In Morocco, mechoui is traditionally prepared by cooking an entire lamb on a spit over coals, or alternatively by roasting in a pit or clay oven. (The word mechoui literally refers to "cooking over an open fire.") However, mechoui can be prepared with large cuts of meat instead of the whole animal, and the mechoui I first tasted was, in fact, a delicious leg of lamb which had been roasted in a home oven.
I watched while my friend Fatiha prepared the mechoui. First, she made a paste from butter, garlic, cumin, saffron, salt and pepper. A little olive oil was added to thin it, and then the mixture was spread all over the leg of lamb and into deep incisions which Fatiha had made in the meat. The lamb was roasted with very high heat - it was done in about an hour - and I was amazed that such a fabulous dish could be prepared so quickly and easily.
Later I would encounter different roasting methods for mechoui, but my favorite is a very slow roasting method with low heat, taught to me by a friend in Marrakesh. While my friend seasons her meat with only salt and pepper, I still like to use the butter and spice spread that Fatiha taught me. My Moroccan Mechoui Recipe explains how to slowly roast a leg of lamb or shoulder, but also explains shorter roasting methods as well. Simply pick whichever one fits into your cooking schedule.
Photo © Christine Benlafquih