Easter means lamb to me and it’s a big favourite at Portly HQ but with spring in the offing I’m looking for something brighter and fresher-tasting than a traditional Sunday roast. Nor do I want to spend all day faffing in the kitchen when I can be catching up on the family’s news whilst quaffing unseemly amounts of wine.
This is (almost) a one-pot meal that’s bursting with punchy flavours – and once the dish is in the oven you can pretty much forget about it. It only needs a few spring vegetables and maybe a minty yoghurt sauce to round it off.
Normally I’d use fresh oregano in the herb paste, but mine is barely showing its head above the ground, so I’ve gone with thyme and rosemary. Don’t omit the lemon slivers, they give the lamb a lovely citrusy boost.
Greek Roast Lamb
1 leg of lamb, about 2kg
A big sprig of rosemary, leaves stripped from the stem and finely chopped
A handful of thyme sprigs, leaves picked from the stems
1 whole head of garlic plus four more cloves (and another for the sauce)
1 to 1.5 kg baby new potatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pound four cloves of peeled garlic with a pinch of sea salt in a mortar. Add the thyme and rosemary and pound again to make a thick paste. Zest the lemon into the pot then juice half of it. Add the lemon juice and a couple of glugs of olive oil to the paste, whisking to blend.
Slice a dozen or so thin slivers from the squeezed lemon half. Cut incisions into the lamb and push the lemon into the slits. Smother the lamb with the herb paste and leave to marinate for at least a couple of hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas Mark 7.
Spread the baby new potatoes over the base of a roasting tin in a single layer (cut them in half if they’re too big), season with salt and pepper and toss with a few tablespoons of olive oil, mixing in any marinade not actually stuck to the lamb. Cut the whole unpeeled bulb of garlic in half horizontally and add to the tin.
Nestle the lamb in amongst the potatoes and roast for 15 minutes. Turn the oven down to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 and cook for a further hour for medium rare or another hour and 15 minutes if you prefer it well done. (As a rough guide, I usually roast lamb for 20 minutes per 500g plus 20 minutes but I like my lamb pink so add five minutes or so per 500g if you like it done more.)
Then remove the lamb and set aside somewhere warm to rest for 15-30 minutes, loosely tented with foil. Check the potatoes are done and if not, continue to cook while the lamb is resting. When they’re cooked, squish the softened garlic with a spoon, stirring it through the potatoes and discarding the papery bits.
For the sauce, mix Greek yoghurt with crushed garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper, whisk well together and stir in a big handful of chopped fresh mint. Given the quantity of garlic elsewhere in the recipe you might want to err on the side of caution here. One fat clove is probably enough.