Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Roasting a leg

If you ask me to cook for a family in winter, my first option is to head for the roasting trays – roast chicken, lamb, beef or pork – all easy to get right, and usually there’s something for everyone’s tastes.  And if not, there’s always delicious, crunchy, caramelised roast winter veges.  Hungry yet? 

A few years ago, I read somewhere about the delicious alchemy that occurs when anchovies get involved with roast lamb.  I wasn’t really sure if I liked anchovies and nor was I convinced that they should be encouraged to get into the same roasting dish with a leg of lamb.  However, curiosity got the better of me.  And I was really glad it did – now I know that anchovies and lamb are meant to be together, and I have added anchovies to my list of secret ingredients that can help to make food taste great. 

This recipe is one where I prefer to use a mortar and pestle to smash the garlic to a pulp and really pound together the ingredients for covering the lamb.  You could do it in a food processor with a small bowl, or get active with a sharp knife and dice the ingredients together til they form a pulp. 

Roast Leg of Lamb with Anchovies
To feed 6 hungry people

One full leg of lamb
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
6-8 anchovies, and some of the oil they came in
Around 1tbsp of lemon juice
8 sprigs thyme
Salt and pepper
1 onion, finely chopped
½ lemon, sliced
1 tbsp red current jelly 

Turn the oven on to 200 C. 
Pound the garlic, thyme, freshly ground pepper and some sea salt together until you have a fragrant paste, add the anchovies and pound until they are unrecognisable.  Moisten with some of the anchovy oil and then thin with some lemon juice, so that it has a spreadable consistency (you don’t want it so runny that it slides off). 

Place the chopped onion in a heap in the roasting dish, along with the sliced lemon and red current jelly, and nestle the lamb leg on top.  Use a sharp knife to poke small slits through the surface of the lamb, and then massage the garlic, thyme and anchovy paste over the surface of the lamb.  An alternative option is to poke deep slits in and fill each slit with the paste, but I like the flavour all over the surface of the lamb (if you love the taste, you could always do both!). 

Place the roasting dish in the middle of the oven.  After 10 minutes, turn it down to 180 C and add about 1 cup of water to the dish.  Cook for a total of 90-180 minutes, until medium rare (actual cooking time will vary according to the size of the leg).  I like to keep adding a bit of liquid in the base of the pan, to assist with making gravy later. 
Once cooked, and this is utterly essential, REST the lamb.  Resting allows the meat to relax and become fully tender after all that brutal oven heat.  I take it out of the roasting dish and onto a platter, loosely cover with tinfoil and a towel, and leave it for 20 minutes while I finish off the veges, make gravy (if I’m so inclined), and do the last minute kitchen jobs (like making sure my wine glass is filled up).  Lastly, when carving the lamb, cut each slice AT RIGHT ANGLES TO THE BONE – this has two benefits.  Firstly, you carve across the grain of the meat (which mainly runs parallel to the bone), which means that each slice is easier to cut up with your dinner knife.  Secondly, and most importantly, every slice has the delicious, yet almost indefinable, taste of the crust.


Anonymous said...

And it did taste great :-) Though I still think it would have been good with my Brussels sprouts. Great blog.

Carole said...

This is a good one too. Thanks for linking it in to Food on Friday. Cheers