Meat Sheet no.14 Leg of Lamb – fast or slow?

Seems, very much, to be the culinary meat question of our time. When peripatetic charcuterie consultant, craftsman and all- round good bloke Rich Summers (– if you’re interested.) said he only ever roasted meats for ‘pulling’, despite being in awe of his knowledge and skills, I did think”there’s something wrong here”. Aren’t we all getting a bit ‘pulled away’ here? I see a roast as a bit of a celebration – keenly anticipated and to be cherished. Somehow I’m struggling to feel the same about a bit of pulled pork…and don’t get me started on pulled brisket burgers.

So, this fortnight we thought we’d try offering leg of lamb both ways; firstly, butterflied into individual muscles with a classic olive oil, lemon zest and juice, vinegar, rosemary, thyme and garlic marinade. Secondly, an all in one Greek kleftico with oregano and garlic. The first is good for a quick (10 minutes per side) blast on the barbecue and serving pink in rolls or with chips. The kleftico can be wrapped in foil and gently barbecued but it’s really one for  a well sealed cast iron casserole in a 160°C oven. As I’m sure you’ve read, the similarities between kleftico and kepto are not a coincidence. The story goes that hungry Greek rustlers had to cook their stolen lamb in such a way that the smell wouldn’t attract the attention of the pursuing posse of irate farmers. Apparently they used to cook it in underground pits but we have either roasting bags or lidded casseroles. Either way, the secret is to keep all the juices and aromas in a tightly sealed vessel.

So, to cook: scrape an equal (to the meat) amount of new potatoes and put them in a heavy duty casserole. Choose one that has a tightly fitting lid. Tip the contents of the bag (see below) into the pan. Add a little water and seal the casserole , first with parchment then with the lid. Place in a 160° C oven and cook for 2.5 – 3 hours. Check after an hour to make sure there’s enough liquid to cook/steam the potatoes and lamb. The kleftico is cooked when the potatoes will just mash with the back of a fork and you can feel that the lamb will pull away from the bone. Finish without the lid for 15 minutes to allow everything to get a slightly caramelised crust. Leftovers are good the next day, warmed up in a flatbread with labneh and salad leaves.

If you’re looking for something really easy, we’ll also be doing half shoulders of lamb kelftico with all of the gubbins (garlic, potatoes, tomatoes, red peppers, lemon, white wine, oregano etc) – a bag so all you have to do is tip it into a pan and bung it in the oven. It’s something I’ve been wanting to try for ages but there aren’t many dishes where everything goes in at the beginning and there’s no sautéing or anything remotely fancy. Food techies might even see ‘sous vide’ opportunities but if that’s not for you, just follow the instructions  for the leg kleftico above.