The idea for roasting lamb this way comes from a photograph I cut out from a foodie magazine. Foolishly, I didn't keep the recipe; nor did I make a note of which magazine I took it from, so I had to make up the ingredients for the stuffing using classic lamb flavourings: lemon, garlic, rosemary, oregano and anchovies. If this is your recipe, thank you very much: I love it.
I slashed the lamb crossways, instead of lengthways (as it was cut in the picture I had), thinking this would make carving a breeze, which it did. Next time I make this, though, I am going to make the slashes shallower, because I found that the stuffing that was resting close to the bone was rather mushy and sticky. Another mistake (and this is what comes from not having a recipe to hand): I undercooked the lamb, presuming it would need a shorter cooking time due to the slashes. I was wrong, so I had to put it, half-carved, back into the oven to finish roasting.
My suggestion: use a meat thermometer to test for doneness or, if you don't have one, turn the cooked lamb over, cut a deep slit into its underside, and peek inside to make sure that the meat close to the bone is not raw and bloody, but very hot to the touch and a pale rosy pink (or a brown, depending on how you like your lamb done).
This would be very nice with a deboned, butterflied leg of lamb, but you will need to reduce the cooking time accordingly: ask your butcher.
Finally, please don't be hesitant about adding the anchovies, even if you loathe them. You will not detect a single fishy whiff in the stuffing: instead, there will a deep savoury note that will make your visitors cry out: 'But, darling, what did you put in this delicious stuffing?'
Leg of Lamb with Lemon, Garlic and Rosemary Stuffing
1 large leg of lamb (2.5- 3 kg)
3 slices day-old bread
1 10-cm sprig fresh rosemary
1 10-cm sprig fresh oregano (or 30 ml dried)
grated zest of a lemon
3 T (45 ml) olive oil
2 anchovy fillets, mashed to a paste
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely choppped
salt and milled black pepper
2 carrots, sliced
a whole onion, sliced, skin and all, into 1 cm slices
the juice of a large lemon
a glass of white wine
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Wipe the lamb with a clean, damp cloth and cut off any large chunks of fat. Using a very sharp knife, make a series of crossways slashes about 6-7 cm deep. Put the bread into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process to crumbs. Add 1 T (15 ml) fresh rosemary needles and the same amount of fresh oregano leaves and whizz until the herbs are finely chopped. Tip into a bowl and add the lemon zest, 1 T (15ml) olive oil, the mashed anchovies and the chopped garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
Using your fingers, mix the stuffing so that it just holds together (like the mixture you'd stuff a chicken with). If it seems too dry and crumbly, add a little more olive oil or some lemon juice. Press the mixture loosely into the slashes you made in the lamb, and then tie up the joint with individual lengths of string, as shown in the picture. Don't worry if a little crumbly stuffing pokes out: it will cook to a lovely golden crunch.
Sprinkle the remaining olive oil and the lemon juice over the joint and season with salt and pepper. Arrange a small bed of sliced carrots and onions in a roasting tray and top with the rosemary and oregano twigs. Place the lamb on top and pour the wine around the lamb. Roast at 200°C for 35-40 minutes (or until it is beginning to crisp and brown on top), then reduce to 180°C and roast for a further hour and a half, or longer (see my notes, above, about doneness). Top up with a little white wine and/or lemon juice every now and then, so that there is always a little liquid in the pan. Remove from the oven. Place the joint in a ceramic dish, cover loosely with tin foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
Heat a platter in the still-warm oven. Snip off the strings. Carve the roast: first, holding your knife blade parallel to the leg bone and starting at the thick end of the leg, make a long sideways cut to separate the entire top section from the bone. Now make vertical cuts to separate the slices. Do the same on either side of the bone (a little reckless hacking may be called for here). Arrange the lamb on a platter and pour the pan juices over. Or use the pan juices to make a gravy (instructions below)
Lovely with a plain green salad and crispy roast potatoes.
To make a gravy:
Put the roasting pan, vegetables and all, on the hob and turn the heat onto high. Sprinkle 4 t (20 ml) flour into the pan and stir well, scraping to dislodge any golden residue. Cook for two or so minutes, or until the mixture is golden brown. Now pour in a cup of stock or stock/wine combination, and, using a whisk, stir vigorously until the sauce thickens and bubbles alarmingly. Thin the gravy with more stock, water or wine to the desired consistency (I know it's old-fashioned, but I like a thickish gravy), whisking hard. Turn down the heat to very low and and allow to bubble gently for five minutes. Season with salt and pepper and strain into a gravy boat, pressing down on the roasted vegetables with the back of a soup ladle. If the gravy seems a bit pale add a dash of soy sauce or liquid gravy browning.