A recipe with the classic flavours of Provence — lamb, rosemary and anchovies, might seem an odd combination, but they really work well together, insists Michelin-starred chef Heston Blumenthal. "The savouriness of the anchovies brings out the best in the meat, without tasting fishy." As a young boy, he recalls stumbling into a restaurant in Provence, and before him a chef is browning a leg of lamb in a sizzling pan, filling the air with the aroma of delicious meaty juices. He was mesmerized. It was an iconic moment in the chef's extraordinary culinary career. Famous for his experiments with molecular cuisine, he is the proprietor of The Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire, one of five restaurants in Great Britain to have three Michelin stars, and was voted #1 in 'The World’s 50 Best Restaurants'. His recipe for Roast Leg of Lamb involves tucking the anchovies into the skin of the browned lamb, along with garlic and a sprig of rosemary. During roasting, the wee little fish simply melt away, leaving a delicate salty tang. Blumenthal uses tinned anchovies in his roast lamb recipe, but they can also be purchased fresh from a fishmonger, packed in salt. The best anchovies come from south-west France and north-west Spain, however, whichever anchovies are used, this wonderfully aromatic and wildly delicious leg of lamb will be a triumph.
Heston's Roast Leg of Lamb
Recipe courtesy of chef Heston Blumenthal
5 lb leg of lamb
3 tbsp vegetable oil
12 anchovies in extra virgin olive oil, drained and sliced in half lengthways
6 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
8 sprigs fresh rosemary
For the sauce:
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 1/4 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
Season the lamb with salt. Heat the oil in a heavy frying pan over a high heat. When the oil is smoking hot, sear the lamb until golden brown on all sides, then remove from the pan and place on a chopping board. Using a sharp knife, cut slits in the surface of the lamb at regular intervals. Use a small spoon to enlarge the holes and stuff them with the anchovies, garlic and half the rosemary.
Place the remaining sprigs of rosemary in the bottom of a roasting tin and place the lamb on top. Pour 2/3 cup water into the bottom of the pan and cook 25 minutes per pound plus 25 minutes for medium, or to your liking. When cooked, remove the lamb from the oven, wrap it in foil and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes.
While the meat is resting, make the sauce. Place the roasting tin over a medium-high heat, allow the lamb juices to come to a boil then reduce by half. Add the wine and use a spatula to scrape all the delicious bits from the bottom of the pan. Allow the liquid to reduce by half. Add the chicken stock and, again, reduce by half. Pour off the excess fat then strain the liquid through a fine sieve into a bowl. Stir in the wholegrain mustard then pour into a warm jug to serve with the lamb.