A leg of lamb is one of the things I personally enjoy cooking, especially on a lazy Sunday or on a cozy winter night when I have people coming over for dinner.
I totally get it when someone says that it’s one of the trickiest things to cook .. it’s hard to get it just right.. it took me a few trials to get it right.
The fact though, is that the leg of lamb is one of the easiest cuts of meat to cook, you know why? because it’s naturally full of flavour and tender, so once you follow some simple steps on how to cook it, you will be able to enjoy this perfect roast with out any fuss.
I have cooked this dish several times on different occasions and every time the marinate spices would change according to my mood on the day, so there never used to be just one recipe that I follow, until I wrote down this one, and I think it’s becoming my favourite of all (they say your mood affects the way you dress up in the morning, true but I’d say my mood definitely affects my cooking).
One of my favourite ingredients in roasting this leg of lamb is ‘Molasses’, whether it’s pomegranate or sugar cane or date molasses, they all are great additions to this dish.
But let’s get some of the basics out of the way first, then we will talk more about the recipe and ingredients.
What is this cut of meat anyway?
That’s a question a butcher would put his hand up first to answer .. lol
It’s simply the lamb’s lower hunch/thigh part which is the upper part of it’s leg. Its size obviously depends on the size of the lamb itself, since it’s sold as a whole leg.
What do I need my butcher to do to my leg of lamb?
Well, I ask him to trim a bit of the fat, so its not too lamby in taste! especially the bits on the sides, that’s not really covering any meat.
But I’d recommend leaving a nice pad of fat on top of the meat, it helps keeping it tender.
Do I buy it with the bone in or boneless?
I personally prefer the bone in, it does make a difference, as the bones hold so much of the flavour which somehow while roasting escapes from the bone to the meat making it even tastier. But in saying that, you could still cook a boneless leg of lamb and it will turn out delicious, the boneless one usually comes in an ovenproof net to hold it together, it’s definitely easier to slice for those who fear carving a bone-in piece of meat.
Why is it so expensive and do I have to shop around for cheaper ones?
It is expensive! and that’s why some people don’t bother risking it, in case it dries out or go to waste. By buying cheaper ones, which won’t be much cheaper anyway, you will only end up buying a lower quality meat that belongs to an unhappy stressed animal!! You really want to enjoy this meal so always invest in a good quality one.
What about marinating the lamb overnight ?
That’s what I used to do.. but not anymore. I read about this in an article a couple of months ago and it made so much sense to me. See, the whole point of marinating is to soften the meat and add flavour, right? but with this cut, as mentioned before it’s already tender and full of flavour, which you can enhance with some spices or herbs, but you don’t have to marinate it for more than, I’d saaay .. two hours? or you could skip marinating and flavour with some spices just before cooking which is what I will be showing you shortly.
How long do I cook it for ?
Here is where it gets a bit interesting and tricky .. but bear with me.
Depends on how you like it cooked rare, medium or well done.. I personally don’t find it very appetizing to cut into a leg of lamb that’s cooked rare, the look of fresh blood on the cutting board … just wouldn’t impress me as a diner at all !!
Confession! I have done it before and it was quite embarrassing since I had people over and I had to put the leg of lamb back in the oven for an extra 20 mins… Oops ! things like that could really stress you out especially when you have someone over for the first time. Lol
It’s nice to cook it to ‘medium’; which would be still tender and slightly pink in colour from the inside, you can’t really get the whole leg cooked exactly the same, so there will be some variations in some parts of the leg depending on how far or close it is from the bone, but that’s totally fine, it actually makes it more interesting while you carve and serve, as diners will get to choose which part of the leg they prefer.
Here are some guidelines on roasting temperatures and times based on my own experience: ‘might vary slightly depending on the meat quality and your oven but should not vary much’
Roasting at 160-165 degrees Celsius = 320-330 F in a fan forced oven and cooked to your preference:
- Medium-well (light pink from the inside): approx. 65-75 mins per 1kg
- Well done: approx. 75-80 mins per 1kg
- a resting time after roasting time is up is necessary to achieve good results, so rest while covered for at least for 20 mins before carving.
Now, let’s start cooking !
a recipe card for this leg of lamb is at the end of this page, but this is a step by step tutorial on how to prepare your roast, you don’t wanna miss on it!
1. Get your leg of lamb out of the fridge and leave in room temperature for half an hour to an hour before cooking.
Meanwhile, prepare your spices ..
2. My favourite part >place cinnamon and cumin seeds in a clean and dry mortar and using a pestle make some noise while crushing spices until cumin breaks and blends with cinnamon .. smells amazing! I find this very therapeutic ..
3. Remove net on the meat if present using a scissor and discard it
place the meat on a piece of baking paper to catch any mess
drizzle the lamb with the oil ..
4. Rub and massage with crushed spices ..
5. Season with salt and pepper ..
6. Sear the lamb in a large non-stick pan from all sides using a tong and a fork to control the weight while turning .. it will change in shape while on high heat but that’s normal .. don’t panic!!
7. combine pomegranate and honey in a bowl
8. Place lamb in a large roasting pan, insert a couple of garlic pieces in flesh and then brush with two thirds of the pomegranate mixture to cover all around.
