“The quest for slowness, which begins as a simple rebellion against the impoverishment of taste in our lives, makes it possible to rediscover taste.” ~ Carlo Petrini, founder of the International Slow Food Movement
When I’m busy writing or working I prefer to make a dinner that’s easy and which gives me something to look forward to. It’s also a bonus if it provides me with tasty leftovers. This is a recipe I prepare in about ten minutes, and pop into the oven after lunch or the early afternoon, ready to make me a delicious dinner.
I love this lamb dish. It requires a minimum of effort, and yields meat that is tender, well flavoured, melt-in-your-mouth goodness. It will feed a crowd, or provide cold meat for the week ahead. The meat can be shredded with a fork and is perfect for sandwiches, salads or wraps. I’ve even been known to throw a handful of shredded lamb in with my breakfast omelette or scrambled eggs. (Try this – it’s divine with a sprinkle of fresh herbs!)
One large leg of lamb on the bone, 4 to 6 cloves of garlic, a few sprigs of fresh rosemary (this is optional but so good!) one to two teaspoons of mixed dried herbs (the Italian blend of herbs tastes marvellous with this), 2 cups of red wine, 2 cups of chicken or vegetable stock, olive oil, salt.
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees celsius, or 140 degrees celsius if fan forced (320 degrees or 280 degrees fahrenheit).
Crush each garlic clove slightly with the flat blade of the knife. This bruises it and loosens the skin, making it easy to peel. Cut the garlic cloves lengthways into two or three pieces. Then strip small clumps of rosemary off the main stems.
Using a sharp tin-bladed knife stab the roast, making several deep incisions. Use your finger to push the garlic pieces deep into the leg of lamb. This will infuse the meat with a rich flavour as it cooks. The flavour is not sharp – it will be mellow and sweet like roasted garlic cloves. If you’re using the fresh rosemary, poke a little of the herb into the top of each hole, on top of the garlic. It’s okay if it protrudes from the top of the meat.
Drizzle a little olive oil into the surface of the meat and place in a large baking dish. Sprinkle the mixed herbs and a little salt over the top of the roast.
Pour the stock and wine around the joint of meat and then place in the oven for five hours.
Baste the meat every so often with the pan juices. (If you forget it will still taste fine, but basting makes the finished meat extra sticky and oh-so-good.)
If your joint of lamb is browning a little fast, turn the temperature down a touch, or cover the roast in foil and return to the oven.
After five hours all of the connective tissue and cartilage within the meat and around the joint will have dissolved, which means that your body will easily absorb all of that extra goodness. The meat will literally fall off the bone, and can be carved or simply pulled apart with two forks. It will be sticky, rich and good.
Rest the meat, covered, for fifteen minutes before serving. This allows the juices to be reabsorbed into the lamb, making it even more tender and juicy. In the picture below you can see the chunks of garlic in the sliced meat.
If you’d like gravy, place the baking pan over low heat on top of your stove. Carefully spoon the fat from the juices at the top of the baking dish, pour a little boiling water into the pan and use a wooden spoon to stir and dissolve the thickened flavourings from the bottom of the pan. For a thicker gravy mix a teaspoon or two of cornflour in a little warm water and add this to the pan on top of the stove, warming gently and stirring constantly until the gravy thickens. Adjust with a little more wine or stock if necessary.
Tip: If you want to roast vegetables in this slower oven temperature, add them at one to one and a half hours before the meat will be finished. You may need to raise the temperature of the oven after the lamb has been removed to crisp and brown the roast vegetables in the last fifteen minutes.