Tuesday, 10 April 2012

First ever lamb roast

There is something inherently satisfying with a big piece of meat (with apologies to any vegetarians out there). I happen to think that if we were meant to eat only veggies (and don't get me wrong, I think we are supposed to eat *a lot* of veggies), meat wouldn't taste so good. I have tried every possible soya and quorn based substitute, and they just don't do it for me. I don't believe you need to have meat at every meal, and also that you should vary white meat and red meat and mix it up with a lot of fish. But from time to time, your body just screams for red meat. And this Easter, I finally braved cooking the traditional leg of lamb roast. Apparently UK lamb season only starts around late May, so my leg of lamb had travelled across the world all from New Zealand. 

As I said, this was my first attempt ever at cooking such a big chunk of meat, so I had no idea what I was doing. However, it turned out to be really simple in the end. Rub lamb down with seasoning, put in oven, wait, wait, wait, wait and finally enjoy. So if you haven't tried roasting lamb before, I'm encouraging you to try, it's well worth it and not even much of an effort. I studied a few recipes online for inspiration (and to get some idea of the cooking time), here are the links for those if you don't like my approach. Also, if you don't want to go with gut feeling for cooking time like I do (I love the excitement of seeing if I got it right or not... I know, I live a very boring life to find things like this exciting...) you could consider investing in a food thermometer.

Roast lamb with garlic
Roast lamb with mint
Roast lamb with redcurrant glaze

Ok, so finally on to the actual recipe
Leg of lamb with the bone still on (the one I had was around 1.5 kg total)
30 g mint
30 g flat leaf parsley
one whole garlic
half a jar of green pesto
25 g butter
salt and pepper for seasoning

(I would also have thrown in onions if I hadn't used them all up the day before)
red wine

For the gravy:
Beef stock pot (I used Knorr Rich Beef)
200 ml red wine
100 ml double cream

Start preparing the meat a few hours before roasting. Take meat out of fridge and let set to room temperature (at least 30 min) while preparing the seasoning. Chop herbs and garlic cloves, mix with pesto and butter to make a gooey paste. Make cuts a few cm deep all over the meat and rub the whole leg with the herb butter mix (I love this part). 

Leave for a few hours (or overnight) in the fridge. Cut parsnips and carrots into large chunks and put in a roasting tray with the meat. Pour red wine over the whole shebang, season with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 220 C, roast the meat for 30 minutes, then turn down oven to 175 C (all cooking was done in a fan oven, probably use 10-20 C more in a regular oven). I read a rule of thumb to roast 40 minutes for each kg of meat plus 20 minutes extra, whereas Jamie (as in Jamie Oliver to whose wisdom I often bow when it comes to cooking) recommends 90 minutes for a 2 kg roast. My roast was in the oven 70 minutes, and was slightly pink at the bone and very succulent. With lamb, I would rather go for a bit undercooked than overcooked, but that is of course a matter of taste. When the lamb is cooked, take it out of the oven and wrap in foil to rest while you prepare the gravy. 

Put any juices that have collected in the roasting tray into a saucepan, bring to a boil, add beef stock and red wine. Taste, and possibly add more red wine (and enjoy a glass or two while cooking), let sauce thicken. When satisfied with the consistency of the gravy, add cream. 

Apparently there is no one right way to carve the leg roast, so just start cutting thin slices, and rotate when hitting bone. Serve and enjoy!

The verdict:
If I had known how easy it was to cook lamb like this I would have done it ages ago. It will certainly become a recurring favourite, and there are so many different variations to do. To get a more balanced meal I would throw in some green veggies, maybe broccoli and sprouts (which I actually added when eating leftovers the days after Easter). Also, there are so many ways to spice up the gravy, I definitely will try adding something sweet in it next time, maybe currant or cherry jam. I guess it might have been beginner's luck that I got the roasting time exactly right, with the meat still a bit pinkish near the bone, next time I would maybe even cut down the cooking time with a few more minutes, but not much.

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