This is a really unusual dish for me… yet still one of my favourites that I return to over and over. Take a look… count the ingredients…. six. Yep, six! Or maybe even just five if you exclude the seasoning. Not a chili or spice in sight!
If I saw this recipe, I would immediately be thinking: hmmm that sounds nice… now if I add a bit of smoked paprika, and maybe a touch of dried chillies… or maybe the teeniest pinch of coriander… but somehow with this dish I have always abstained. The lamb falls from the bone, it shreds as you try to cut it, so no huge lumps of meat here. The garlic and rosemary infuse both the lamb and the tomatoes; the wine and the tomatoes reduce down to a gorgeously rich sauce. This is by no means an uninteresting dish – despite the minimal ingredients… and preparation!
It was first cooked for me years ago by a friend of my parents – and it was actually the first time I really enjoyed eating lamb – up until then it had been too strong a flavour for me. (Except for teeny lamb chops – I’ve always loved those… drool!)
It is a quick and easy dish to prepare… just make sure you leave enough time for the cooking and resting.
I usually serve this with crispy, garlicky roast potatoes and asparagus, broccoli, or whatever other veg is in season. I couldn’t find any decent ‘roasty’ tatties when I was making this though, so instead served it with fennel-infused rice (basically this without the saffron or turmeric). It worked well, though I probably preferred it with roast potatoes. I always try to make sure I have extra when I make this as it is great for next-day dinners. The flavours develop and mellow – and now is when you can dress it up a bit! Depending on your ratio of meat to sauce, either turn it into a pasta sauce or stuff it into a pita bread with lettuce, red onion, chillies and a sharp cheese.
Apparently simple sometimes is best!
Serves 8 – though depends on the size of the leg!
- 1 leg of lamb
- 2 tins chopped tomatoes
- 6 cloves of garlic, cut into thick slivers
- sprig rosemary
- 1/2 bottle of white wine
- Salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat oven to 180c.
Prepare the Lamb…
Wash the lamb and pat dry. Trim off excess fat. Make regular slits into the lamb, and stuff each slit with a sliver of garlic and a leaf or two of rosemary. (Is it called a leaf? I can’t think what else to call it!)
Pour over the two tins of tomatoes and the bottle of wine. Don’t season at this point!
The First Cook…
Cover the lamb tightly with foil and place in the oven for 2 hours. Sometimes I turn the lamb half way through, sometimes I don’t – doesn’t seem to make such difference!
Take the lamb from the oven, put the leg onto a plate, cover and leave to rest for at least 45 minutes. This is important – not only does it incomparably improve the texture of the meat… it is also a lot easier to handle once slightly cooler!
Once rested, cut the meat from the bone. As I mentioned above, the lamb should be falling apart by this time – so don’t worry about regularly sized chunks or slices. I like having some bigger pieces and some smaller bits – but it’s up to you!
The Second Cook…
Return the chunked meat to the sauce, and season to taste. Return, uncovered, to the oven and cook until the sauce is suitably reduced. I generally find this takes a further 30 minutes, but don’t let it dry out!
Start thinking about dinner…
And I present you with…
- Left over lamb and sauce
- one tin cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- A handful vittoria tomatoes – or the smallest cherry toms you can find!
- Some leftover caramelized onions from another dinner!
In a saucepan, reheat the lamb, pulling the lumps apart with forks until it is all shredded and gorgeous. Add the cherry tomatoes and cannellini beans and cook until the cherry tomatoes are soft but still hold their shape – imagine them popping in your mouth when you eat this – lush! Stir in the caramelised onions and serve with jersey royals and corn on the cob!