Roast Leg of Lamb with Pungent Mustard
The best lamb in Belgium comes from coastal areas, where the lambs and sheep graze in the salt marshes and their meats pick up a slightly salty taste of the sea. I remember visiting one of the small villages around the North Sea as a child and seeing all the traffic come to a halt as a shepherd and his dogs guided a flock of a hundred or so sheep through the narrow village streets. In Belgium, although it is not as popular as beef or pork, lamb is considered something of a gourmet speciality and a more “natural” meat because the lambs wander unconfined and no hormones or drugs are used in their diets. This is an excellent roast for either a small family dinner or for a larger party. If you would like to serve 8 to 10 people, roast a whole leg of lamb weighing 2.7-3kg/6-7 pounds. Figure the cooking time at about 16 minutes per pound for medium-rare (internal temperature of 57-60°C/135-140°F). Serve with Rosemary Roast Potatoes and a green vegetable.
1 rump half leg of lamb (about 2kg/4
pounds, bone in for more flavour)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
2 teaspoons fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon fresh or dried rosemary
110g/8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
1 carrot, peeled and quartered
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled and crushed with the flat of a knife
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons dried breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons Tierenteyn or Dijon mustard
120ml/½ cup dry white wine or veal stock
120ml/½ cup water
1 bunch watercress, large stems removed, for garnish
Place the leg of lamb in a deep flameproof roasting tin. Rub the meat on
all sides with the cut sides of the halved garlic cloves. (Garlic lovers can
stud the meat with fine slivers of garlic.) Sprinkle with the thyme and
rosemary; pour the melted butter over the meat. Cover the roasting tin
with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6. Surround the roast with the
onion, carrot, the crushed garlic cloves, and bay leaf. Season with salt
Roast the lamb for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 180°C/350°F/gas
4 and continue roasting for 45 to 50 minutes. Baste the meat every 15
minutes or so with the pan drippings, adding a little water if the tin
is too dry. The roast is done when the internal temperature registers
57°C/135°F on an instant-read thermometer. At this point the meat will
be rare, but it will continue to cook a while longer as it sits.
Combine the breadcrumbs and parsley. Spread the lamb evenly with the
mustard and pat on the breadcrumbs and parsley mixture. Baste with
the drippings and return to the oven. Roast for another 10 minutes to
crisp up the breadcrumbs.
Transfer the roast to a cutting board and let it rest for 15 minutes before
carving. Remove as much fat as possible from the roasting tin. Place
the tin on top of the stove and add the white wine and water. Deglaze
over high heat, scraping up all the brown bits from the bottom with a wooden spoon.
Strain the gravy, pressing as much juice as possible
from the vegetables with the back of a wooden spoon. Taste and adjust
the seasoning and pour it into a gravy boat. Carve the leg of lamb and
arrange the slices on a platter surrounded by small sprigs of watercress.