Sabrina Ghayour - celebrating the season of the roast
PUBLISHED: 00:00 11 November 2019
‘Tis the season of the roast, however you like yours
I usually find myself spending most of the year in absolute denial about Christmas. But at precisely this time of year a switch flicks and I find myself changing my tune and actually wanting to welcome the winter months with open arms. I'm much happier in the darker, colder months - as a January baby - and have always felt perfectly at home in winter.
It's the food of this season that I love so much. OK so fresh produce isn't exactly at its peak but nobody has the abundance of wonderful root vegetables and brassicas quite like we do here in Blighty. I could happily live off them all year round, but give me a nice roast on the side and you have summed up my perfect comfort food of all time. The funny thing is, comforting roasts are found in every food culture. British, Greeks, Turks, Persians and Arabs all congregate over roasted meats with side dishes in abundance. The word 'kebab', Persian in origin, merely means 'roast' or 'to roast'.
The kiss of fire or the lure of slow-cooked meat is just too much of a seductress for most of us to refuse. A quick visit to Greece last month meant I was eating meat twice a day. I swore it was too much and that I'd come back to England and not touch it again for a while. Isn't it funny how out of sync our brains are from our stomachs? Within 24 hours of being at home roasted meat was on the table, laden with the comfort of crispy roasted potatoes and a massive pile of buttered, salted greens.
So what about trying something a little different? My harissa lamb leg is slightly spicy, a yogurt-based marinade perfumed with spices and kaffir lime leaves (don't worry if you are missing a few ingredients, it will still pack plenty of flavour). Don't be afraid to pair it with classic roast accompaniments or try it with rice or flatbreads and yogurt. My only advice to you would be to do two at once, because leftovers are the gift that keeps on giving and slow-cooked means tender, juicy lamb, fully cooked to please everyone!
Harissa-infused leg of lamb with fenugreek & lime
2kg leg of lamb
For the marinade
200g Greek yogurt
4 teaspoons fenugreek seeds, dry-toasted and crushed using a pestle and mortar
3 tablespoons rose harissa
3 kaffir lime leaves
2 teaspoons turmeric
4 large garlic cloves, crushed
finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lime
juice of ½ lime
2 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
Maldon sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
Line a large baking tray with baking paper.
Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl, season generously with salt and pepper, then blend together to form a smooth paste.
Cut 3 slashes on the top of the lamb leg and a couple more on the underside of the joint.
Place the meat on the prepared baking tray, then massage the paste into the meat, especially the slashes and bone areas.
Leave the meat to marinate in the refrigerator overnight or, if you are pushed for time, for a minimum of 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 220°C (200°C fan), Gas Mark 7.
Put the lamb in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 190°C (170°C fan), Gas Mark 5.
Roast for about 1 hour, or until the flesh takes on a nice pink colour.
If you prefer your lamb slightly more cooked, increase the cooking time by 20 minutes.
You can also slow-cook this joint at 180°C, 160°C (fan), Gas Mark 4, for 4 hours - check after 3 hours and if necessary cover the meat with kitchen foil to prevent burning.
Cover the leg of lamb loosely with kitchen foil and leave to rest for 10 minutes before serving.