I adore a leg of lamb slow-roasted until the meat falls off the bone and can be eaten with a spoon. This preparation is common in Greece and Morocco, countries that know what’s what when it comes to cooking a chunk of sheep meat. Gnawing the bones is an optional bonus for the chef – or his dog, for that matter. It’s the perfect lazy-day recipe when you have more important things to think about than watching the clock to gauge precise roasting time.
Slow-Roasted Leg of Lamb
1 large, fat leg of lamb (about 2 kg)
sea salt and milled black pepper
2 heads of garlic
2-3 lemons, sliced
generous amounts of rosemary, oregano and thyme sprigs
½ cup olive oil
1 cup full-bodied, dry white wine
1 cup beef stock
32 pickling onions, peeled
Heat the oven to 120⁰C. Trim the lamb of excess fat (leave on a goodly amount for flavour and succulence) and season with a little salt and a generous amount of pepper. Cut the garlic heads in half through the middles and place them in a roaster to fit the meat snugly. Add the lemon slices and rosemary, oregano and thyme sprigs. Nestle the meat into this bed of bliss, and pour over the olive oil, wine and stock. Seal the roaster securely with a couple of large sheets of oiled foil (the oil will prevent the meat from sticking to the foil and ruining the look of your creation).
Roast the meat for about six hours until meltingly tender. The magic will happen whether or not you intervene, though nervous cooks might like to open the parcel and turn the meat occasionally. Add the onions (and other vegetables of your choice) to the sauce about 30 minutes before the cooking’s done.
This recipe is great for lamb that’s past the first flush of youth. Think sizeable legs of 2kg or more, from an animal our mothers used to call mutton. The meat is tastier, richer, and ready to take on the bold flavours of olive oil, garlic, and lemon, and fistfuls of fresh herbs. You’ll need a lot of liquid to keep things moist. My choice is a combination of fulsome white wine and beef stock. These niftily balance the flavour of the meat and accompanying flavourants, creating a counter-point to the red you’re going to serve with it. If you use red wine for the cooking, it all gets a bit much.
Towards the end, small onions are dunked into the gravy, adding flavour and eye-appeal, not to mention the perfect partner for the meaty main event. Other veggies can be added as well, such as new potatoes, infant carrots and cauliflower.
Lift the lamb and vegetables onto a warm serving platter and tent with foil while finishing the gravy. Strain the cooking liquid into a saucepan, skim off the excess fat and boil uncovered until reduced and slightly syrupy.
A Bordeaux-style red blend is a classic match – the fattiness of the meat will be offset by the tannins of the wine while the herbs in the dish will be subtly echoed by what’s in the glass.