I was looking forward to our first dinner party on Saturday night at our new flat and took a long time debating what I could cook. With three big lads to feed, it needed to be something hearty but couldn’t take too long to cook as we were out all day.
I had a look through some cookbooks and ended up liking the look of Jamie Oliver’s leg of lamb recipe with smashed veg and greens. A few things appealed to me about this recipe; Firstly it gave me the chance to go back to J Seal Butchers and make better friends with them. Secondly it appeared to all fit in one tray which meant less washing up for Will! And finally I tend to end up going a bit over the top with canapés, dessert and cheese, so with the main course just being meat, veg and salad (i.e. no carbs), I had hoped this would be a lighter main course to consume leaving room for the courses to follow.
I picked up my 2kg leg of lamb from the local butchers and had a good chat with them about what I was cooking. I did ask if they thought 2kg might be a bit much for four of us, but as he pointed out, I could always make a lamb curry with any leftover meat. This sounded like a great plan to me.
Saturday afternoon rolled round round and the first thing that needed to be done was to make sure the lamb was at room temperature, so out came the lamb from the fridge a couple of hours before the preparation time commenced. Once the lamb was suitably warmed up I rubbed it with oil, salt and pepper before popping it in the oven for 30 minutes.
Whilst the lamb was in the oven I got on with getting the veg ready. I cut up the red onion into wedges, then did the same with the aubergine making sure it was kept to big chunky pieces. With 30 minutes up, out came the lamb from the oven, the fat was poured away and then veg was scattered around the leg of lamb with some rosemary and oregano sprinkled all over the meat and veg.
Back in the oven and it was time to get on with the tomato sauce. All this involved was frying the garlic and coriander stalks with some oil in a saucepan before adding the plum tomatoes, a good swig of red wine vinegar and dried chilli. This was left to simmer away whilst I helped myself to a glass of bubbles.
Every 20 minutes I turned the lamb to make sure it went a lovely colour all over and gave the veg a bit of stir so that they were evenly cooked.
After an hour I took out the lamb and covered it in foil to rest and added the tomato to the veg and put it back in the oven to thicken up. The lamb was a beautful colour and smelt delicious!
You need to be careful not to mush up your veg at this point as you still want some texture with your lamb rather than a lumpy soup. Stir the tomato through the veg gently and keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t dry up. You can always add a splash of water if you need to.
With the lamb resting it was time to put the accompanying salad together. I wanted it to be a really bright fresh salad against the darker colours of the lamb, aubergine and tomato sauce. I opted for some vibrant rocket and baby leaf with bright pink sliced radishes, juicy red cherry tomatoes, asapragus and creamy feta. Rapeseed oil was drizzled all over to give a nice shine to bring it all together.
Coriander was sprinkled over the veg as the finishing touch and I was ready to plate up. The three lads looked more than ready to devour the leg of lamb in one sitting!
With the lamb carved and plated on top of the (slightly) smashed veg with the fresh salad providing a vibrant contrast, it really did look like a fantastic plate of food. The shiraz was poured, the knives and forks went to work, and the meal was demolished (along with second helpings).
This really is a simple way to cook lamb and I truly believe that when you can get such great meat from the butchers you should just let the meat do the talking and not over complicate it. The smashed veg were a light accompaniment but were filling enough to make you feel like you’d had a satisfying meal but weren’t going to need to be rolled home. The seven bottles of wine consumed that night however may have led to that conclusion anyway.
It was safe to say I had three legless men on my hands. Taxi!