Roast Leg of Lamb Spiked with Rears and Rosemary

Generations of British cooks have ruined leg of lamb by overcooking it. It is a lean joint and if cooked until brown all through the meat loses both succulence and flavour. In France they often cook lamb leaving it almost red inside but I like it best a delicate pink. Lamb responds well when cooked with fruit; particularly, I have discovered, with pears. This is an easy dish to prepare and would do well for either Christmas Eve or Boxing Day. Sliced potatoes, cooked in a dish with garlic and cream, go beautifully with this roast. Perry is a drink like cider made from pears; cider does just as well.

Ingredients

  • 4½-5 lb (2-2.25 kg) leg of lamb
  • 4-6 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
  • 12 oz (375 g) firm but not hard pears
  • olive oil
  • ½ pint (300 ml) cider or perry
  • 5 fl oz (150 ml) carton of double cream (optional)
  • sea salt, black pepper

Method

Using a very sharp knife make deep cuts about ¾ inch (2 cm) apart all along the back of the leg of lamb. Insert the leaves from the rosemary sprigs and the grated lemon rind. Peel and core the pears, slice them thinly and insert the slices right into the meat, filling the incisions. Lay the leg cut-side up in a roasting pan. Pour the lemon juice into the incisions and sprinkle the leg generously all over with black pepper. Cover the pan with cling film and leave at room temperature for 2 hours or so (or put in the fridge overnight), spooning the juices over it now and then.

Before cooking it, turn the lamb over in the pan skin-side up and rub the skin with sea salt and olive oil. Heat the oven to Gas Mark 8/450°F/230°C and roast the lamb in the centre for 10 minutes; then turn down the heat to Gas Mark 5/375°F/190°C, add the cider or perry and cook for another 50-60 minutes depending on the weight of the leg. Baste frequently with the juices.

When cooked, remove the lamb from the oven and let it sit on top of the stove for 10-15 minutes before eating. Check the pan juices for seasoning and re-heat before pouring into the gravy jug. To make the gravy into more of a sauce add the double cream to the juices in the pan and simmer them on top of the stove for a minute or two.

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