Barbecued butterflied leg of lamb with Lebanese tomato salad

Barbecued butterflied leg of lamb with Lebanese tomato salad

William Meppem

I first encountered yoghurt-spiced lamb at Quaglino’s in London but I have adapted the recipe to suit Melbourne and its great Mediterranean influences. Martin Webb, the original head chef when Quaglino’s opened, thought of the idea after travelling through India, where lamb is preserved in lemon juice and salt for days due to the hot climate and lack of refrigeration. I recommend you leave the lamb in the salt and lemon as long as you can, as the taste significantly improves. The lamb is refreshing and fragrant with an aromatic herb salad – I love using herbs in this way as they enhance dishes more than just the usual salad leaves.


Quantity Ingredient
1 2 kg leg of lamb, butterflied
100ml extra-virgin olive oil
200ml Sumac dressing


Quantity Ingredient
6 lemons, juiced
3 tablespoons sea salt flakes
8 garlic cloves, grated
500g greek-style yoghurt
2 heaped tablespoo chilli powder
4 tablespoons ground turmeric
3 tablespoons ground allspice
3 tablespoons ground cardamom
3 tablespoons ground ginger
100ml olive oil

Tomato salad

Quantity Ingredient
200g yellow pear tomatoes
200g red grape tomatoes
4 yellow roma tomatoes
4 vine-grown tomatoes
1 bunch oregano, leaves coarsely chopped
1 bunch thyme, leaves finely chopped
2 small red onions, finely sliced
1 small fennel bulb, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, grated
100ml extra-virgin olive oil
2 lemons, juiced
pinch salt
200g pitted kalamata olives
1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves only
1/2 bunch basil, leaves only
1/2 bunch mint, leaves only
250g greek fetta, crumbled


  1. Ideally, 24 hours before you intend to serve the dish combine the lemon juice and salt, massage this over the leg of lamb and leave the meat to marinate in the refrigerator for 3–4 hours. Then combine the remaining marinade ingredients and massage over the lamb – wear rubber gloves for this job as the turmeric in the marinade has a tendency to stain. Refrigerate the lamb again, for at least 6–8 hours or overnight.
  2. Preheat the barbecue 1 hour or so before cooking, as it is important the barbecue is extremely hot to impart a nice charring on the lamb. If it isn’t hot enough the yoghurt will stick to the barbecue.
  3. While the barbecue is heating, prepare the tomato salad. Cut the pear and grape tomatoes in half and transfer to a salad bowl. Remove the cores from the roma and vine-grown tomatoes, slice the romas 1 cm thick and cut the vine tomatoes in half then each half into 4 wedges. Stir all the tomatoes together in the bowl, then add the oregano, thyme, onions and fennel. Combine the garlic with the extra-virgin olive oil, lemon and salt. Pour this over the tomatoes, stir together and marinate in the refrigerator while you begin to cook the lamb.
  4. Drizzle the marinated lamb all over with extra-virgin olive oil, then transfer to the barbecue skin-side down. Grill for 3 minutes without moving the meat, then lift and turn it at right angles. Grill for a further 3 minutes, then turn over and transfer to the coolest part of the grill. If you have a hood on your barbecue lower it to create some smoke and steam, which will impart flavour and moisture. Cook for 25 minutes, gently turning around every 5 minutes and drizzling the lamb with a little more olive oil from time to time. Pierce the meat with a fork – for medium–rare the fork should come out warm to the touch, for well done it should be hot. Remove from the heat and allow to rest and keep warm in a low oven or on a cool spot on the barbecue.
  5. To serve, carve the lamb into thick slices. Add the olives, herbs and some of the fetta to the salad and serve it alongside the lamb. Spoon sumac dressing over the lamb slices and a little over the salad. Sprinkle each plate with the remaining fetta.

Chef’s note

  • This marinade is very versatile and works well also with chicken. The lamb is excellent served with various sauces and relishes such as Baba Ghanoush and Tahini Yoghurt.
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