If you’re cooking for a crowd, this all-day, slow-roasted leg of lamb has to be just about the easiest – and most meltingly, lipsmackingly good – way to do it. I’ve adapted this recipe slightly from Patricia Wells’ Bistro Cooking, but there are countless recipes around for similarly slow cooked lamb.
For some reason, when I’ve attempted this kind of thing before I have sometimes found that the lamb has been a bit dry and stringy, but this time it was perfect. I suspect in the past I actually haven’t cooked it for quite long enough, but also on too high a heat, so it dried out before getting to the fall-apart stage that makes it so divine. This time, I made sure to use a very large leg – about 3.5kg – and of course, being from Feather and Bone, the meat was top, top quality which I’m sure helped matters. And after an initial blast for browning, I kept the heat very low all day, at about 120 degrees C, and turned off the oven’s fan function.
Circumstances made me start this in the oven an hour or so earlier than I would have – had to go out for lunch, poor me – but in hindsight I think this was very good, because it made sure there was plenty of time. In the end, I cooked this for almost nine hours! The outside of the lamb had a burnished, golden crust, but was incredibly moist and succulent beneath the skin, breaking apart at the touch.
Do try this if you get a chance, and let me know how it goes, because I want to see if this recipe is actually foolproof or if it depends too much on ovens and sizes of meat and so on. For serving, I was going to shred the lamb and serve it in a bowl on a bed of the cooked vegetables, but my guests talked me into simply plonking the whole thing on the table in its baking tray, and we all dug in. The meat was so tender you could literally pull it away from the bone with a spoon, so that’s what we did. Rustic and slurpily good. This fed seven guests who are good on the tooth, with a hefty heap leftover, so I think you could safely say it serves eight to 10 people.
Luscious all-day lamb
- 1 large leg lamb (around 3-3.5kg)
- 6 onions, quartered
- 1 head garlic, cloves separated, peeled & chucked in
- 6 carrots, quartered
- 6 bay leaves
- bunch thyme
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 1½ bottles dry white wine
- tiny chat potatoes, as many as you want
1. Preheat oven to 220°C (I put ours on the full fan-force setting).
2. Layer the onions, carrots, garlic, bay leaves and thyme over the base of an uncovered large roasting pan (you need one that has a lid – a few layers of foil might work but you need to seal it very carefully at the next stage).
3. Plonk the lamb on top of the vegetables, rub with salt & pepper and a little olive oil and roast, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
4. Remove from oven and turn the heat down to 120°C. I turned the fan off at this stage, which I think helped keep the meat moist.
5. Pour the wine and tomatoes into the pan, cover with lid or foil and return to the oven.
6. Leave it in there and go about your business, checking from time to time. The first time I opened the oven was after it had been cooking for around four and a half hours. It looked wonderful, but when I prodded it, it didn’t quite yield very easily, so I bunged it back in for another several hours, checking every hour or so. Patricia Wells, who doesn’t turn the heat down, says:
“Timing will vary according to the size and age of the leg of lamb, and type of roasting pan used. But once the wine has been added, it will general take 4 to 5 additional hours of baking. Obviously, it is best to check on the lamb from time to time, reducing the oven heat if the lamb begins to burn or the liquid begins to evaporate too much.”
7. An hour or so before you want to serve, add the potatoes to the liquid, pushing them down so they are well covered. Cover and return to the oven till the spuds are tender.
There’s no need to rest the meat – to serve, remove the vegetables (now very soft) to a wide, shallow serving dish, pull the meat apart with tongs and pile it on top, and serve the delicious cooking juices separately. Or go rustic and serve directly from the roasting pan as we did, with a green salad on the side, and a good red wine.