Friday, 6 May 2011

L is for... lemon thyme-stuffed leg of lamb on lentils with lardons and leeks

Lemon and thyme are both classic accompanying flavours with lamb. The zesty fragrance of lemon thyme stuffed in the boned cavity of the leg of lamb proved a perfect pairing in this dish. The lemon hit of the thyme also cut through the slight fattiness of the meat. I would make this again in a flash, but next time I would take it out of the oven sooner as I either like my lamb properly pink or slow cooked on the bone for hours. I got carried away with the Lychee Martini and, having relaxed a little too much, forgot what time I'd put the meat in the oven. Still, despite the absence of pink, it was incredibly moist and tender.

Lemon thyme-stuffed leg of lamb

Preheat the oven to 220°C (200°C Fan)

1 x 2 - 2.5 k boned leg of lamb
2 large bunches of lemon thyme, washed and picked
6 cloves of garlic, crushed (you can use less if this amount scares you or even more if, like me, you are a garlic fiend)
Salt and pepper
Kitchen string

Generously season the lamb on both sides and, then stuff the cavity where the bone was with the garlic and lemon thyme. Roll the meat up and tie at intervals with string so it holds its shape and pop it on a lightly oiled baking tray and drizzle the top with olive oil and season again. Stick it in the oven for twenty minutes. Reduce the temperature to 190°C (170°C Fan) and roast for twenty minutes per half kilo if you like your lamb medium or, if you like it well done, add an extra five minutes per half kilo to the cooking time. Remove the lamb from the oven and leave to rest for 20 minutes before snipping off the string and carving. 

Lentils with lardons and leeks

Lentils are cheap, filling and tasty. Puys are definitely my absolute favourite in the lentil clan and, to add another plus to their already gleaming credentials, they require no pre-soaking, so there's no need to plan ahead if you want puys for your supper. They are particularly delicious with hearty meaty fare, such as pork sausages or to bulk up a stew, but are also a delicious substitute for meat in their own right for solid flavour-punching vegetarian Winter stews or warm Summer salads. They have a peppery flavour and are pretty as a picture - all slate green gleaming shine. My mother heats them up in cold water until it boils before draining the lentils and chucking the grey-green mucky water away before cooking again in fresh. I do the same, though you don't strictly need to. I'm convinced that this makes them extra specially delicious, although I have no foundation for this belief, other than mother-knows-best. Never boil the lentils in salted water as it makes their skins tough, only season once they are cooked. You particularly notice this difference in their skin texture if using Puys for a delicate salad. The Puys I cooked for L night were in the form of a rustic red wine and vegetable stew, which held its own against the meltingly tender sweetness of the lamb, without overwhelming it or making the lentils the star of the dish.

14 oz/ 350 g Puy lentils
8 oz/ 400 g smoked lardons
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
4 large leeks, trimmed and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 stick of celery, trimmed and chopped
2 large glasses of red wine 
250 ml chicken/ lamb stock
2 bay leaves
A handful of lemon thyme, washed and picked
Salt and pepper

Fry off the lardons in a little olive oil in a skillet until brown and slightly crispy. Chuck in the onions, garlic, leek, carrot and celery and sauté in the lardon fat until soft. You can add a little extra olive oil if needed. Tumble in the Puy lentils along with the red wine, stock and herbs and leave to simmer for 20 minutes or so until the lentils are tender. Season to taste and serve with the lemon thyme-stuffed leg of lamb.

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