Having a Greek background always meant that at Easter time, Dad would hunt down the best lamb in the market and cook it gently over coals. Meanwhile, the kids would try to steal the skin off the golden meat, oozing with marinated juices. It’s a familiar image for most Hellenic families and, of course, each family claims their recipe is the best.
Epocha is blessed with two Easter dates this year, so we are celebrating our European traditions from both Julian and Gregorian calendars. We are feeling the Greek love during this special time of year and, naturally, our Easter has roast lamb as its guest star for its Christian and later Orthodox celebrations. On Sunday March 31, our chef Mick Bolam is making his tender, succulent lamb (with my dad’s blessing) that will have relatives and friends feasting until our Easter egg hunt.
Here’s our version of what Easter tastes like.
Epocha’s Easter Sunday Slow-Roasted Lamb
Time: 4-5 hours (the end result is worth the wait!)
3kg lamb leg
4 tbsp extra virgin Greek olive oil
10 cloves garlic
10 white anchovies (optional, however even if you don’t like anchovies, use them, as the anchovies melt into the meat and impart a wonderful flavour)
3 sprigs rosemary
¼ bunch dried oregano
cracked black pepper
Trivet (trivet is a baking pan for roasting that allows the juices to be separated)
5 brown onions (peeled)
1 head garlic
½ cup blended vegetable oil
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp dijon mustard
3 bay leaves
½ bunch thyme
3 sprigs rosemary
3 cups red wine
½ cup cab sav vinegar
4 cups water
4 brown onions
6 cloves garlic
2 tbsp chopped thyme
6 tbsp chopped sage
- Preheat oven to 200ºC.
- With a small paring knife pierce 20 incisions into the lamb, twisting the knife each time.
- Fill these incisions with garlic cloves and the anchovies.
- Rub the leg of lamb liberally with the olive oil. Season with salt and cracked pepper and scatter over the herbs. Set aside.
For the stuffing:
- Chop the onions and garlic and sweat in a pot in a small amount of vegetable oil. Add a pinch of salt to help break down the onions and release their sweetness. Add the herbs and butter and cook for 5–10 minutes until combined and slightly toasty. Set aside.
For the trivet tray:
- Cut onions, carrots and the head of garlic in half.
- In a medium size pot, heat the vegetable oil and add the veg. Sweat for about 5–7 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste and mustard and stir to coat. Throw in herbs.
- Deglaze the pot with the red wine and vinegar, allowing the liquid to reduce to 2 tbsp.
- Add the water and then transfer the contents of the pot to an oven tray.
- Place the seasoned lamb leg on top of the vegetables and place tray in oven.
- After 30 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 165ºC and baste lamb with cooking juices.
- Baste regularly every 40 minutes after this for 2 hours.
- Then reduce oven temp to 140ºC for a further 2–2½ hours. Keep basting!
- Add more water and another cup of wine if the liquid is evaporating. Cover with foil also if need be.
- After this time, the lamb should be nearly falling away from the bone. The anchovies and herbs will have imparted a lovely, salty, savoury flavour to the meat and also the cooking juices – make sure to spoon the juices over when you serve!
- Carve lamb and serve with duck fat potatoes, green beans, a good pile of sage stuffing and a leafy salad.