I don’t think most Americans eat lamb that often. I know that it was never served at the table when I was growing up, and as an adult, I prepared and served it perhaps a half dozen times in my life before moving to South Africa. South Africans love lamb and will eat it cooked in just about any way you can imagine. I, however, find it rather greasy and gamey and that put me off…until I discovered mint jelly.
Now, ordinarily I detest any kind of sweetness with meat. I can’t even stand a little pancake syrup meeting up with my sausages or bacon, so I have my pancakes on a separate plate to prevent any chance of the twain meeting. But mint jelly is somehow different…there is something about it that counterbalances the lamb’s gaminess and cuts the greasiness, all without masking the essential taste of the lamb. It’s genius…and delicious, too.
Lamb is actually a rather delicately flavoured meat and easily overwhelmed by strongly flavoured side dishes like broccoli. I like to serve it with steamed asparagus (dressed with a little lemon butter) and baked or roasted potatoes. My husband, who grew up eating both lamb and mutton (ew! gross!) grins broadly when I announce that we are having lamb for dinner, so it looks like I have mastered this one!
Luscious Roasted Lamb, Leg or Rack
1 kg (2 lb) deboned leg of lamb (or rack of lamb)
2 tbsp olive oil
¼ cup fresh chopped rosemary
1 tbsp minced or crushed garlic
Early in the day, mix olive oil, garlic and rosemary. Place lamb on a sheet of plastic wrap, slather with oil mixture, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Remove lamb an hour before cooking and allow to come to room temperature (or near to it).
Preheat oven to 325F. Spray roasting rack with cooking spray to prevent sticking. Remove lamb from plastic wrap and place on roasting rack, fat side up. Insert meat thermometer in thickest part of roast, positioned for easy reading.
Place in centre of oven and roast for 1 hour. Check thermometer for doneness: 140F is medium rare. Because you will allow the roast to “rest” for five minutes before you carve it and it will continue to cook during that time, remove the roast when it is about 5 degrees cooler than the temperature you wish to serve it. If the roast is not yet done enough, return to the oven, checking every 10 minutes until desired doneness is achieved.
Because you will have your oven hot, this is a good time to roast some garlic or bake potatoes, using energy and the oven’s heat more efficiently.
Allow lamb to rest for 5 minutes before carving and serve with mint jelly on the side.
Photo by freedigitalphotos.net