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This recipe goes to Braam Kruger in whose book Provocative Cuisine I first discovered the primordial method……he calls it Tarzan Roast…

justin bonello sunday tarzan lamb roast

Serves 10 – 12

You will need:
3 ½ kg fatty leg of lamb, with the shank intact – very important
Sprig of rosemary
Couple of whole chillies (as hot as you can handle)
10-15 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut in half
3-4 bunches of spring onions
¼ cup oyster sauce
Handful of dried oregano
2 onions, sliced
Juice of 2 to 3 lemons
Juice of 1 orange

. . . as well as . . .

Baking tray
Half a metre of galvanised wire
2-3 metres of rope
Forked stick
Basting brush
Sharp knife
Small stool
Wheelbarrow – useful for both braaiing and gardening
Orange wood – any hard fruit wood will do, but do not use ordinary firewood


1. Lay the leg of lamb on its side in the baking tray and, using a small sharp knife, cut slits 3-5 cm deep at a 45 degree angle all over the lamb. Push rosemary sprigs, chilli and garlic slivers into the slits, then dip the spring onions in the oyster sauce and push them in as well – the green leaves will jut out, a bit like a porcupine!

2. Mix together the oregano, the balance of the oyster sauce, the onions and the juice from the lemons and orange, and pour this all over the leg of lamb. Leave to marinate while you make the fire.

3. The meat actually cooks by radiated heat and is gently smoked at the same time. I usually use orange or apple wood because of their aromatic properties and I make the fire in a wheelbarrow. This is useful because the cooking time is somewhere between 4 and 6 hours, and during that period of time Mother Nature could blow hot and cold and change her tune a number of times. But with a wheelbarrow you can adjust the position of the fire and take full advantage of the prevailing wind.

4. First, slip the wire through the shank and twist it so there’s no chance of the meat falling into the fire. Attach the wire to the rope with a slipknot. Once the leg is attached to the wire and the rope you need to find a nice strong branch in a tall tree from which to hang your meat. (Be sure that it’s far enough away from your house and any dry tinder. You don’t want to end up chasing a runaway fire.) Again using a slipknot attach the rope to the branch and then, between the wire and the tree, make a sheepshank (!) knot in the rope – this way, you can adjust the height of the lamb as required.

5. Balance the baking tray with the left over marinade on a stool and position this directly under the joint. Wheel the fire in next to the stool and place it so that the prevailing wind is blowing towards the lamb. You should be able to hold your hand between the fire and meat for just a few seconds without burning it. If it’s not hot enough chuck a couple of extra logs on the fire to really get the heat going. You can use the forked stick to push the leg closer or further from the heat. And that’s it.

6. For the next 4 to 6 hours, you need to keep basting the lamb with marinade and the fatty juices that drip into the tray. Every 10 to 15 minutes turn the meat about 45 degrees and secure its position with the forked stick.

***Very important: keep testing the heat and adding a log when necessary. Otherwise, your early evening meal could turn into a midnight feast.

We were fortunate enough to make our manly meal in the Cedarberg where there was plenty of space to let off steam, but if you’re not lucky enough to be able to get out into the great outdoors don’t despair, take a stab at it wherever you may be. Just remember this macho way of cooking a hefty hunk of lamb takes mega time and if you hit the lagers too early things could get really hairy.***

7. After 4 hours or so of chilling, poke a skewer into the thickest section of the joint to see if it’s cooked. If the juices ooze out red, it’s still raw and needs more cooking; pink juices mean the meat is perfectly medium rare. When it is cooked, raise the leg or remove the heat and let it rest for ten minutes.

Serving Suggestions

I normally carve the meat while it is still hanging up – that way, if it’s a bit too rare closer to the bone, you can just drop the roast back near the heat and cook it for a bit longer.

Grab pita bread. Slice open to make a pocket. Stuff with shredded lettuce, roughly chopped tomato, fresh basil, medium rare lamb and a good dollop of Greek yoghurt.


Serve with root veggies and start preparing them at about the 3-hour mark. Use baby potatoes, beetroot, parsnips, carrots, sprigs of rosemary, olive oil. Place  chopped veggies on a baking tray, add the rosemary and drizzle with olive oil. Slow roast for between 40 minutes and 1 hour, turning occasionally. Once they’re cooked, reduce the heat of the oven to its lowest setting to keep them warm.

For gravy make a sauce by pouring all the drippings and scraps of lamb in the baking tray into a pan, mix a teaspoon of cornflour in a cup of milk and add this to the pan. Keep stirring on low heat for between 5 to 10 minutes until the sauce begins to thicken.

Shenton Safaris
Justin Bonello

Cook, traveller and lover of life, Justin Bonello is the veteran presenter and producer of Cooked – a television series aired on the BBC in which the first season saw him and a bunch of friends embark on an epic 30-day foodie road trip across South Africa. He is also a published author of 3 recipe books, with Out of the Frying Pan spinning a quirky Bonello touch on quintessentially South African dishes like bobotie. Now the self taught bush-cook is busy filming a new series where he looks at how our choices as a food consumer directly impact the people and our planet. This blog brings you the best of Justin’s recipes and travel tales, straight from the horses mouth.