Roast leg of lamb, Moroccan style
The spices and garlic are what give the dish a Moroccan flair. Rosemary is more typically French than North African, but it marries so well with lamb that I have included it in the recipe. If you enjoy mint with your lamb, snip a few fresh leaves into the sauce, and decorate the serving platter with a few springs of mint — a very Moroccan touch.
For best results, ask your butcher for a short-cut leg of lamb — it is more compact and easier to carve.
a 4-pound (1.8 kilo) leg of lamb, preferably short-cut
1 clove garlic
1 branch rosemary
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pat the leg of lamb dry with a paper towel. Sharpen a good knife. Score the fat in a diamond pattern (see photo at right). This will allow even cooking of the meat.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 7 (425 F, 220 C).
Peel and halve the garlic clove. Cut it lengthwise into 10-12 thin slices. Using the sharp point of your knife, make 1 inch (2.5 cm) indentations in various places around the leg of lamb. It’s easiest to do this in the spaces created by scoring the meat. Insert one slice of garlic into each indentation.
Cut the rosemary branch into pieces about 1 inch (2.5 cm) long. Insert these pieces into the indentations along with the garlic (see photo at left).
In a cup, mix the olive oil, cumin and cinnamon. Using a pastry brush — or simply your hands — cover the lamb with this sauce. You need to cover the entire surface with an even layer.
Oil a roasting pan. Place the leg of lamb in the pan — but do not salt the meat. This is very important. Salting will draw out the juices — and your aim is to seal them in! Place the lamb in the oven and roast for 70 minutes for rare lamb, 80 for medium rare and 90 for well done. Baste with the pan juices a couple of times during the roasting.
Transfer the lamb to a carving board and allow it to rest for 5 minutes. While it is resting, make the sauce: Add 1/2 cup water to the juices in the roasting pan. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spatula, mixing the juices with the water. Pour this mixture into a small saucepan, add salt to taste and bring to a simmer.
Now carve the lamb and transfer it to a serving platter. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the carving juices to your sauce and heat through. Pour half the sauce over the lamb. Bring the rest to the table in a small bowl or pitcher. Serves 10-12.
Here’s a trick for ensuring that the lamb is still warm when served: Cook the roast for 5 minutes less than the time indicated above. Allow the lamb to rest for a few minutes before carving. Place the carved lamb in a clean baking pan, for example a deep cake pan, and return to the oven at a low temperature while you’re making the sauce. Then transfer the lamb to a serving platter and serve at once.
What to serve with the lamb? Any seasonal vegetable — and for a Moroccan touch, you can also serve a side dish of couscous. This elegant lamb deserves a fine red wine with some body — for example, a good Rhone wine or a Bordeaux.
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