My family loves lamb! Growing up in South Africa, my family had a tradition of eating roast leg of lamb, roast potatoes, brown gravy, fresh mint sauce and "beetroot" salad every Saturday for lunch! These days, we traditionally eat lamb for Easter. Easter for my family is filled with traditions. However, we have promoted ourselves out of some of the traditions. When the girls were young, my family used to color eggs. On Easter Sunday, after our church service, we would have a family lunch that included an Easter egg hunt and gifts from the Easter bunny that had to have a Lindt chocolate bunny or carrot. These days, the girls still expect their Lindt chocolate and apparently this year, one young adult is organizing an Easter egg hunt for her boyfriend!
Why lamb for Easter? Easter, for Christians, is when Jesus rose from the dead after being crucified and Jesus is considered the sacrificial lamb of God that took our sins away so that we could have eternal life.
My roast lamb recipe comes from my mother's dressmaker, Mrs. Skafidas, a lovely Greek lady who was not only an incredible seamstress, she was also an amazing cook. I remember when I was a child, walking into Mrs. Skafidas's house with my mother and smelling the roasting lamb. I was instantly hungry with the fragrance of roasted meat, garlic, rosemary and oregano. Mrs. Skafidas told us that many Greek recipes and marinades had simple ingredients of salt, pepper, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, rosemary and thyme. The clean taste of the marinade enhances the flavor of the meat. We still use Mrs. Skafidas's recipe for our roast leg of lamb.
Tips for making roast leg of lamb.
Cuts of lamb.
The two main cuts of lamb that work well for lamb roast is the leg and the rack. The leg can either be with the bone or boneless. If the butcher is selling a bone-in leg of lamb, ask them if they can debone the leg for you. My one daughter recently told me she was reluctant to cook the leg of lamb for Easter as it had the bone in. I told her to ask the butcher to debone if for her. She sent me a picture of her marinated boneless leg with the caption, "I wish I had know years ago!" I guess, better late than never!
Boneless leg of lamb usually comes enclosed in a netting to hold the meat together and it's a lot easier to slice than the bone-in leg. The meat is not as tender as the rack, but marinating in an acid does wonders.
Boneless leg of lamb.
When purchasing boneless lamb, it will come with a netting to keep the integrity of the meat. In order to marinate the meat, it is best to add the marinade to the inside of the leg. Without cutting the netting, remove it by pulling down the lamb leg. Do not completely remove the netting as it will be very difficult to reassemble.
Garlic is a wonderful aromatic, especially for lamb. By piercing and inserting lamb cloves into the leg of lamb, it helps infuse the garlic flavor into the meat.
Many cuisines use a type of acid to marinate the meat. The acid breaks down the meat fibers, making it more tender and easier to absorb the marinade. Some people feel that acid on certain cuts of meat may be too harsh and results in a "mealy" texture if marinated for a long time.
For the lamb leg marinade, the lamb meat is not as tender as the rack and fresh lemon juice can be used to break down the fibers. If you do not have lemon juice, you can substitute that for a vinegar.
Marinating the leg of lamb.
For best results, plan to marinate your leg of lamb for at least 24 hours.
Roasting the leg of lamb.
When roasting, place the roast on a rack on a shallow pan. Adding water to the bottom of the pan keeps the meat moist and prevents the oven from smoking as the fat is rendered.
Cooking the leg of lamb on a BBQ grill is a little more challenging unless your BBQ grill has a rotisserie attachment. Due to the size of the leg of lamb, it requires constant turning in order to ensure even doneness. One way of "creating an oven" in the BBQ grill is to allow the temperature of the grill to come to around 350 degrees fahrenheit and place the lamb leg on one side of the grill without the burners on while the keeping the burners on at the opposite side of the BBQ. This will allow less direct heat under the leg of lamb to ensure more even cooking. However, this does require constant supervision!
It is better to undercook your roast than to overcook it. When the internal temperature reaches 135 degrees fahrenheit, the meat will end up being medium rare after resting. The internal temperature is a little higher than the lamb rack due to the density of this cut of meat.
Resting the roast leg of lamb.
After the meat has roasted, allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes. The meat is still cooking. During this time, the internal temperature of the meat will rise about 5-10 degrees fahrenheit. Resting the meat allows the juices to re-absorb into the fibers of the meat.
BONELESS LEG OF LAMB ROAST
- instant read /leave in thermometer
- 1 boneless lamb leg approx 5 lbs.
- 3 cloves fresh garlic, sliced
- 2 lemons juiced
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 4 cloves fresh garlic
- 2 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves
- 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary
- t tsp fresh thyme
- 2 tsp coarse sea salt
- ½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
Make marinade by hand
- In a bowl, add the lemon juice.
- Add the olive oil while whisking the lemon juice. This will emulsify (thicken) the mixture.
- Finely chop the garlic cloves (not the sliced garlic), rosemary, oregano.
- Add the herbs to the olive oil mixture
- Add the salt and pepper and mix.
Prepare marinade using a hand blender
- Add olive oil and lemon juice to blender.
- Blend mixture until emulsified.
- Add the herbs to the olive oil mixture
- Blend mixture.
- Add the salt and pepper.
- Blend mixture.
- Rinse lamb and pat dry with paper towel.
- Pull part of the netting back from the lamb leg to allow most of the meat to be exposed. Do not cut the netting as you will be re-using it.
- Add your sliced garlic throughout the meat. You can also pierce the fat and insert the garlic slice into the incision.
- Pour half of the marinade onto the meat and using your hands, work the mixture into the meat until well coated.
- Reassemble the leg and pull the netting back over the now marinated leg.
- Place the lamb in a large freezer bag or bowl.
- Add the rest of the marinade. Use your hands to ensure that the meat is all coated with the mixture.
- Marinate boneless leg overnight.
- Allow the lamb to rest at room temperature 1 hour before roasting.
- Preheat oven to 400° fahrenheit (204° celcius).
- If you have a leave in meat thermometer probe, insert it into the thickest part of the lamb.
- Set your temperature for 135° fahrenheit for medium rare.
- Place it on a rack on a shallow pan.
- Add some water to the pan prevent oven from smoking and add moisture to the meat.
- Roast the leg of lamb for 20 minutes at 400° fahrenheit (204° celcius).
- Reduce heat to 350° fahrenheit (177° celcius) and roast for another 30 minutes or until internal temperature measures 135° fahrenheit (57° celcius). Time will vary depending on the size of your roast.
- Once the meat reaches an internal temperature of 135° fahrenheit (57° celcius), remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!