08 Apr How to roast a leg of lamb
How to roast a leg of lamb
8 April 2023
PREP. TIME: 5 MINs bring to room temperature - 1-2 hours - COOK TIME: 1 hour 20 minutes -
rest time min 30 mins - 2 hours - SERVES: 6 - 8
Do not be tempted to buy a boneless leg of lamb under the assumption that it is easier to cook and carve. You will never achieve the flavour, texture and succulence that is achieved when cooking the meat on the bone. Clearly though a purchase of a leg of lamb is an investment in time and money that needs to be given due credit and planning.
It all starts with your trusted butcher. Butchers in their wisdom often cut the shank and fold it back, thinking this will allow the leg to fit into most baking pans and ovens. If you have an oven big enough - ask for the shank to be left intact. It looks better and provides an easy handle for carving.
When you get the lamb home - unwrap it and salt it with kosher salt or sea salt. Allow about 1 dessert spoon of salt to a leg of lamb. Place the lamb uncovered and store in the refrigerator. A large leg of lamb can be safely kept like this for up to 3 days.
When it is approaching the time to cook the lamb - remove it from the fridge and bring it to room temperature by leaving it on the bench top for up to 2 hours. Meat at room temperature will cook more evenly than that cooked while still chilled.
When planning the meal - be sure to accommodate the time it takes to bring the meat to room temperature, the time it takes to cook and the time it takes to rest the meat. Allow a minimum of 30 minutes after you remove the lamb from the oven and before you carve it. One to two hours resting will do it no harm. During this time the meat continues cooking and the juices retract into the flesh - rather than running all over your carving board - producing wonderful succulent meat.
The Australian (founded in British / Irish thinking) idea of having to eat everything piping hot from the oven is an unnecessary stress that my mother in law warned me off many years ago. This works particularly well with what our family grew to call Greek Lamb or Indian Lamb. In both cases - the roasted meat is served with rice and yoghurt - instead of the traditional roasted vegetables; A hearty Greek Salad or sauteed bitter greens and perhaps some stuffed vegetables accompanied the Greek idea. A flavoursome eggplant dish and some dhal for the Pakistani version. Both options are perfectly delicious and centred around cooking a leg of lamb in the manner described here.
Olive oil is the fat of choice for rubbing onto the surface of the lamb before cooking - this gives the best flavour and colour. There is no need for further seasoning - if you salted the lamb at the outset. Avoid cooking with pungent bunches of rosemary that deteriorate into black splinters as the cooking proceeds. Some recipes call for whole bulbs of garlic or slices of the same inserted into the flesh; I think it is all a fiddle. You can faff around as much as you like of course but I suggest you try the method here and add your complications another time if you think you need to.
If you want to serve roast vegetables - cook these 1 hour before serving the meal - ideally once the meat is out of the oven and resting.
2 - 21/2 kg leg of lamb
1 dessertspoon of kosher salt or sea salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sprig of rosemary to garnish
For the Jus or Gravy
2 anchovy fillets
Stock or vegetable water
A baking dish that can accommodate the lamb
A large carving board
Sharp carving knife
Heated serving platter
Step 1 - Preparation
Uncover and salt the lamb as above when you buy it. Store uncovered in the refrigerator.
Bring the meat to room temperature 1 -2 hours before cooking.
Preheat the oven to 230C
Rub the olive oil into the skin and flesh of the lamb.
Place in the centre of the hot oven.
Step 2 - Cook
Cook the lamb for 15 minutes before turning the heat down to 190c.
Cook for a further 50 minutes to 1 hour depending upon how large the leg is and the degree of doneness you prefer.
Allow 10 - 15 minutes per 500 for pink lamb; 15 - 20 minutes per 500g for medium cooked lamb. Do not cook a 2 1/2 kg leg though for longer than 90 minutes.
The meat is cooked once the skin begins to split - there should be some resistance when you push the meat. Soft, spongy touch indicates rare meat. If you have a meat thermometer - remove the meat from the oven when it reads 3c below the goal temperature. Insert the thermometers into the thickest part of the leg.
GOAL TEMPERATURES OF LAMB:
Medium Rare: 60 - 65C
Medium: 65 - 70C
Medium Well Done: 70C
Well Done 75C
Step 3 - Rest
Remove the lamb from the oven and set aside in a draft free area to rest for 30 minutes - 2 hours. This is a good time to cook vegetables in the oven if doing so.
The lamb can rest on a heated platter while you make a jus or a gravy if you want.
Step 4 - Make a jus or a gravy
With a spoon - skim off as much fat off the top of the pan as you can collect and discard.
Place the pan over medium heat and add a 1/4 cup of water - stirring to gather up any crusty bits from the pan.
You can add anchovy fillets or simply a tablespoon of flour to the liquid.
Stir well and heat gently, adding a little more water, vegetable cooking water or stock to the pan as needed. Sometimes it is easier to do this once you have transferred the juices to a smaller pan.
Heat gently, season with salt and pepper and stir in a little cream if you wish.
Pour into a heated serving jug.
Step 5 - Carve the lamb
Carving a leg of lamb competently at the table adds wonderful ceremony to the meal. The intact shank bone makes a wonderful handle for this operation.
Rest the lamb on a platter or board. Take the shank with a napkin or clean tea towel in one hand and a knife in the other. Carve parallel to the bone away from you cutting thin slices from the thickest part of the leg. Turn the leg over and carve the meat from the underside the same way. Next carve the meat from the shank. These three cuts will provide different flavours and degrees of doneness. Serve everyone a piece of each.
Recipe by Elizabeth Peddey
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