Provençale Leg of Lamb

This is the famous 41-cloves-of-garlic roast leg of lamb. Yes, forty one! The recipe was given to me by a friend of our French neighbour who e-mailed me the recipe, as well as very precise instructions on how to carve the leg at table!

This is a free translation: A leg of lamb should always be carved at table. the ritual ceremony adds an important dimension to the pleasure taken in the meal. To carve, hold the leg end with the other end resting on the platter. Carve away from yourself, at a sharp bias, nearly parallel to the bone, lifting off thin slices, first from the rounded, fleshy part of the leg, then from the leaner muscle to the other side and, finally, slice off small pieces of meat from the leg end. Each has a different flavour and degree of doneness. Serve a slice of each to each guest.

Whether you’ll be following the carving instructions or not, do pour yourself a good glass of red and start cooking this most delicious lamb dish!

1 leg of lamb

15ml dry white wine

15ml olive oil

41 cloves of garlic: 2 cloves cleaned; two whole bulbs of garlic (which is more or less 40 cloves)

750ml of dry, red wine

Mirepoix: 2 carrots, 1 onion, 1 celery stalk or one leek; everything chopped finely

Slice 2 cloves of garlic into slivers. You want about 8 – 10 pieces.

Trim off any superficial fat from the lamb. With a small, sharp-pointed knife, cut several deep slits in the leg, on the bias and with the grain. Open up each slit with your finger and insert a sliver of garlic.

Mix together two teaspoons of salt, the white wine and olive oil. Rub the leg all over with this mixture, cover and leave to marinate at room temperature for one hour or so.

Meanwhile prepare the mirepoix: Warm some oil in a saucepan over very low heat. Add the carrot, onion and celery. Sweat while stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes.

Add the red wine to the mirepoix and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until reduced by two thirds or about 250ml. Pass the mixture through a sieve, pressing the vegetables with a spoon to extract all the liquid. Pour the mixture back into a clean saucepan and set aside for later.

Preheat your oven to 220℃.

Put the lamb into a roasting tin, slice off the top of the garlic bulbs, drizzle with oil and place it in the roasting tin with the lamb and into the oven for 20 minutes.

Cover the roasting tin with aluminium foil and turn the temperature down to 160℃ for two hours, by which time it will be off-the-bone tender.

Remove the roasting tin from the oven, remove the leg and cover and keep warm.

While the leg is resting, squeeze the soft, roasted garlic into a saucepan with the red wine reduction, add the pan juices from the lamb, scraping out all the little bits and pieces in the pan and bring to a simmer until you have a sauce consistency that you are happy with.

Place the lamb on a serving platter and pour the sauce into a warmed bowl.

Serve with roast potatoes and caramelised carrots.

Bon appetit!

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