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Leg of lamb stuffed with olives, bread, pine nuts and herbs (Cosciotto d'agnello ripieno di olive, pane, pinoli e erbe aromatiche)
Roasting a joint of lamb is still one of the most nostalgic times for me. A thousand pictures go through my head just thinking about my old man slicing lamb on a Sunday. This brilliant roast lamb dish uses Italian staples to make a delicious stuffing – it’s nice to get all the herbs in the ingredients list, but if you can only get hold of a couple, don’t worry.
Try to buy the lamb from your own butcher or a supermarket with a qualified butcher’s section. Tell them you want a nice leg of lamb, preferably organic, with the H-bone and thigh-bone tunnel-boned and removed. This sounds complicated but it’s just butchers’ jargon. It means the top half of the leg has the bone removed leaving just the ankle bone, allowing you to stuff it. For the veg, turnips, Jerusalem artichokes, celeriac, fennel and parsnips are all good.
Peel a couple of garlic cloves and pop them into a food processor – as it’s whizzing add your mixed herbs. Add the pancetta and anchovies and whiz again. Scrape the mixture into a bowl and add the bread to the processor. Whiz to coarse breadcrumbs, and add to the bowl with the pine nuts and olives. Add salt and pepper and scrunch everything together with your hands. If it looks too dry, add a drop of boiling water. Push the stuffing into the cavity in the lamb. You can roast it stuffed like this, or you can tie it up with string, pushing some rosemary underneath. Pat it with olive oil on the outside and season with salt and pepper.
Toss the potatoes and remaining garlic with the bay leaves, the rest of the rosemary and some olive oil, salt and pepper and put them into a roasting tray with the lamb in the middle. It’s unusual to see rare or pink roasted meats in Italy, so we’re going to cook our lamb like they do. Roast it for about an hour and a half at 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6. Trust me – it will be juicy and delicious! After half an hour, the Italian way is to start basting the lamb with a swig of wine over the meat and veg every 15 minutes or so until the meat is cooked. Remove the veg to a dish when cooked to keep them warm.
When the lamb is cooked, let it rest for 15 minutes. It’s nice served with some simply cooked greens. The Italians prefer the goodness from the meat juices to be cooked into the vegetables in the tray rather than make gravy.