“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
– John 1:29
I was in the butchers last week looking for a joint of beef that I planned on a-roasting for Sunday dinner. As with any foray into a meat emporium though, I ended up leaving with a mite more than I originally intended on buying. On this occasion, when I exited the premises, I carried a rolled brisket joint and two lamb cutlets. The brisket was destined for the slow-cooker treatment but the cutlets were fated for a swifter ending: Seasoned and fried, they were masticated and in my belly before you could say, “Who’s the other one for?”
The upside and downside of my own lamb consumption is this: I am the only member of the fambly who likes young sheep. Ergo, it’s not a delicacy I tend to have too often. The upside to that of course, is that when I do indulge, it always feels like the most special of occasions.
The cutlets, seasoned and fried in a melange of butter and olive oil, were allowed to rest for the barest of minutes before the mastication began – although they were so tender, ‘mastication’ is too forceful a term for what transpired. Slightly charred without and pink within, they were as joyous a meal for one as I can remember having.
‘Kissing’ is probably a better term.
Fast-forward to this week and I agreed to cook a whole leg of lamb for a friend.
“My weemin no interest in sheeps,” he texted, after he’d bought a leg of lamb because he’d seen it on offer.
The fact that I would benefit from multiple slices of said leg of lamb for my own consumption was all the persuasion me and my stomach required.
“How does roasting the lamb with anchovies, garlic and rosemary sound?” I asked him via a reply text.
“Capital idea, old bean,” he replied. He’s a Carrickmore man originally, but sometimes he considers wearing a monocle.
Roasting the leg with anchovies, garlic and rosemary was a no-brainer, really.
Number One: It’s a recipe based on a cracker from Simon Hopkinson which never fails and Number Two: I already had all the ingredients in the house ready to go.
Whilst anchovies might sound like a bit weird to pair with a meat like lamb, let me reassure you that it’s a match made in foodie heaven.
1 leg of lamb
2 tins of anchovies in olive oil, drained
2/3 big garlic cloves, peeled and quartered
6 or 7 sprigs of rosemary
Small bunch of thyme, leaves picked off
1 heaped tbsp of butter, soft
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
Half a bottle of white wine
This is very easy to prepare. Set the oven to pre-heating at 200C. As that’s happening, set your leg of lamb onto a large roasting tin and using a sharp knife, make a series of cuts across the meaty side – about ten or 12 in all. After that, push your little finger into the holes to widen them out a bit.
Insert half an anchovy into each of the holes, pushing them in with your pinky and then push in the quarters of garlic and finally stick in the sprigs of rosemary.
Mash the remaining anchovies with the soft butter and the thyme leaves and then slather this all over the leg.
Half the lemon and squeeze the juice all over the leg and then grind on loads of black pepper – the more the merrier.
Lastly, tuck in the lemon halves and any left over herbs and then pour the wine around the leg to make a moat.
Retire the leg to the oven and let it rip for 15 minutes on 200C and then turn the temp down to 160 for another hour and 15 minutes (or just an hour if you want the inside to be pink).
After its allotted time in the oven, take it out and allow to rest covered by a sheet of tin foil for 20 minutes before carving.
The remaining juices in the pan – buttery, lemony and fishy – can be decanted into a saucepan and bubbled for a few minutes to make a delicious gravy.
“When it comes to good food smells, this is one of the best, because as you slice the lamb the waft of garlic, rosemary and anchovy hits you head on,” wrote Simon Hopkinson in his seminal cookbook, Roast Chicken and Other Stories.
And it’s true.
Although to put things into more striking terms, as I removed the leg from the oven and later began slicing, I was only surprised that every dog in the country hadn’t arrived at my front door, such was the magnificence of the odour emanating from the house.
All you need now is a friend named Jason to gift you a leg of lamb.
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