is like potatoes. It goes with everything. And the price of lamb, when you find it, is more of a shock.

But a few years ago my friend Pierre Reveillez, a Frenchman who ran the wonderful little Le Kiosk on 1st and 1st before the city raised his rent, told me about the Halal butchery on Atlantic. He bought chops and merguez sausage here for a yearly party he threw at Le Kiosk for his customers and employees (the latter with whom he split his profits, incidentally).

Now I shop there once a month or so, sometimes more often, and have yet to see another Infidel doing the same. I like to buy lamb ribs, a staple in South African supermarkets, and impossible to find here. He thinks I'm odd, but cuts them up dutifully and off I go with a little black plastic bag for about $5.

Sometimes a whole lamb is wheeled in, in a red plastic shopping trolley. I notice that while I stand behind the counter, his Muslim customers stand beside him while he cuts up the meat.

So I bought a little leg of lamb, 3lbs or so for $15. I had him debone it (he cut the bones and their meat into nice little chunks for me - at some stage I'll cook dolmades over them) and took it home where I rubbed some creamy Greek yoghurt into it with three finely chopped garlic cloves and about 4 sprigs of terrace oregano, chopped. Salt. It sat for a few hours in the fridge, and then I put it under a blistering broiler for maybe 8-10 minutes a side. Then it rested. Like God.

Snow pea shoots are a nice toy in salads. But you have to eat them with your fingers.

I fried up some potato and fennel salad from the day before, and had rather a primitive dinner.


  1. Primitive? Highly attractive I say. It took me a while to get used to the un-aged meat atmosphere in the Halal store, but it is the only place you can find the 70% of lamb that is never shown in other places. And all cuts are open for discussion, which I like...

  2. No looking primitive to these eyes. Thanks. This is the first time in a week that I actually missed Brooklyn:]

    I've been to all the stores on my ethnically diverse Church Ave. There was one Halal butcher that I went to and got some beef tenderloin for an incredible price, $6 /lb. But they were rude to me and ignored me every other time I went.

    I tried again after two years and happily they have new butchers and these guys treat me right. Some of my freezer stock is rib eye and tenderloin from there. Ribeye is $4.50 lb. You are right, no aging makes it not melt in your mouth, but the tenderloin and ribeye are better than alot of steak you can get for twice the price.

    I always miss the day the lamb comes in. Love lamb but often turned off by the regular butcher price.
    Talkety talkety. I'm not with much human contact up here.....

  3. Johannes - the first time I bought chops here I messed them up, because I braaied them to what should have been tender medium rareness. They were chewy, to say the least. Much later the butcher said to me, when I bought chops again, cook well, cook well! So I do...

    Frank - wow, beef must be a challenge to cook properly SA I cooked some huge T-bones for my brothers, thinking smugly how great they would be, with my normal, sear and put in a blasting oven for 6 minutes treatment ...we were chewing as though on green blocks of wood. Safricans have to learn about dry- aging beef, still.

    BUT I never buy tenderloin here because it's too bloody expensive, so maybe I'll investigate this at the Halal guy....

    Then...there's goat...

    How are the frisky deer?

  4. MMMMMMM sounds delicious, Marie!!had grilled butterflied leg of lamb just last week...i've got to get another rosemary plant going in my garden for more summer grilling.


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