This Sunday I had friends around for lunch – one of whom is on a gluten-free and dairy-free diet – so I tried out a new recipe I had been thinking about for a while, which relies on just a few simple ingredients. It was a great success, making the most out of the last spring lamb of the season and combining it with the lovely light flavors of rosemary, lavender, herbs and a hint of lemon.
This particular recipe was far less labor intensive than the usual roast, and having prepared it beforehand, it sat happily for a while so all that was needed was to stir in the herbs and lemon and blanch off a few green vegetables once people arrived. Rather than spending ages peeling, parboiling and roasting potatoes, I have substituted haricot beans, which are heated in the juices of the roast meat and really take on those flavors. Using pre-cooked canned beans adds to the convenience, although you could easily soak and cook dried beans in advance, if you prefer. You could also add a few carrots (cutting them into chunks and adding them to the roasting pan with the shallots) and you have a complete one-pot meal.
My timings are based on a 2kg/2lb 2oz leg of lamb, but if the weight of yours differs simply calculate the total cooking time by allowing 20 minutes per 450g/1lb, plus 20 minutes.
3 tbsp olive oil, plus a drizzle to cook the pancetta
2 tsp culinary lavender
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 large sprig of lavender, needles finely chopped
2kg/4lb 8oz leg of lamb
120ml/4fl oz/½ cup lamb stock
300g/10½oz shallots, peeled and left whole
3 x 400g/14oz cans haricot beans
100g/3½oz diced pancetta or smoked bacon
50ml/2fl oz/scant ¼ cup white wine
3 tbsp chopped mint
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp chopped thyme
zest from ½ lemon
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas 6.
Mix together the olive oil, lavender, garlic and rosemary to make the marinade, and season well with salt and pepper.
Score the fat of the lamb leg in a diagonal pattern, being careful not to cut into the meat, and rub the marinade all over the leg. Place in a large baking pan and roast for 20 minutes.
Remove the lamb from the oven and turn the oven down to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4. Pour the lamb stock into the pan and baste the lamb with it to moisten, then return to the oven for 20 minutes. After this time, remove the lamb from the oven, baste again and add the shallots to the pan. Turn to coat in the juices and return to the oven for a final 30 minutes – you may wish to baste again during this final 30 minutes.
While the lamb is cooking, tip the haricot beans into a colander and rinse with cold water, then leave them to drain.
In a frying pan, heat a drizzle of oil and fry the pancetta into golden and crisp. Set aside.
Once the lamb has cooked, remove the leg from the pan to a plate and cover it with foil. Leave to rest while you cook the beans.
Place the lamb roasting pan over the hob and pour in the wine (you can leave the shallots in the pan). Turn the hob on low and let the mixture bubble away, stirring with a wooden spoon and deglazing the pan to get all the nice lamb juices from the bottom, creating a lovely, flavorful gravy. (If you were doing this for standard gravy, you would probably remove the fat, but as you are adding plenty of beans, these will benefit from a bit of the fat, so don’t worry too much about removing it, unless you are on a particularly healthy diet!). Once the liquid has reduced a little and is beginning to thicken (about 5 minutes over a low heat), tip in the beans and pancetta and stir everything together. Taste and season with black pepper and a little salt, remembering that the pancetta will have added quite a bit of saltiness.
Just before serving, stir the chopped herbs into the beans and grate a little lemon zest over the top. Serve the lamb leg on a bed of beans.