BANG IN SEASON: SPRING LAMB

Late May, early June provides the best opportunity to experience new season spring lamb. It’s never better than when the grass in the meadows is tender and lush. Terry Laybourne explains.
Roast lamb

There are four principle methods of cooking spring lamb; sautéing, grilling, roasting and braising. The best cuts are the saddle, the loin and the leg. A roast leg forms a terrific centrepiece for a family feast.

When choosing a leg of lamb look for one that weighs around 2.5kg including the bone. This way it will be tender and flavourful. If you have a large group it is better to cook two small legs than one large one which may be approaching mutton. The leg should always be roasted on the bone for the best flavour.

There are three principle approaches to flavouring lamb;

1. What I would call a Mediterranean approach using garlic, thyme, rosemary or basil;

2. The North African approach with sweet spices such as cumin, cinnamon, turmeric or saffron and

3. The English approach which uses mint and sweetness from redcurrant jelly.

A leg of lamb should be roasted at around 200°C in a conventional oven or 180°C in a fan oven. Take care not to pierce the meat and be sure to turn it regularly and baste it with its own juices. Once roasted it is important to let the meat rest, loosely covered with foil, in a warm place. This allows the meat to relax, become more tender and easier to carve. Season with salt before cooking and then again when it comes out of the oven. Add pepper before and after. Allow 30 minutes per kilo. Spring lamb is best eaten medium; never too rare. Carve the lamb along the grain, not across it.

Barbequed spring lamb with North African spices (serves 4)

Ingredients

2 x 6 bone Spring lamb racks (French trimmed)
1tsp Coriander seeds
1/2tsp Cumin seeds
3tsp Cardamom pods
60g Onion (chopped)
30g Ginger (peeled & chopped)
3 Garlic cloves (peeled & crushed)
1tbsp Sunflower oil
1/2tsp Turmeric
1/2tsp Ground cinnamon
1/4tsp Coarse sea salt
1/4tsp Dried chilli flakes

Method

1. Gently heat the coriander seeds, cumin and cardamom in a dry frying pan until fragrant.
2. Cool and grind in a mortar or an electric coffee mill.
3. Puree the onion, garlic and ginger in the food processor with the oil.
4. Add the ground spices, salt and chilli.
5. Mix through adding a little water if needed to produce a smooth puree.
6. Spread the spice mixture evenly over the lamb and marinade in the fridge for 6 – 8 hours.
7. Preheat the barbeque or the oven to 180°C.
8. Remove excess marinade from the lamb with a firm brush.
9. Allow the meat to come to room temperature then barbeque over hot charcoal (or roast in the oven) until cooked to medium rare.
10. Rest in a warm place for 20 minutes or so before carving into cutlets.
11. Serve with hummus, grilled pita bread, sliced red onions and a tomato & mint salad.

Roast leg of spring lamb (serves 6 – 8)

Ingredients

1 x 2.5kg Leg of spring lamb
30ml Vegetable oil
Sea salt & black pepper
A few lamb bones (chopped)
100g Butter
1 Large onion (sliced)
6 Garlic cloves (unpeeled)
1 Sprig thyme
500ml Chicken stock

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°c.
2. Season the leg well with salt and pepper.
3. Heat a heavy cast iron roasting tray with the oil and then add the lamb, surrounded by the chopped bones.
4. Transfer to the oven and roast for 1 hour (or until 54°C at the core) turning regularly and basting with its juices.
5. Place an upturned saucer onto a large dinner plate and lift the leg of lamb from the roasting tray onto it. Cover loosely with foil and place somewhere warm to rest.
6. Remove any excess fat from the roasting tray and throw in the sliced onions, garlic cloves, thyme and butter.
7. Cook over a gentle heat until nicely caramelised.
8. Add a cupful of water and boil until well reduced.
9. Repeat the process with another cup of water.
10. Then add the chicken stock and simmer gently for around 20 minutes until you have a nice flavoursome
gravy. Strain through a fine sieve and adjust seasoning – keep warm.
11. Remove the lamb to a cutting board and carve with the grain into thin slices.
12. Any juices released from the lamb should be added to the gravy.
13. Serve with the gravy, new potatoes, tender spring vegetables and fresh mint sauce*.

*It’s well worth taking the trouble to make fresh mint sauce as it’s really no trouble at all.

MintFresh mint sauce

Ingredients

1 Large handful mint leaves
3tbls Boiling water
3tsp Sugar
4tbls Malt Vinegar

Method

1. Chop enough mint leaves to measure 150ml in a measuring jug.|
2. Pour the boiling water over and allow to steep ‘til almost cold.
3. Stir in the sugar and vinegar.

Related Stories