Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Slow-roasted Stuffed Leg of Lamb with a Basil Walnut Sauce: my first MasterChef/Woolworths recipe

Parsley, rosemary, anchovies and garlic perfume this slow-roasted ‘ball’ of lamb from the inside, with toasted almonds adding some interesting crunch. The sauce is a gentle pesto flavoured with walnuts, whose slight bitterness contrasts nicely with the sweetness of the lamb. I've blanched the basil and walnuts and roasted the garlic to create a soft, voluptuous paste, but you can skip these steps if you’re in a hurry (see my Cook’s Notes, below).

Roast Deboned Leg of Lamb En Ballon with a Herby Garlic Stuffing
A voluptuous pesto of blanched basil and walnuts turns this lamb dish into a feast.  
This is the first in a series of four recipes I've developed for Woolworths, one of the headline sponsors of the much-anticipated second series of MasterChef South Africa. You'll find this recipe here, on the new Woolworths Masterchef Hub.

I'm excited to have been asked, for the second time, to blog for Wooliesand so look forward to sharing three more recipes with you as the series progresses.

Roast Deboned Leg of Lamb En Ballon with a Herby Garlic Stuffing
I've been provided with a list of 'mystery box' ingredients for each dish (based, I believe, on general themes for various episodes). I haven't seen any of the MasterChef episodes, nor do I know anything about the show. The ingredients I had to work with are listed at the bottom of this page.

But on to the recipe. I was intrigued to see two different types of nuts (walnuts and almonds) in the ingredients list. The combination of lamb and nuts evokes slow-cooked, fruity North African tagines and Persian recipes featuring perfumed Middle Eastern spices. But the remaining ingredients on the list were largely Mediterranean in character, so I settled on a big deboned leg of lamb stuffed with gorgeous aromatics, roasted in a ball shape (to prevent the stuffing falling out)  and served with a mild, creamy, nutty pesto featuring blanched basil and walnuts.

You might, if you're not a fan of them, be tempted to leave the anchovies out of this stuffing, but please be bold and leave them in, because they add a wonderful savour to the lamb, and leave not a trace of fishy flavour behind.

This is a slow roast in which the lamb gradually collapses to form very soft and tender slices. If you'd like your lamb pink in the middle, you can increase the temperature and roughly halve the cooking time (see Cook's Notes).

Disclosure: Woolworths have paid me to develop and write about these recipes, and they've also given me an allowance for buying the ingredients.

Finally, this year, it’s not just bloggers getting the chance to get creative in the kitchen along with MasterChef and Woolies. Create a recipe with the same ingredients used each week by the Woolworths Masterchef Competition bloggers and you could win one of fourteen R1000 Woolies gift cards, or the (very!) grand prize of a R10 000 gift card. Head over to the Woolworths Masterchef Hub for more info and T&Cs.

Stuffed Leg of Lamb with a Basil Walnut Sauce

1 x 1.8 kg deboned leg of lamb
flaky sea salt and milled black pepper
1 x 12-cm sprig of fresh  rosemary
4 anchovy fillets, drained of oil
6 cloves garlic, peeled
5 Tbsp (75 ml) olive oil
300 ml dry white wine
30 g (250 ml, or a cup, loosely packed) curly parsley
100g slivered almonds
extra olive oil, for frying

For the sauce:
1 small bulb garlic
16 walnuts
90 g (750 ml or 3 cups, loosely packed) basil leaves
3 Tbsp (45 ml) verjuice
3 Tbsp (45 ml) olive oil
salt and milled black pepper

Heat the oven to 150 ºC. Open up the deboned leg of lamb and place it skin-side down on a board. Make a few shallow slashes in the thicker parts of the meat so the whole piece lies fairly flat. Season with plenty of milled black pepper.

Strip the rosemary leaves off their twig, roughly chop them and place them in the jug attachment of a stick blender. Add the anchovy fillets, garlic cloves, 30ml (2 Tbsp) of the olive oil and 30ml (2Tbsp) of the wine. Whizz to a paste. If you don’t have a jug blender, pound everything to a paste using a mortar and pestle.

Add the parsley and press the pulse button a few times so the leaves are coarsely chopped, but nowhere near a purée.  Set aside.

Toast the slivered almonds by tossing them in a dry frying pan over a medium-low heat until golden. Tip the garlic/parsley paste into the hot pan and fry, stirring, for 1 minute, or just long enough to take the sting out of the garlic.

