12 May 2012

Slow roast leg of lamb with cinnamon, fennel & citrus - oh my word!

You've probably gathered by now that there's not many foodstuffs on this earth that I won't try - at least the once.  However, if you were to ask me what is my favourite type of roast meat, I would be hard pressed to pin it down to just the one.

After all, there's gorgeous roast chicken - who doesn't like roast chicken?  There's roasted gammon ham - so delicious with creamed leeks and new potatoes.  What about a superb roasted rib of beef?  So savoury and flavoursome.  Roast turkey, too - cooked with love and care, it is a perfect companion to bread sauce and Brussels sprouts.  Then, there's a beautiful roast leg of lamb, with mint sauce - need I say more?

For this last Sunday's dinner, we had originally planned to have a piece of salmon, which hubby was going to roast in a spicy glaze.  All these good intentions flew out of the window the minute I saw that Tesco were offering a leg of lamb at half price - £10 instead of £20, effectively.  When would we be able to lay our hands on an entire leg of lamb for that sort of price again?  Probably not for a long time - and it would fit perfectly into hubby's programme of roast dinners that he has embarked upon.

By heck and it was a mighty leg of lamb, too.  It only just fitted into our teensy tiny freezer - where it stayed until Saturday.

There'll be a few dinners out of this one!
The advent of this leg of lamb demanded the reconvening of the Menu Planning Committee (over a cup of coffee and several Jack Russells, of course), where we decided what in the world we were going to do with it.  Should we go the traditional route and roast it plainly then serve it with mint sauce, onion sauce and roast vegetables?  Or should we investigate some rather more exotic uses for the lamb?

In researching how long it would take to cook, I tripped over an intriguing recipe from BBC Good Food's Sarah Cook for slow roast lamb, with cinnamon, fennel and citrus.  Now the minute I mentioned cinnamon, hubby was hooked - but the addition of the word "fennel" had him salivating.  So, we'd decided.  Now, all that was left was to decide on what to serve with the lamb.

Again, we ultimately changed our minds over this, but the original plan was to serve it with roasted Jersey Royal potatoes with sea salt & rosemary, accompanied by a Spring Vegetable Thoran - which was a midly curried recipe from Anjun Anand.

Hubby had something of a change of heart about the Thoran once half-way through cooking the lamb and quite rightly so, in my opinion.  He felt that the two dishes might argue as to which was the star of the show, when in truth the lamb should be the hero of the hour.  I think he was absolutely right, and although the Thoran had been a good idea at the time, we hadn't the benefit of smelling the lamb cooking when we'd been planning the accompaniments.

All dressed in its rub and ready to roast
So the vegetables took a bit of a step down and we settled for steamed Jersey Royals, along with steamed broccoli, green beans and asparagus.  Hubby made a divine lamb gravy, using the pan juices, which we would have missed the opportunity of having, otherwise.

We had a bit of a problem where marinating the lamb was concerned, however.  It was supposed to be marinated overnight in orange and lemon juice, but we hadn't a bowl, dish or tray that was big enough for the lamb, but that would fit into our small fridge.  Even our freezer bags weren't big enough, or we could have put it all together in a freezer bag to marinate.   As a consequence, our lamb missed out on being marinated overnight, but - scout's honour - it didn't seem to make one jot of difference.

The lamb is roasted for four and a half hours in total.  To say that we had our tongues hanging out of our heads by serving time, is putting it mildly.  The aromas that were coming from the oven were just mouthwatering.

Much, much gorgeousness!
The served lamb was just divine.  No other word for it.  It was soft, flavoured gently with the earthy cinnamon, the freshness of the fennel and the tangy citrus and just melted in your mouth.  Honestly, I can't remember the last time I had such beautiful, gorgeous, sublime roast lamb.  Even the might of a dab of mint sauce wasn't enough to swamp out the flavours.  I was in little roast dinner heaven.

You, too, could be in this roast dinner nirvana - the very next time you lay your hands on a leg of lamb.  Do it - I can't recommend it highly enough.


Ingredients :

1 leg of lamb
zest and juice of one lemon
zest and juice of one orange
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp clear runny honey
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp ground cumin
3 garlic cloves, crushed.

Method :

1.  Put the lamb into a large (very large!) food bag or container with all the juice and marinate overnight.

2.  The following day, take the lamb out of the fridge an hour before you want to cook it.

3.  Pre-heat the oven to 200degC(fan)/400degF/Gas7.

4.  Remove the lamb from the marinade and reserve the marinade.  Pat dry, rub with half the oil and roast for 20-30 minutes or until browned.

5.  Remove the lamb and reduce the oven temperature to 140degC(fan)/325degF/Gas3.

6.  Mix together the zests, remaining oil, honey, spices and garlic with plenty of seasoning.  
7.  Line a baking tray with foil and place a large sheet of baking parchment on top.  Place the lamb into the middle and rub all over with the spice paste.

8.  Pull up the sides of the foil/paper and drizzle the marinade into the parcel, before sealing by scrunching and folding the silver foil.

9.  Roast for 4 hours until very tender.  Rest in a warm place for 30 minutes (still wrapped).

10.  Unwrap and carve to serve.

Printable version


  1. Replies
    1. Honestly, Suzy - I very nearly ate the plate it was sitting on, it was THAT good. :)

  2. Hello there! I have just read this post and just LOVE the sound of your cooking and your approach to it! This lamb sounds and looks absolutely scrumptious! I am always on the lookout for meat that I can do here without too much ado and of course here in Turkey we get gorgeous lamb. Many thanks for this recipe and I look forward to many more delicious recipes!

    1. Thank you, Claudia! I can recommend the lamb, it really was a scrumptious as it sounds. :)

  3. How interesting Jenny....a most suprising and unusual take on roast lamb. It looks so good smothered in the marinade! I wonder whether it would work on a butterflied leg on the BBQ? Perhaps! Always such a pleasure to read your posts :) xx

    1. Anneli, it would! It would be just perfect for that. I'd recommend cooking long and slow in the oven, then bring it out and give it a final blast on the BBQ for that lovely BBQ flavour. :)


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