Reserve the rest of syrup mix for later ..
*you can slice a couple of onions and place them in the roasting pan to cook with meat (optional)*
9. Place a large piece of baking paper over the lamb, tucking in the edges ..
10. Cover the pan loosely with a layer of foil and put in oven for 2 hours or more depending on the weight of lamb and how you like it cooked * check the guidelines above ..
Now, Let time do the magic !!
Basmati Rice with saffron
First the saffron ..
1. place a good pinch of saffron threads in a mortar and grind.
2. add two table spoons of boiling water to saffron and leave aside to infuse for 30 mins or more to release its colour and flavour..
3. Cook basmati rice according to instructions.
4. Ten mins before rice is fully cooked, pour the saffron infusion into 4 different spots, cover again and continue cooking on low heat until all water absorbed.
5. fork through the rice gently to avoid sticking, you should end up with a two colour rice or more, red orange and white.. that’s a Persian style rice, doesn’t that look good? it smells even better ..
6. when lamb is ready, turn the oven off and leave the lamb in oven for 5-10 mins, get it out and leave again covered to rest for 15-20 mins before carving ..
very important to rest! as the juices settle back evenly inside the meat
7. uncover and brush the lamb with the reserved pomegranate syrup mix
How do I Carve this now?
Well I am not a great carver myself .. I find it the most challenging step! I think the problem is that unfortunately by the time the food is ready, I’m usually not patient enough to follow a 5 steps technique only to carve a piece of meat, and to be honest I really don’t care if my carved meat looked a bit messy, at the end of the day I’m cooking for my family, so who cares if the slice of turkey is not looking perfect as long as it tastes delicious!! so don’t stress too much about it just be careful not to cut your fingers off !!
In saying that , I understand that cooking for guests for example does require a bit of decency, doesn’t it ?
and because of that I had to do some research on how to carve. Plus ‘on a personal level’ people are expecting too much from me these days! since I have recently been labelled as “food blogger” they just think I should know everything about food .. lol
well it’s not true.. I’m still learning you know !! I’m just doing it in public that’s all ..
Anyway, I had to watch a couple of chefs carving meat then tried to do it myself, so I can come up with the easiest way to carve a leg of lamb and here it goes .. hope this helps!
1. get your cutting board and place the leg of lamb on top
2. use a sharp chefs knife and a fork .. “watch where your fingers are while carving”
3. the bone is usually positioned on an angle running through the meat, start on the side that looks more meaty to you
4. slice across the grain; which means perpendicular to the bone, cut straight down until the bone stops you from going any further
5. continue slicing along the bone the same way
6. now the slices will obviously still be attached from the bottom, using a tong and the same knife turn your knife so that it’s parallel and as close as possible to the bone, and cut to release the slices one at a time using the tong with your other hand to hold the cut slices.
7. you can now turn the leg of lamb on the other side using the same technique to carve the rest
8. serve with rice
‘Bon a petit’
- 1.6 kg bone-in leg of lamb
- 3-4 tablespoons of light olive oil
- 1.5 tablespoons of cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
- 4 cloves of garlic cut in halves
- 1/2 cup of pomegranate molasses
- 2 table spoons of good quality raw honey
- sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to season
- 3 large onions sliced *optional
- 2 cups of aromatic basmati rice
- 2.5 cups of boiling water
- 1 pinch of saffron threads
- 2 table spoons of light olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Leg of lamb
- Preheat oven to 160 C- 315 F fan forced
- crush the cumin and cinnamon in a mortar
- drizzle the leg of lamb with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then massage it with spices to cover it all
- season with salt and pepper
- sear the leg of lamb in a large non-stick and hot pan on medium to high heat until it is brown from all sides
- combine pomegranate molasses with the honey in a bowl
- place lamb in a large roasting pan, make small slits in the flesh using a small sharp knife in a couple of spots around then insert the garlic pieces inside these slits
- brush the lamb with three quarters of the pomegranate mix and reserve the rest for later.
- cut the onions in into half moons and place in roasting pan.
- cover the lamb with a large piece of baking paper, tucking the edges in
- cover the pan loosely with a layer of foil and place in preheated oven for 2.5 -3 hours depending on how you like it cooked *see guide
- when ready, turn off the oven and leave lamb for 5-10 mins inside
- get the roasting pan out of oven and leave it covered to rest for another 15 mins at least
- uncover and drizzle with the rest of pomegranate syrup mix then start carving.. follow the steps above to carve your lamb ..
- Saffron Rice
- grind the threads of saffron in a mortar then add 3 table spoons of boiled water and leave to soak for 30 mins.
- rinse the rice in a drainer until the water runs clear
- in a non-stick pan add 2 table spoons of olive oil then add the drained rice.
- stir gently to avoid breaking the rice until oil covers the rice and makes some sizzling noise
- add the boiling water and salt stir gently then cover tightly for 20 mins
- water should be completely absorbed if not cover for 5 more mins
- uncover and pour the saffron liquid in 4 different spots in the pan and leave covered for 10 more mins on the lowest heat possible.
- before serving, fork the rice through to create different shades of colours
- serve while still warm
- you could replace saffron threads with half a teaspoon of ground turmeric. add it to the boiling water for cooking the rice.