A perfectly roasted leg of lamb with potatoes and spring greens is my dream Easter dinner, but it's not always new season lamb, nor it has to be.
Big roast, big family
An old fashioned roasted leg of lamb is what you’re missing if your family isn’t too big. Half a leg will feed four. There are two of us. We don’t get to have it very often unless we have people round for dinner.
The same goes for the full roast rib of beef, the whole roast pork belly, a big shoulder of lamb or the turkey, of course. You pay the price for being selfish and not raising a whole bunch of kids. On the other hand of course, the kids might not like lamb anyway.
I love the Greek tradition of roasting the whole lamb for their Orthodox Easter - with obviously the huge Greek family gatherings outside, in clement weather.
It is quite a different story in England where even the Easter egg hunt usually needs to take place indoors because it's wet and awful outside. Hence, clearly, the conclusion: have yourself a large family but only if you live in lovely Mediterranean climate - that's where it's worth it.
They don't only have better weather in Greece for their Easter; it's also guaranteed to be better as the Orthodox Easter usually falls later in the season than the Catholic Easter.
Likewise they are more likely to roast new season lamb on that spit because, contrary to common perception, British new season lamb is not usually first time available for Easter dinner, even if the holiday falls relatively late. Too small, too expensive. So unless you buy meat grown in the southern hemisphere, and that's a no-no by my mantra of locality and seasonality, you'll have to cook the hogget: late season lamb, for Easter.
It is still very good and super-flavoursome. A lot of people don't appreciate the taste of new season roast lamb finding it too bland and milky. But a leg of hogget lamb will be large, seriously large, so there we go back to square one: you need a large family, or to buy just half the leg for your Easter Sunday lunch.
Bone in or bone out?
Leg of lamb comes on the bone but you can ask your butcher to butterfly it into a boneless leg - which means to cut the joint open to extract and remove the bone. That of course will make carving easy and the cooking times shorter.
But I love meat on the bone even if it makes carving a minor nightmare. The flavour is incomparably better and it makes the meat more difficult to overcook.
Invest in meat thermometer
Let me just mention here the benefits of a digital probe. Going with the timing of a roast per pound of weight, like below, is reliable but if you just want to make sure the roast leg is not completely raw inside (in case you’d forgotten to take it out of the fridge and bring to room temperature) sticking the meat thermometer in to see about 65C will let you relax.
How to season leg of lamb roast
The key ingredient, as I invaluably learnt from Samin Nosrat, is salt. Salting the meat, any meat, as soon as you bring it home from the shops, even if cooking isn't until two days ahead, makes all the difference in the world. It makes the meat tender and fully flavoursome.
As far as the extras go, my favourite trio for lamb is anchovy, garlic and rosemary. Meat is the least pretty of all foods but the lamb leg will look nice if scored in diagonal slashes, with slivers of garlic and tufts of rosemary sticking out of the crossing places.
Anchovy melts into umami - and do not worry, it won't make the lamb overly salty on top of the previous salt seasoning. It will be absolutely delicious.