The loin of lamb, touched with garlic, roasted, and served pink in a reduced port and lamb stock sauce

The title will tell you where this recipe came from. Notice the formality and the nonsense added to give it a style of its own. It’s a menu item from the old restaurant, and menu writers, especially me in my heyday, do get carried away with detail. I sometimes think quality restaurants would be better off serving:

  1. what they liked on a particular day, and what was freshest and best; or
  2. pork, lamb, chicken, beef, fish, game, or vegetarian. Full stop. No description. Just trust me and see.

Can you imagine a written menu at home? What’s fresh, what’s best, and what’s available. That’s the recipe for success. For me, when it comes to meat, that means lamb more often than not. This dish, I must say, was one of the proudest of our restaurant days. It looks beautiful, arranged in a circle about a pile of mashed potatoes, it tastes marvellous, and it is wonderfully easy to prepare and to cook. It works just as well at home.

A whole loin of lamb will provide three, maybe four portions

Ask your butcher to de-bone the lamb, making sure the fat (which will then resemble a flap) is left on. The idea is to roll the lamb in its own fat, encasing on the way slices of garlic and black pepper, tie it up and roast it. Your butcher will do all this for you if you take the sliced garlic to him. Keep all the bones, if you wish to make a sauce. It is not really necessary. The lamb has enough flavour on its own and sauces take plenty of time. That’s the job for the restaurant. (If you are buying whole loins, ask the butcher to keep the tiny lamb fillet attached at the loin. It’s as tender as butter. Freeze it until you have enough for a meal.)

2 cloves garlic per loin — Slice the garlic very finely. You can use as much as you like. The garlic is generally discarded at the end, unless, like me, you like chewing it just cooked.

1 onion, chopped roughly

1 clove garlic, chopped roughly

1 piece of ginger, similar in size to the garlic, chopped roughly

thyme, rosemary

½ cup port

½ cup red wine

a little water

20g brown sugar


black pepper

Preparing the meat: You really should do this yourself first, so you can instruct your butcher in the future. It’s not too difficult to de-bone lamb. Just work a sharp knife along the bones, taking care not to slice through the fat. It’s much easier the second and third times. Trim away all excess meat, the tough outer skin from the flap, and any of the tough and generally inedible sinews attached to the loin itself. Pound the flap until it is quite thin, taking care not to break through the surface. Season the lamb with freshly ground salt and pepper, and then layer it with very finely sliced slivers of garlic. Lamb and garlic are the very best of bedfellows. Do not be worried about an overpowering flavour of garlic. Its purpose is to bring out all the flavour of the lamb, a job it does admirably.


Roll the flap around the loin, enclosing all the meat (and garlic). Cut the loin into the portion sizes you require and tie each roll securely with string.

That’s really all there is too it, other than a bit of cooking.


Heat the oven to its maximum.


Brown the loins in a hot pan and place in the oven in the same pan. This step is not necessary, but it gets the pan hot, and the lamb hot, thus speeding up the cooking process.


The lamb should be medium-rare (pink) when it’s served. With the flap tied around it is difficult to test whether it is done if you employ the usual ‘finger-pressing’ method. In the hottest oven, using the hot-pan cooking method, it should take no more than 12 minutes to be cooked, but the time will obviously depend on the thickness of the loin. It is perfectly okay to cheat. Take the lamb from the oven and slice it halfway through to inspect. It is cooked when it feels just warm in the middle. If it’s stone-cold put it back for a couple of minutes more. If warm, remove it, and leave it in a warm spot. The cooking process will continue through the retained heat in the outer section of the lamb.

All meat should be cooked like this. I’m sure the reason why our parents always cooked meat through to the bone is they didn’t understand the fact the meat continued cooking after it was removed from the oven. A happy consequence of this long cooking time was the gloriously flavoured crust on the meat and the deliciously tender roasted pumpkin and potatoes. The only way to get these vegetables to taste the same these days is to replicate the old ways, and roast them in a little beef or lamb stock.

This dish is delicious with the simplest of accompaniments — mashed potato and peas, and the lamb will more than stand up on its own without a sauce. It is moist, tender and reeking with flavour. Just slice the string, unroll the flap and cut it away from the loin. Decide whether you wish to serve the garlic scattered about, or discarded. Serve the loin sliced like coins.

You can make a complicated lamb stock, with bones and port and wine, but I have never done it at home, and I’d be amazed if anybody these days has the time to make complex sauces while maintaining a happy household. But there is another way.


A simple sauce: This will make a couple of portions, so be frugal with the sauce. Make the sauce while the lamb is cooking. Brown the bones and any pieces of leftover lamb meat in a hot oven. Be careful not to burn the lot. Remove the bones, pour away any fat and cook the onion, garlic and ginger gently until they soften. Add the port, red wine, water, brown sugar and herbs.

Use a wooden spoon to work away the sediment left from the lamb and bones. Reduce heavily over high heat until jammy. Season. There will be only a couple of teaspoons of thickly flavoured sauce.

WINE: Coonawarra’s a funny place. Flat as a billiard table — in winter the wind screeches across it — but it makes Australia’s most consistent premium red wines. The south-east of South Australia, where Coonawarra is nestled, produces some of the country’s best fat lambs. Maybe that’s why I cannot go past a good Coonawarra red for this dish.

One Response to “The loin of lamb, touched with garlic, roasted, and served pink in a reduced port and lamb stock sauce”

  1. [...] loin of lamb with garlic (view recipe). All the lamb dishes in my life will stand beside this dish in judgement. There is nothing [...]