Easter Lamb with Honey and Spices

There is nothing quite like roast lamb, a favourite dish for Sunday roast and so adaptable to other flavours, such as herbs and spices, or scented jus or gravy. Lamb is treated very differently throughout the world, with English lamb tending to be cooked quite plainly with standard mint jus or gravy, whereas the further east you go, more herbs and spices are used, particularly in Greece, Turkey and the Middle East. In North Africa, hot spices are sometimes used, such as ras-el-hanout, a quite pungent Moroccan spice mix comprising of cumin, coriander, cinnamon and red pepper and used to marinate and cook the meat.

In Greece, a lot of honey and rosemary are used along with slivers of fresh garlic and beautiful ripe and juicy lemons which are not only used to flavour the marinade, but are also baked with the roast lamb for part of the time, or mixed in with roasted vegetables for a unique and lemony taste. So many ways with this versatile, juicy and tender meat!

This recipe is a little combination of all countries, adding the best flavours to bring out the delicate taste of the lamb. Overnight marination will purely benefit this dish, but a few hours will suffice.

If you are able to get ‘Baby Lamb’, this is probably the most tender of all, as this is only between 6-10 weeks old, whereas ‘Spring Lamb’ is normally 5-6 months old. Milk-fed lamb is the sweetest and most delicate of all, and this is usually reflected in the price!

This recipe is simple and so tasty, with a combination of sweetness and a slight acidity to the accompanying jus. The only time involved is the length of the marination – preparation of this dish will take you less than 10 minutes, even if you are not an accomplished cook!

Easter Lamb with Honey and Spices

There is nothing more delicious than a leg of lamb, roasted to perfection with that still pink interior. Baby lamb is only around 6-10 weeks old whereas ‘spring lamb’ is usually 5-6 months old. Milk-fed lamb, if you can find it, it the most tender and sweet of all young lamb and worth the extra money. Get your butcher to bone and roll the leg for you – saves all the carving problems!

This leg of lamb is marinated overnight with fresh rosemary, garlic, mustard, honey and lemon zest. Be prepared for lots of requests for seconds!

Serves:                                  6-8

Preparation Time:              10-15 minutes

Cook Time:                           1 hour 30 minutes for pink lamb

Ingredients:

  • 4tbsp honey
  • 2tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1tsp lemon zest
  • 2 whole lemons, cut in half
  • 3 or 4 stalks of rosemary, whittle the stalk so that it will stick into the lamb
  • 3 cloves garlic, cut into slivers
  • 5lb/2½kg whole leg of lamb
  • 1tsp coarse sea salt
  • Freshly chopped mint from about 2 healthy stalks
  • ½ cup of verjuice or white wine

Method:

  1. In a small bowl, combine the honey, mustard, chopped rosemary, ground black pepper, lemon zest and garlic. Mix well and rub all over the lamb. Make slits in the lamb with a sharp knife and push in the rosemary stalks. Cover and marinate in the fridge overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450°F/230°C /Gas mark 8.
  3. Place lamb on a rack in a roasting tin and sprinkle with salt to taste. Put the lemon halves around the lamb. If you have extra rosemary, stand the lamb on those stalks.
  4. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 400°F/200°C/Gas mark 6 and roast for 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes for medium rare. The internal temperature should be at least 120°F/60°C. Let the roast rest for about 10 minutes before carving.
  5. For the jus, use the pan juices on the top of the oven in the original lamb dish. Stir and scrape to pick up all the caramelised juices and honey from the lamb. Pour in ½ cup of verjuice or white wine and 1 cup of fresh lamb stock into the dish and continue to scrape and stir until the liquid has reduced slightly .Toss in chopped mint and stir again.
  6. Serve slices of lamb with roasted vegetables or your own favourite accompaniments.

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