Roast Deboned Leg of Lamb En Ballon with a Herby Garlic Stuffing
Spread the warm herb, anchovy, garlic and almond mixture
over the top of the lamb and press it into the slashes.
Spread this warm mixture over the lamb, pressing it into the slashes. Gather the lamb into a ball shape (you may need another pair of hands) and truss it into a neat sphere with long piece of kitchen string, crossing it over top and bottom and turning the ball with every truss, as you do would if you were wrapping a parcel. The string trussing the lamb should look like the spokes of a wheel (see picture, below left). Pull the string fairly tight as you go, and fasten it with a bow under the lamb. Season the lamb with salt and pepper.

Roast Deboned Leg of Lamb En Ballon with a Herby Garlic Stuffing
Firmly tie kitchen string around the lamb to form it into a neat ball
shape, criss-crossing it top and bottom as if you are tying up a
 parcel. Tie a bow underneath the ball of lamb.  
Heat the remaining 45ml olive oil in a large pan and brown the lamb over a very high heat on all sides to create a rich golden crust.  Tilt the pan to pour away any excess fat, then stand back and pour in the remaining wine, stirring briskly to deglaze.

Place the lamb and all its liquid into a roasting pan and roast, uncovered, for 3 hours at 150 ºC, or until the lamb is very tender. Remove from the oven and rest, lightly covered with foil, for 30 minutes.

NB: One hour before the end of the roasting time, wrap the bulb of garlic in tin foil and place it on an oven rack below the lamb.

Now make the sauce. Boil the kettle. Put the walnuts in a bowl and cover them with boiling water. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Fill a large bowl with cold water and add a handful of ice cubes. Set aside. Put the basil leaves in a big colander over the sink and pour half a kettle of boiling water over them. Immediately plunge them into the iced water.

Remove the roasted garlic bulb from the oven and squeeze the soft pulp into the jug attachment of a stick blender. Drain the basil leaves and walnuts and pat dry on kitchen paper. Add these to the jug along with the verjuice and olive oil. Whizz to a thick, fairly coarse paste. If the blades are reluctant to turn, add a few more drops of verjuice and olive oil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove the string from the lamb and carve it into thick slices. Arrange these on a platter and strain over the warm pan juices.  Serve hot with the basil sauce, a big bowl of boiled baby potatoes and a platter of rocket dressed with lemon juice, olive oil and salt.  Or perhaps some minted baby peas.

Cook's Notes
  • It isn’t strictly necessary to blanch the walnuts and basil, but this step helps to create a good texture.
  • Verjuice has a lovely delicate taste, but if you can't find it, you can use a little lemon juice in the sauce instead. It's worth buying a bottle of Verjuice because it keeps for many months in the fridge, and is useful for deglazing pans, and adding to salad dressings. 
  • If you can't find a nice-sized deboned leg of lamb at your local Woolies, ask the butcher behind the counter to debone a leg for you.  You're not inconveniencing him - in fact, he'll probably be very pleased to do this for you and to offer you some advice.
  • Trussing the lamb into a neat ball shape helps to prevent the stuffing from falling out. If you’re not confident about trussing it yourself, ask your Woolies butcher for a piece of butcher's netting when you buy the lamb. Form the lamb into a neat ball, slip over the netting and knot it firmly top and bottom.
  • Don’t add any salt to the stuffing, as the anchovies are already quite salty.
  • If you prefer pink, slightly springy lamb, increase the oven temperature to 180 ºC  and roughly halve the cooking time. I can't give you an exact time, because this depends on the weight of your lamb and the efficiency of your oven.  I suggest you test the 'doneness' of the lamb by stabbing a sharp knife deep into its underside, and peeking inside to see how pink it is.  Your piece of lamb will lose some juice this way, but that is a lesser evil than taking an over-cooked roast to the table.  Alternatively, ask your Woolies butcher to weigh the piece and recommend a cooking time.
Serves 6. 

Here is the list of ingredients I was given to work with (I was also allowed to add salt, pepper and oil to my 'mystery box'):

Extra virgin olive oil
Maldon salt
Verjuice or white wine
Black pepper

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Kit said...

Looks like a fabulous creation with your ingredients list! Would never have thought to put walnuts with lamb but it sounds very Renaissance England! I didn't watch Masterchef last night, but think I'll have to next week - there seems to be a Masterchef fever sweeping the food blog world and mystery boxes all over the place!

Unknown said...

Oh my word that looks delicious! I'm definately giving this a try this weekend!


Jane-Anne said...

Hi Kit! Thanks for the comment. Please do watch MasterChef - it's on again tonight. It was a great opening episode!

Jane-Anne said...

Hi Melanie! Thank you very much! Regards, Jane-Anne

Maryon Simpson said...

This looks absolutely scrummy. I shall be trying this ASAP.
Flavour combo should taste wonderful...cannot wait to try it. I am always on the lookout for new ways with lamb.

Jane-Anne said...

Thank you very much Maryon!

Jane-Anne said...

Thank you very much Maryon!