While lamb stew is a Foodie Tots favorite during the cold winter months, roast lamb is one of my favorite celebrations of spring. In my inter-faith household, lamb is one of the rare shared culinary traditions and is frequently served for our Easter supper. Easter has a tendency to fall during Passover, which can pose a menu planning challenge as leavened breads and such are forbidden. Fortunately, some investigation of Sephardic Jewish cooking traditions has led to delicious discoveries – like the spiced dried fruit charoset that I’ve used here as a stuffing for my leg of lamb. (Sephardic Jews typically eat rice and other grains during Passover, though since Israeli couscous is technically a pasta, it’s not exactly kosher. Close enough in our household, but you may want to check before serving to more observant Jewish guests.)
With the spring-like winter we’ve been having this year, I’ve been day-dreaming of planting my herb garden and had mint on the mind, so I added a lemon-mint pesto crust to the lamb. All we need are some daffodils in the garden and we’ll be set for spring.
I created this recipe as part of the DC Lamb Pro-Am – 13 local bloggers are competing for the best leg of lamb recipe, and a chance to cook our dish with DC chefs at the March 4 event. I’d be honored if you’d take a moment to vote for FoodieTots — thank you!
Let’s get started. First, take your leg of lamb out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature while you prepare the pesto and filling. Start with the pesto — fresh mint, parsley, lemon zest, half a shallot and pistachios are finely chopped, then add butter to form a thick paste.
For the filling, we combine dried figs, apricots, shallot, and a Middle Eastern-inspired spice blend: coriander, cumin and cinnamon. A little red wine is the finishing touch. (I used a Coteaux du Languedoc, Cotes du Rhone or another medium-bodied red wine would be fine.)
Next, press the stuffing into the lamb. Roll it up, press the pesto on top, and into the oven it goes… Voilà!
Recipe: Lemon-Mint Crusted Leg of Lamb with Spiced Fig Stuffing
Lamb sustainably-raised on Border Springs Farm in Southwest Virginia
1 (4.5-5.5 pound) boneless leg of lamb
lemon-mint pesto (below)
spiced fig filling (below)
1 cup fresh mint leaves, loosely packed
1 cup fresh parsley leaves, loosely packed
1/3 cup shelled pistachios
zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons butter, cold
Place all ingredients except butter in food processor and process till finely chopped. Add butter and grind to a thick paste. Remove from processor and set aside.
Spiced Fig Filling
6 ounces dried apricots
7 ounces dried figs
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup red wine
Place all ingredients except wine in food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Remove to a bowl, pour wine over and toss to combine. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Rinse lamb and pat dry. Trim of any excess fat. Unfold leg and make a cut into the thicker side so that lamb can open flat (or, ask your butcher to butterfly the leg for you). Press fruit mixture into lamb in an even layer. Roll back up and place seam side down on rack in roasting pan.
Season lamb with kosher salt. Press pesto mixture over top. Cover loosely with foil and roast for 1 hour 45 minutes. Remove foil and cook an additional 30 minutes (total cooking time 2 hours and 15 minutes, or until meat thermometer reaches 145 degrees for medium rare). Remove and let stand for 15 minutes before carving.
Note: I had a hard time slicing my lamb without the crust crumbling. I’d suggest slicing it part way, then transferring the remaining leg to the serving platter to display to your guests before slicing the rest. Serve with Israeli couscous, garnished with mint, and roasted carrots.