When it comes to the ultimate showstopper for an Easter Sunday lunch, it has to be roast lamb: as Spring has now truly sprung, it’s time to start enjoying British reared lamb, and treating it properly when we cook it. My favourite – and, I think, the easiest – way to cook lamb is to slow roast a leg of it, provencal style. Effortlessly impressive, this dish is left in a low oven for several hours, needing no attention.
Lamb, rosemary, anchovies and garlic is a classic match, a combo hailing from the Provence region. It won’t taste fishy (although it might smell that way as it begins cooking), just deeply savoury, and fantastically fragrant from the herbs and garlic. Try to resist salting the meat like you usually would, as the anchovies will do much of the seasoning for you.
You can eschew the traditional roast accompaniments of hot vegetables and mash for this one, if you wish, and plump for something fresher like a bright, peppery salad, with a lemon and mustard dressing. But if no roast lunch is complete for you without a gravy, you can knock one up quickly by deglazing the hot pan with a splash of wine (I like red), making sure you pick up all the caramelised bits at the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, adding some stock, and a generous spoonful of redcurrant jelly. Reduce by about half, check for seasoning, and serve hot. This dish is also great served with potatoes boulangères: thin slices of potato cooked in vegetable or lamb stock until tender, save for the top layer which will come out of the oven crispy and buttery.
Slow roast leg of lamb for Easter
Makes: Roast lamb for 4-6 depending on your generosity of side dishes
Takes: 15 minutes
Bakes: 4-5 hours including resting.
1.8-2kg leg of lamb, on the bone, trimmed
2 tablespoons light olive oil
1 tin of anchovies
A generous fistful of rosemary
1 bulb garlic
1. Rub olive oil all over the lamb leg. Heat the largest frying pan you have until it is medium hot. Brown the outside of the lamb leg – be patient and careful: the shape of the leg means that it will need to be turned several times, and it will probably spit as you do so. You want a good golden colour all over the outside of the lamb.
2. Preheat the oven to 140°C. Cut the anchovies and garlic cloves in two.
3. Place the seared lamb leg in a large roasting dish and make small but deep incisions into the flesh all over the leg. Stuff these incisions with the anchovies, rosemary, and garlic cloves. Pour just enough water into the bottom of the pan to create a shallow pool across the whole baking pan.
4. Roast for 3-4 hours until the internal temperature registers 55°C.
5. Rest for half an hour, covered in foil, then carve and serve whilst still hot.