When confronted by a mystery box from Woolworths, Jane-Anne Hobbs came up with this delicious use for a deboned leg of lamb.
1 x 1.8 kg deboned leg of lamb
flaky sea salt and milled black pepper
1 x 12-cm sprig of fresh rosemary
4 anchovy fillets, drained of oil
6 cloves garlic, peeled
5 Tbsp (75 ml) olive oil
300 ml dry white wine
30 g (250 ml, or a cup, loosely packed) curly parsley
100g slivered almonds
extra olive oil, for frying
For the sauce
1 small bulb garlic
90 g (750 ml or 3 cups, loosely packed) basil leaves
3 Tbsp (45 ml) verjuice
3 Tbsp (45 ml) olive oil
salt and milled black pepper
Heat the oven to 150 ºC. Open up the deboned leg of lamb and place it skin-side down on a board. Make a few shallow slashes in the thicker parts of the meat so the whole piece lies fairly flat. Season with plenty of milled black pepper.
Strip the rosemary leaves off their twig, roughly chop them and place them in the jug attachment of a stick blender. Add the anchovy fillets, garlic cloves, 30ml (2 Tbsp) of the olive oil and 30ml (2Tbsp) of the wine. Whizz to a paste. If you don’t have a jug blender, pound everything to a paste using a mortar and pestle.
Add the parsley and press the pulse button a few times so the leaves are coarsely chopped, but nowhere near a purée. Set aside.
Toast the slivered almonds by tossing them in a dry frying pan over a medium-low heat until golden. Tip the garlic/parsley paste into the hot pan and fry, stirring, for 1 minute, or just long enough to take the sting out of the garlic.
Spread this warm mixture over the lamb, pressing it into the slashes. Gather the lamb into a ball shape (you may need another pair of hands) and truss it into a neat sphere with long piece of kitchen string, crossing it over top and bottom and turning the ball with every truss, as you do would if you were wrapping a parcel. The string trussing the lamb should look like the spokes of a wheel (see picture, below left). Pull the string fairly tight as you go, and fasten it with a bow under the lamb. Season the lamb with salt and pepper.
Heat the remaining 45ml olive oil in a large pan and brown the lamb over a very high heat on all sides to create a rich golden crust. Tilt the pan to pour away any excess fat, then stand back and pour in the remaining wine, stirring briskly to deglaze.
Place the lamb and all its liquid into a roasting pan and roast, uncovered, for 3 hours at 150 ºC, or until the lamb is very tender. Remove from the oven and rest, lightly covered with foil, for 30 minutes.
NB One hour before the end of the roasting time, wrap the bulb of garlic in tin foil and place it on an oven rack below the lamb.
Now make the sauce. Boil the kettle. Put the walnuts in a bowl and cover them with boiling water. Set aside for 10 minutes.
Fill a large bowl with cold water and add a handful of ice cubes. Set aside. Put the basil leaves in a big colander over the sink and pour half a kettle of boiling water over them. Immediately plunge them into the iced water.
Remove the roasted garlic bulb from the oven and squeeze the soft pulp into the jug attachment of a stick blender. Drain the basil leaves and walnuts and pat dry on kitchen paper. Add these to the jug along with the verjuice and olive oil. Whizz to a thick, fairly coarse paste. If the blades are reluctant to turn, add a few more drops of verjuice and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Remove the string from the lamb and carve it into thick slices. Arrange these on a platter and strain over the warm pan juices. Serve hot with the basil sauce, a big bowl of boiled baby potatoes and a platter of rocket dressed with lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Or perhaps some minted baby peas.
It isn’t strictly necessary to blanch the walnuts and basil, but this step helps to create a good texture.
Verjuice has a lovely delicate taste, but if you can’t find it, you can use a little lemon juice in the sauce instead. It’s worth buying a bottle of Verjuice because it keeps for many months in the fridge, and is useful for deglazing pans, and adding to salad dressings.
If you can’t find a nice-sized deboned leg of lamb at your local Woolies, ask the butcher behind the counter to debone a leg for you. You’re not inconveniencing him – in fact, he’ll probably be very pleased to do this for you and to offer you some advice.
Trussing the lamb into a neat ball shape helps to prevent the stuffing from falling out. If you’re not confident about trussing it yourself, ask your Woolies butcher for a piece of butcher’s netting when you buy the lamb. Form the lamb into a neat ball, slip over the netting and knot it firmly top and bottom.
Don’t add any salt to the stuffing, as the anchovies are already quite salty.
If you prefer pink, slightly springy lamb, increase the oven temperature to 180ºC and roughly halve the cooking time. I can’t give you an exact time, because this depends on the weight of your lamb and the efficiency of your oven. I suggest you test the ‘doneness’ of the lamb by stabbing a sharp knife deep into its underside, and peeking inside to see how pink it is. Your piece of lamb will lose some juice this way, but that is a lesser evil than taking an over-cooked roast to the table. Alternatively, ask your Woolies butcher to weigh the piece and recommend a cooking time.
Michael’s wine recommendation – CLICK HERE
Jane-Anne Hobbs is a food writer de luxe. Recipe developer and photographer, she has written a stunning cookbook Scrumptious, click here to read my review. Always on the look out for low carb dishes, she has latterly come up with some stunners. When she is not in her kitchen Jane-Anne runs one of South Africa’s most successful food websites and Facebook page – http://www.whatsfordinner.co.za/
CLICK HERE to go to her website.