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Published: Saturday April 19, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Monday April 21, 2014 MYT 8:07:39 PM

Grand-slam lamb: You can't go wrong with a classic leg of lamb

Thinking of lamb for Easter? Here’s a handy how-to and recipe.

Spring is a time of rebirth and festive celebrations. It’s often associated with spring lamb, although lamb is available year-round.

You can hardly go wrong with a classic leg of lamb, cooked to perfection for a holiday showpiece, as long as you cook it properly. Its shape – larger at the top and narrow toward the shank end – means you can cook it to different degrees of doneness.

You can gussy up lamb with herbs and spices. Rosemary, thyme, garlic, coriander, cumin and paprika are natural fits for lamb. It also takes well to marinades and rubs.

So, if leg of lamb is on your holiday menu, here’s a guide:

Buying: Many grocery stores sell bone-in, semi-boneless or boneless legs of lamb. The latter is the easiest to carve and takes less time to cook, but it costs more.

Preparing: Many butchers will cut the bone away from the meat, season the meat and then reroll the meat around the bone. Kitchen string holds the roast in place. You can also marinate or season the lamb to your own liking. Some cooks would recommend keeping the bone and not removing any fat before cooking. You can trim the fat away as you like after you cook it – the fat helps to keep the meat from drying out during cooking.

Cooking: Bring lamb to room temperature before cooking. If you have a meat thermometer, have it ready.

LEG OF LAMB WITH PARSLEY-GARLIC CRUST AND HONEY MINT SAUCE. (Romain Blanquart/Detroit Free Press/MCT)
Delectable: Leg of lamb with parsley-garlic crust and honey mint sauce. — Photos: Romain Blanquart/Detroit Free Press/MCT

For a bone-in or semi-boneless leg, preheat the oven to 200°C and place the lamb on a roasting rack placed over a roasting pan. Make sure there is liquid in the bottom of the pan. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until browned on the outside. (If the leg is small, sear it in oil until browned on all sides in a large skillet and put it in the oven at 175°C.)

Reduce the oven temperature to 175°C and continue roasting for about one to 1½ hours more. After one hour, start checking the temperature. When it reaches 55°C in the thickest part of the leg, take it out.

Slicing and resting: Tent lamb with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing. The temperature will increase by another 5°C. The thickest part of the meat should be medium-rare. Slice into 1.5cm- to 2cm-thick slices. – Los Angeles Times/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Leg Of Lamb With Parsley-garlic Crust And Honey Mint Sauce

Serves: 8 / Preparation time: 30 minutes / Total time: 2.5 hours

1 semi-boneless leg of lamb (3kg), trimmed of excess fat, at room temperature

1 tbsp ground coriander

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp paprika or chilli powder

1 tsp natural salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

500ml (2 cups) water

Crust

1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves

4 large cloves garlic

2 cups coarse bread crumbs from about 4 slices old bread

2 to 3 tbsp olive oil

Sauce

2 cups flat-leaf parsley

1 cup fresh mint leaves

6 stalks spring onions

2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp lemon juice

80ml (1/3 cup) olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

To season lamb: Place the leg of lamb, fat side down, on work surface. Cut the meat partially away from the bone on each side, leaving the bone attached to the bottom.

In a small bowl, combine the coriander, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper. Rub half of the spice mixture all over the inside of the meat.

Roll the meat back onto the bone tightly and tie at intervals with kitchen string. Rub the remaining spice mixture all over the lamb. Set lamb aside.

To prepare crust: In a food processor, pulse parsley leaves and garlic until coarsely chopped. Place in a bowl and add bread crumbs and 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil just to moisten. Do not over mix; mixture should be loose. Set aside.

To roast: Preheat the oven to 200°C. Add water to the roasting pan. Place the seasoned lamb on a rack, fat side up, and place in the roasting pan with the water. Place in the oven and roast for 20 minutes or until it starts to brown on all sides.

Carefully turn lamb over and pat the crumb mixture on top. Some will fall to the bottom of the pan.

Reduce temperature to 175°C and continue cooking for another 1 to 1½ hours for medium rare, or until thermometer registers 55°C in the thickest part of the leg without touching the bone. Remove from the oven, tent with foil and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before carving.

To prepare sauce: In a food processor, puree all the sauce ingredients until almost smooth. The sauce should be the consistency of a thick vinaigrette. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. The sauce should have a mild mint taste with a mild citrus finish.

>To substitute with a boneless leg of lamb, brown lamb on all sides in a large skillet, about 15 minutes total, depending on size. Pat crust on top and transfer to a preheated 200°C oven. Cook for about 25 to 30 minutes for medium-rare (internal temperature of 50-55°C). Let rest before slicing.

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle, Easter recipe, lamb, MCT

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