After missing out on November’s Food & Wine cover recipe, I’m back to tackle December’s Spiced Leg of Lamb with Olives, Apricots and Lemons with Jasmine of Cook That Book. And what a time to be back! I love (adore, crave, lust after) lamb. Truly.
Spiced Leg of Lamb with Olives, Apricots and Lemons
4.5 out of 5: A nearly fool-proof recipe with fabulous results.
Lamb can really go wrong, as we all know, and it often gets a bad rap by people who have only eaten poor quality lamb or mutton. I’m sure we’ve all heard lamb’s flavour described as ‘eating a wool sweater’ or that the meat was too tough and fragrant (in all the wrong ways). It’s for these reasons it’s incredibly important that you have a good quality cut of lamb – and not mutton, which is much more of an acquired taste! – and that it’s prepared and cooked the right way.
I was also really excited to add a new ingredient to both my cupboard and my palate: Harissa. It’s a North African (Tunisian, specifically) chilli paste featuring piri piri chillies, serrano peppers, garlic, coriander, caraway and chilli powder. I do love a good, flavourful burn, and I certainly found one in this Harissa! It was to be rubbed over the lamb along with salt, while garlic cloves were inserted into cuts in the meat and the leg was topped with sprigs of fresh thyme. Delicious.
Once marinated and having undergone an initial roast, cured lemon slices, black olives, and dried apricots were added to the roasting pan for the final 30 minutes of cooking time, then served over top. As a side, I made some steamed rice, and then fried it with some cumin, coriander, curry powder, all spice, chopped peanuts and a few of the extra roasted apricots and olives.
Certainly a refreshing twist on a roasted leg of lamb!
F. was finally home for this cover recipe test, having missed the previous ones, and this meal wound up serving as one of the two birthday dinners I cooked for him last week!
The recipe called for an 8-pound leg of lamb, but considering that both the leg bone and shank had been removed, mine ended up being only about 4 pounds. Inconveniently, I managed to keep forgetting this as I made my way through the recipe, so my olives and apricot ratios were a little off, as was my cooking time. Having overestimated the timing, I skipped off to the liquor store to find a Syrah to pair it with, as was suggested on the opposite page from the recipe. Arriving home at the right time (so I thought), I discovered my lamb had an internal temperature that was about 15 degrees higher than the recipe recommended.
It was, of course, slightly overcooked, both by the recipe’s standards and and my own: I like lamb cooked to medium and nice and pink. There was some pink, but it was much further in and closer to the bone, and our initial slices didn’t have a trace. Then again, having never cooked a leg of lamb, was that how it was supposed to turn out? This novice wasn’t sure. Thankfully, the lack of pink in the outer pieces didn’t seem to affect the texture whatsoever! It was still succulent and juicy and had beautiful flavour. Considering this was my first attempt, I was immensely pleased with the results. I’ll definitely work on getting a better colour and temperature on my next try.
Stop by Cook That Book to see how Jasmine liked this recipe. Rumour has it she doesn’t really like lamb, so I’m excited to see if this dish changed her mind!
Jeff Cerciello’s recipe for Spiced Leg of Lamb with Olives, Apricots and Lemons.
NOTE: If any of you would like to follow along with us and join in on the fun, we’d love to compare notes! So pick-up a copy of the latest issue of Food & Wine and get cooking.
Have a wonderful holiday, everyone! Eat well!