Nothing says ‘home’ more than the smell of lamb roasting in the oven. Roasting lamb is still one of the most nostalgic pleasures for me. I love to cook lamb. Not only because I feel as though the oven does all of the work for me but because it’s such a simple satisfying supper. When making any kind of roast dinner I am always left with the slightest sense of smugness, I mean where can I go wrong? Cooking a roast is pure genius, you simply take a cut of your favourite meat, surround with potatoes, onion and garlic, season with salt, pepper and olive oil, add any herbs you have around the kitchen (sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano) and pop it into a hot oven. And voila, you can pour yourself a well deserved glass of vino and put your feet up whilst the oven slaves away in the kitchen cooking dinner for you. To me, a roast dinner means minimal effort for maximum pleasure, the perfect kitchen formula.
Having said this, I did do one extra step last night in my preparation...I made a stuffing for the lamb. Usually I would never go to such an effort (I adore the simplicity of an effortless roast) but when I came across this one particular recipe I knew my efforts were guaranteed to be rewarded. And rewarded they were! You see, this brilliant lamb dish uses Italian staples to create the most delicious stuffing. It combines garlic, fresh herbs (I used mint, parsley, thyme and oregano), prosciutto, anchovies, stale italian bread, pinenuts (I used macadamias) and green olives to create a vibrant, fresh, moist and nutty stuffing that rivals the sweet juicy lamb meat in flavour. The texture of the stuffing is also amazing, by folding the macadamias through the mixture (rather than blitzing them in the processor) you are left with the most gorgeous crunch that marries so beautifully with the tender lamb.
I also added one last flourish to the lamb (I couldn’t call it an effort). When the lamb had reached the half way cooking point I made my way back to the kitchen, opened the oven door and poured a glass of red wine over the lamb, creating the most gorgeous pan juices and kept the meat even more juicy and tender. I recommend you do the same, beats making gravy right?
I cook my lamb to medium, I love the centre to remain sweet, juicy and blushing but I adore the outer meat to caramelise forming a beautiful burnished crust. To achieve this I have the oven hot enough (usually 200°C) and pull the lamb out of the fridge 1 hour before cooking, bringing it to almost room temperature. However, you should cook your lamb to your liking whether that’s rare or well done, just ask your butcher for recommended cooking time depending on the weight of the cut (and add a little extra to compensate for the weight of the stuffing). Another tip to achieving the perfect roast is to allow your meat to rest. This simply means loosely covering the meat with foil (once the meat is out of the oven) and allowing the meat to chill out for 10 to 20 minutes, this allows the juices to distribute evenly throughout the meat and will leave you with the most tender and juicy roast.
I guarantee you will love this lamb dish. It’s such a simple spring supper, so easy to make and even easier to enjoy!
Leg of lamb stuffed with olives, bread, pinenuts and herbs
adapted from ‘Jamie’s Italy’ by Jamie Oliver
adapted from ‘Jamie’s Italy’ by Jamie Oliver
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
3 good handfuls of mixed fresh herbs (mint, parsley, oregano, thyme), leaves picked
4 slices prosciutto
3 anchovy fillets
100g stale bread, torn into 2.5cm pieces
1 large handful of green olives, stoned removed
1 large handful of macadamia nuts, chopped roughly
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 x 2kg leg of lamb (I used a half leg of lamb and remember to ask your butcher to prepare the leg so that you are able to stuff and roll it!)
3 rosemary sprigs
5 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
3 red onions, peeled and quartered
6 cloves of garlic (no need to peel)
1 big glass of red wine
Preheat oven to 200°C.
In a food processor combine garlic cloves, herbs, prosciutto, anchovies, bread and green olives and whiz to course breadcrumbs, if the stuffing looks dry add a slug of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and fold through the macadamia nuts.
Place the stuffing onto the lamb cavity, roll the lamb up and secure with kitchen string pushing some rosemary under the string (no need to get ‘chefy’ with fancy knots etc just tie the string so that that lamb is secure). Season the lamb with salt and pepper and pat with olive oil.
Place the potatoes, onions and remaining garlic in the bottom of the roasting pan, season with salt and pepper and toss in olive oil. Place the lamb in the middle of the vegetables and roast in the oven for an hour or two (depending on the size of your lamb and how you like it cooked). Half way through the cooking time, pour the wine over the lamb and place back into the oven.
When the lamb is cooked, cover loosely with foil and let it rest for 15 minutes. Serve with simple steamed spring greens (I used peas, sugar snaps and asparagus) seasoned with a squeeze of lemon juice and don’t forget to adorn your lamb with those beautiful pan juices!