Is there anything much better suited to a Sunday dinner at this time of year than roast lamb?
There’s that wonderfully reassuring sense of a roast, while the season offers plenty of wonderful accompaniments on the vegetable front.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been wanting to do a big spring roast. But for various reasons, it’s not been possible.
At Easter, when it would have felt so apt, we were going away so shortly after the Sunday that there was no point in buying a big joint for the two of us.
Last week, neither of the butchers who I could have bought lamb from were at Broadway Market, since it was another bank holiday weekend. I had to settle – oh, woe is me! – for a piece of brisket, which was perfectly good.
But it wasn’t lamb.
This weekend finally presented the perfect opportunity.
I picked up a leg from Henry Tidiman, the local butcher and one of the very few traders to have survived the bad times until the revival of the market.
A hulking piece of meat, it weighed in at 2.438kg – thank goodness I’ve finally got scales that can deal with more then 900g.
For something like this, Delia always does the business with basic cooking instructions.
Adjusting for my fan oven, her ever-reliable instructions start with half an hour at 190˚ and then 30 minutes per 450g at 160˚.
And that was the end of the specific book use.
I took a load of fresh rosemary, mint and flat leaf parsley, plus three cloves of garlic, and blitzed it all, adding some salt and then some olive oil to bind it together.
Once that’s done, slap it on the meat – okay, not so much a ‘slapping’, as a rather more careful business, but you get the gist.
Into a big roasting tin went the meat, with a little cold water the logic of that being that it would help to create a nice jus. And then into the oven it went.
I have no head for maths, and a notebook page was needed to scrawl down the calculations for cooking times.
After half an hour, the temperature was reduced. Then it got two and a quarter hours. During that time, a few Jersey Royals were scraped and par-boiled (15 minutes).
When the time was up, four new carrots and four baby turnips (wiped) were added to the roasting tin, together with a slug of vermouth.
Half an hour after that, the meat came out for resting, and potatoes, a couple of artichoke hearts and a few asparagus tips were added and the tin placed back in the oven for a further 10 minutes.
After that, the only thing left (apart from carving, which was a doddle), was to pour all the juices and liquid into one of those fat separating jugs and drain off the fat.
The meat was lovely – people rave about pork crackling when done well, but crisped lamb skin, light as a feather and so, so sweet, is just gorgeous.
The crust worked well, the jus was right and the vegetables had roasted perfectly, cooked but still retaining enough bite.
Dessert was a Sarah Raven rhubarb syllabub – a perfect counterpoint to the sweetness of main course and now one of an increasing number of dishes that I can make without recourse to any book.
There is, obviously, a lot of meat left. But this accords absolutely with my plans – and my current aim of trying to avoid midweek supermarket shopping as much as possible.
With the mincing machine I now have, there are plenty of options for using this wonderful joint throughout the week in a variety of ways.
And making the most of it is something that will actually be rather exciting – and definitely enjoyable – in the coming days.