I made this for Mother’s Day lunch almost a week ago and promised to report back.
I didn’t mess it up. In fact, it was incredible.
Even if I do say so myself, which I do, but others did too, so it’s ok to be self-congratulating.
I was cooking for myself, my mum (Thrifty Grandma), sister (Thrifty Auntie) and Thrifty Baby, and wanted something we would all enjoy, but also something lazy and fool-proof. Thrifty Grandma is not keen on rare meat and in the search of something easy I struck on the idea of slow roasting, rather than regular roasting, a piece of lamb.
I saw this recipe on Best Recipes for a slow cooked boneless leg of lamb and was all set to make that. Until the morning of Mother’s Day when I had a huge panic about putting such a good piece of meat into my slow cooker. I have had mixed success with slow cooking in the past, from joyously tender and delicious, to disappointment-inducing watery and tasteless. Despite fantastic reviews of the recipe I couldn’t shake the worry that I was going to single handedly ruin my lovely mum’s Mother’s Day by making a rubbish dinner. The voices of purists also rang in my head, shaking their heads at the idea of slow cooking a beautiful piece of lamb. Well if I was roasting it I’d have had to do it well done anyway so I accept I was going to upset them either way.
Most recipes were for legs of lamb with the bone in which mine didn’t have. I ended up turning to a man I often turn to in times of culinary confusion. The fabulous and wise Nigel Slater (sorry dad). A quick Google search discovered for me an archive recipe for Nigel’s - slow roast lamb with chickpea mash from The Guardian from 2005. A read through of the recipe assured me that slow roasting was the way to go. And if slow roasting is ok by Nigel, then it’s ok by me.
After some thinking and rummaging in cupboards I produced this lamb inspired by Nigel’s method. It’s slow roasted in the oven for 4 hours (not in a slow cooker). Scoring the fat on the lamb helps the fat to render completely during its long cooking time. Nigel’s suggestion of adding a glass of water to the dish is what I believe really made this work. The addition of water steams the meat, keeping it really tender and preventing the whole thing from drying out. While roasting the meat in the oven gives the well done crunchy end bits I live for with a roast. It didn’t matter that my meat was boneless.
For me it is the ultimate safe, predictable (read: lazy) way of producing really tender and delicious lamb. I’m sticking this recipe in my back pocket, to be pulled out for all family lunches, get togethers, special occasions, Sundays and ‘just because’. They’re gonna be so sick of it by the summer.
As Nigel says of his lamb: “Rarely has a meal got such a resounding thumbs up… I suspect the fact that the smell of quietly roasting lamb had been teasing everyone for the best part of the afternoon had something to do with it – come supper-time, everyone was gagging for it.”. Quite.
Slow roasted boneless leg of lamb
Boneless leg of lamb (the weight doesn’t matter)
Rosemary – about 3 or 4 sprigs
Salt & pepper
- Pre-heat the oven to its highest setting
- Wash and dry the lamb
- Score the fat on the lamb with a sharp knife in a criss-cross pattern
- Rub the lamb with olive oil, salt and pepper
- Pour some olive oil into a roasting dish, lay the rosemary on top
- Place the lamb on top of the rosemary
- Dribble some more olive oil over the lamb
- Pour a wineglass of water into the bottom of the dish
- Cover the roasting dish tightly with tin foil
- Put the lamb into the oven and turn the temperature down to 160 (fan)
- Roast for 4 hours. Baste every hour. Add more water if the water has disappeared
- When the meat is done it should be very soft and you should be able to pull it apart with two forks
- Allow to sit for 15mins
- You can’t carve this meat, use two forks to pull the meat into chunks instead. I put the meat into a nice dish, pull it apart and let everyone help themselves
Here’s the thrifty bit…
It wasn’t a cheap piece of meat. However
- There was no waste AT ALL. The fat completely rendered down and there was no gristle or other ucky bits
- There wasn’t much left over as we enjoyed it so much, but there was just enough meat, plus vegetables and potatoes to chop it all together and make 3 meals for Thrifty Baby
- Sometimes it’s nice to just enjoy something you don’t eat every day