This is a recipe I received from Jim Fisher of Cook in France. We didn’t actually make it when I was there, but he mentioned it and I was intrigued, as I knew that by the time I got home our friend Magali would have delivered half of one of her lambs, raised on the mountainside only a few hundred metres away from where we live.
Normally, we’d have gone out for a wild asparagus omelette on Easter Monday, to which all the village is invited, but due to circumstances beyond our control, it had to be cancelled. So it seemed like a good opportunity: we invited eight friends and got cooking.
The reason I say it’s “sort of” 30 minutes is because it only spends half an hour in the oven, but you need to put it in 2 hours before the meal. Our guests ended up being late and then we spent a long time drinking aperos, as you do in the Midi, so it ended up getting to the table about an hour later than our calculations had allowed for. Not a problem — it was delicious! This is an excellent way of roasting a leg of lamb, and I think I’ll always do it this way from now on. Apart from the flavour and the energy savings, the other big advantage of this method is that the lamb comes out of the oven very early, liberating it for other things (a gratin dauphinois and some roasted vegetables in our case). And as our experience demonstrated, it is very tolerant about timing.
1 leg of lamb (ours weighed about 2.5 kg)
1 orange (optional)
1 lemon (optional)
aromatics of your choice: garlic, orange zest, rosemary, anchovies …
salt and pepper
Make sure you take the lamb out of the fridge several hours beforehand: it needs to be at room temperature when you put it in. If you want you can marinade it in a glug of olive oil, a spoonful of red wine vinegar, and whatever herbs you fancy. I find this is a good flavour boost for indifferent lamb, but I didn’t bother this time. Preheat the oven to as hot as it will go (250C in my case) and place a shelf fairly low down.
Stab the leg all over with a small, sharp knife and insert slivers of your chosen flavouring into the slits. We used Jim’s suggestion of slivers of garlic and orange zest, but garlic and lemon zest, garlic and rosemary, garlic and thyme, or garlic and anchovies would be good too (you can see a garlic theme emerging here — I find it hard to imagine lamb without garlic). If you’ve gone for the citrus theme, cut your orange and lemon in half and rub them vigorously all over the lamb.
Liberally coat the lamb with olive oil, smearing it on with your hands. Sprinkle with plenty of salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Place on a roasting tray, fatty side up, and cook in the oven for 20 minutes. Turn over and cook for another 10 minutes.
In the meantime get together some clean towels. If you have a coolbox, this is an excellent choice: otherwise you’ll need more towels or blankets. Put a folded towel in the bottom of the coolbox. At the end of the cooking time, wrap the lamb and its tray in several layers of foil, making sure there are no gaps. Put it in the coolbox, and fold towels over the top to enclose it completely. Put the lid on and go away. It will take an hour and a half to finish cooking, and will be perfectly pink and tender all the way through. Leaving it longer won’t do any harm.
When it’s done you can make gravy by pouring off the accumulated juices and skimming off the fat. Reduce the remaining juice in a pan with some red wine to make a sauce. We completely forgot to do this, but the juices made a very fine sauce for the leftovers later in the week.