Roast leg of lamb – Heston Blumenthal style

I’m a huge fan of Heston Blumenthal‘s food, oft for the shear entertainment factor as for the ability to recreate his recipes at home. Imagine my delight then when I stumbled on Heston Blumenthal at Home at the local Exclusive Books store. The How to cook like Heston TV series also had us glued to the television on Thursday evenings.

Hands up if you’ve ever wanted to perfect the art of poaching an egg or making melt in your mouth steak. Then this cookbook is for you.

Fast forward to today, a cold wintery and misty day in Johannesburg. Real comfort food weather.
I already had a roast leg of lamb in my mind, but wanted to try something different. Perhaps not the recipe as such, but the cooking method. So I paged through Heston’s book and found his roast leg of lamb with anchovy, garlic and rosemary recipe.

At first most people may think anchovies with lamb? Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. The anchovies don’t bring a fishiness to the lamb, but rather a nice salty depth to the overall dish.

Unfortunately for me, I used up all our anchovies about two weeks ago when I made an anchovy butter for our pasta. I opted to replace the anchovies with some smoked streaky bacon. Also something that brings a smoky saltiness to the dish.

So on with the details.

Notes before you begin

  • The recipe serves 4 hungry people
  • You will need a meat thermometer
  • Cooking time: 4 hours + 30 mins for resting
  • Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 1.8 –2.2kg whole leg of lamb
  • sea salt
  • 3 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 12 anchovies, sliced in half lengthways – I substituted this with 6 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled, halved and de-germed
  • fresh rosemary (4 sprigs)
  • 400ml milk (semi-skimmed / 2%)

For the sauce

  • 100ml dry white wine
  • 500g lamb or chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 80 degrees Celsius. Yes, this is right, low and slow.
  2. Season the lamb with salt. Heat the oil in a heavy frying pan over a high heat. When the oil is smoking hot, sear the lamb until golden brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and place in a roasting tray.
  3. Blanch the garlic in 100ml milk four times, using fresh 100ml milk each time.
  4. Cut the blanched garlic into slivers.
  5. Using a sharp knife, cut slits in the surface of the lamb at regular intervals. Use a small spoon to enlarge the holes and stuff them with the anchovies (or bacon), garlic and the rosemary.
  6. Place the lamb in the oven for approximately 3-4 hours until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 55 degrees Celsius.
  7. When cooked, remove the lamb from the oven, wrap it in foil and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes.
  8. While the meat is resting, make the sauce. Place the roasting tray over a medium-high heat. Add the wine and use a spatula to scrape all the delicious bits from the bottom of the pan. Allow the liquid to reduce by half. Add the chicken stock and mustard and reduce to a sauce consistency.
  9. Strain and pour into a warm jug to serve with the lamb.

Tips for carving the lamb
Grip the knob of bone that juts out of the meat with your left hand (reverse if left-handed). Keeping the joint flat on the board, rounded side upwards, cut into the meat from the top downwards, until the knife meets bone, in slices of whatever thickness you prefer, all the way along the top of the meat. Then, while still gripping the bone, run the knife horizontally across the meat, just above the bone, separating the slices. Turn over and repeat on the other side.

This method of cutting across the grain actually makes the meat seem more tender as you’re biting into the grain as opposed to across the grain which will be more chewier and tougher.

Heston explains it best by comparing it to chopping a log of wood. Trying to chop the log horizontally will be all near impossible. However, standing the log vertically and chopping into the top following the grain, the log will split more easily and naturally.

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