Easter Sunday – April 21st this year – was the only day of the year I was trotted off to church, all cleaned up and bearing a couple of cans of something wrapped in white tissue paper for the collection box sitting under the alter. But for me, Easter was really about my Laura Secord egg, the biggest one Father could buy…in that classic yellow box. I still have one every year, though now I buy it for myself, so, some of the magic has been lost, still, it tastes just as I remember it! There was also a big meal, though it was usually a roast of beef, along with Mother’s much-loved scalloped potatoes, and her much-hated tomato aspic.
Mother almost never roasted a leg of lamb; seriously, it only happened once or twice over my whole childhood. And as far as I was concerned, that was just fine with me; my memories are not good ones. It was a day I spent inhaling the thick, fatty, aroma of a meat I just wasn’t a fan of. To make matters worse, she’d roast it until it was grey and dry. Then, at the dinner table, it was slathered in jarred, sweet mint jelly, another food I didn’t understand. I think she learned all of that from the Big Bad Book of British Overcooking.
Those were the bad old days.
Mercifully my generation of cooks has looked to the Mediterranean for inspiration. Cooked medium-rare with rosemary, olive oil, garlic, and sure, mint, but the fresh, leafy kind, a roasted leg of lamb is a celebratory meal worth revisiting. My friend, Mary Luz Mejia, Content Marketing Specialist with Sobeys, has shared a beautiful lamb recipe with us that makes me wish I could turn back time…and not just to hide Mother’s aspic mould!
“This juicy leg of lamb is the perfect centre-of-table showstopper to serve an Easter crowd.” Mary Luz explains, “It’s rubbed with rosemary and garlic, then roasted alongside mini potatoes for a built-in side dish. Don’t skip serving the meat with the fresh pesto of mint, parsley and lemon to highlight the brightness of springtime herbs.”
Roasted Leg of Lamb with Mint Pesto
Prep time: 20 min
Total time: 2 hr 10 min
- 1 fresh or frozen leg of lamb, thawed (5.5 to 6 lb / 2.5 to 2.7 kg)
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) olive oil, divided
- 4 tsp (20 mL) finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 4 cloves garlic, minced, divided
- 1 tbsp (15 mL) cracked black pepper
- 1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) salt, divided
- 1 bag (680 g) Compliments Medley Petites Potatoes
- 1 tsp (5 mL) lemon zest
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) lemon juice, divided
- 1 cup (250 mL) finely chopped fresh mint
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) finely chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) grated Grana Padano cheese
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) finely chopped toasted pine nuts
- mint sprigs, for garnish (optional)
- lemon wedges, for garnish (optional)
- Preheat oven to 425°F (220°). Use the tip of a sharp knife to make small 1/4-in. (5-mm) deep cuts every 1 in. (2.5 cm) or so, all over the lamb leg (this allows herbs and spices to flavour the meat more effectively). In a small bowl, stir together 2 tbsp (30 mL) oil, rosemary, 3 cloves minced garlic, pepper and 1 tsp (5 mL) salt. Rub all over the lamb. Place lamb on rack fitted onto roasting pan. Toss together potatoes, 2 tbsp (30 mL) lemon juice, 1 tbsp (15 mL) oil and 1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt. Arrange on the rack around the lamb.
- Roast lamb 15 min. then reduce oven temperature to 375°F (190°C) and continue roasting about 1 hr., or until internal temperature registers 165°F (74°C) for well done, or until desired doneness. Transfer lamb to cutting board. Tent loosely with foil and rest 15 min.
- Meanwhile, stir together chopped mint, lemon zest, parsley, cheese, pine nuts, remaining olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt to make mint pesto. Slice lamb and serve with pesto on the side. Garnish platter with mint sprigs and lemon wedges, if desired.
- For medium-done roast, cook to internal temperature of 160°F (71°C).
- Chop herbs in food processor for easy preparation.
- To carve the leg of lamb, use a clean kitchen towel to grip the narrow end of the leg bone; tipping the bone on a 45-degree angle up from the chopping board, with the meaty part of the lamb leg resting on the board . Use a sharp carving knife to cut ½-in. (1-cm) thick slices in towards the bone (and against the grain of the meat). Rotate bone to carve all the way around the lamb leg.
From Hudson, Quebec, now living in Port Hope, Ontario, Signe is a restaurant chef-turned-writer who tells award-winning stories and creates delicious recipes for LCBO’s Food & Drink, Manna Pro Hearty Homestead, The Harvest Commission, and Today’s Parent; she published her first book – Happy Hens & Fresh Eggs; Keeping Chickens in the Kitchen Garden with 100 Recipes – in 2015.