This is the perfect dish for Easter Weekend. We don’t eat lamb overly often (because pricey, and we have a wedding to pay for), but this is the one weekend where we will definitely be indulging. And because we only enjoy lamb on occasion, we need a recipe that will work. A recipe that will enhance the meats natural flavours and sweetness, keep it moist, render the fat and deliver a yummy meal. And this recipe is a good’un.
Roasting a leg (or half a leg) in hay gives meat a delightful smokiness. Using a casserole dish keeps it tender, and the whole thing is just really rather yummy. In actual fact, cooking in hay is a method that was used throughout history to keep the intense heat of the fire/oven away from the meat (I imagine chicken would be amazing cooked in hay!), so it cooked slowly and evenly. Not only does this ensure super-tender meat that can be carved easily, it also adds a wonderful flavour.
Recipe – for 1/2 Leg of Lamb, can be easily scaled up or down with adjustment to the cooking time
1/2 leg of lamb
A few handfuls of hay – available from pet shops – ask for ‘eating’ hay
100g butter, softened
6 springs of rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
Soak the hay in water for about 15 minutes, then drain and use to line a casserole dish large enough to fit your lamb (if you need to, use a roasting tin and seal tightly with foil before cooking).
In a bowl mix the butter, chopped rosemary and garlic, then smear the mix all over the lamb. Season well with plenty of salt and pepper, then place the lamb on the hay. Cover with the rest of the hay, the cover the dish with it’s lid. Make sure there are no loose bits of hay hanging out as these can smoulder or catch light when in the oven. Cook at 180C for 2.5 hours, for tender meat (less if you prefer your lamb roast to be pink). Allow to rest (covered in foil) for around 15 minutes before serving – we like to to serve with boulangerie potatoes, mint sauce and plenty of veg.
One of the things I missed most when I moved to university was a good Sunday lunch. Well, a roast dinner – they aren’t just for Sundays really! Sure you could go to your nearest ‘Spoons (or as I did – the local cafe that did roast dinner baguettes) but it wasn’t quite the same. In the end I turned to my own oven, and after nearly two years of experimenting I’ve come up with a basic Sunday Roast Chicken that doesn’t break the bank, and doesn’t take an awful lot of skill. Perfect for students really!
The best thing about this is that it is completely and utterly adaptable. Sausages going spare? Throw them in! Fancy something more summery? Add tomatoes and some lemon juice. In the mood for spice? Rub spice mix into the chicken. If you want more traditional roast potatoes then you’ll probably want to use a large dish so they aren’t covered by the chicken – but I think they are pretty great as they are. Another great bonus is that pretty much everything is ready at the same time – all you need to do is cook some green vegetables, and you can do that whilst things are resting. Exactly as the title says, simple!
On a savvy-spendy note, chicken thighs are super cheap compared to breasts, and I’ve actually started really liking them now I appreciate crispy skin. They are also really difficult to dry out, so a bonus if you forget about them in the oven!
Chicken thighs – 1-2 per person depending on appetite. You can use any leftover meat the day after, or freeze it for a bit.
New potatoes – chopped into bitesized chunks
Garlic – 2 cloves per person
Salt, pepper, and any other seasoning you fancy
To start off, par boil your potatoes in salted water for five minutes. Drain and toss with the garlic (don’t bother to peel) and olive oil. Season.
Place the chicken skinside up ontop of the potatoes, and drizzle with a little more olive oil. Use your hands to rub the olive oil over the skin, then season again.
Pop in a pre-heated oven (200C) for 45 minutes – the chicken skin should be golden and crisp. To check – remove a piece of chicken and place on a plate, then piece the thickest part and press down. Juices should run clear without any pink; if not your chicken isn’t quite cooked. Cover with foil and rest for 10 minutes whilst you prep and cook any other veg, then serve up.
This recipe is so quick and easy, plus so tasty and reminiscent of home. It’d be a perfect dish to make if you and housemates joined up for meals – my second year house tried to do Sunday dinner together, although we rarely did a full roast, and it was definitely a highlight of the week! When Currys asked me to produce a recipe for their student cookbook this was the first thing I thought of – so I had to share!
Are you a lover of the Sunday roast?