Easter feast: Lemon, rosemary and anchovy lamb with grilled Baby Gem

Jess Murphy: Ireland has amazing lamb, whether from mountain, bog or lush pasture

Easter feast: roast leg of lamb with lemon, rosemary and anchovy; grilled Baby Gem lettuce and peas; and quick mint sauce

Easter feast: roast leg of lamb with lemon, rosemary and anchovy; grilled Baby Gem lettuce and peas; and quick mint sauce

 

It’s coming to the point where I have been living in Ireland almost the same amount of time as I lived in New Zealand. It is a strange feeling, sitting there, back in New Zealand, visiting the folks, when you realise you are missing the butter, the craic and your pals at home.

When I say home I mean Galway. I can’t think of another place I’d prefer to live. I have become a staunch Galwegian. Connacht is my team, and I know more rugby players here than I do from the All Blacks.

There are a few questions that are put to me regularly. The most common is: “What part of Australia are you from?” The second most common is: “Which is better, Irish or New Zealand lamb?”

Lads, the answer is Irish, of course.

They are very different from each other, but we have the most amazing lamb in Ireland, from the bogs and mountains of Connemara to Achill and the lush pastures of Roscommon. I’ve pretty much visited and sampled them all. Testing the recipe on these pages, we roasted the finest leg of lamb from Maam Cross.

The grand stretch appearing in the evenings means the emails from our farm suppliers have started to come in regularly. Seeing peas, radishes and the other early fruit and vegetables on an order list again really gets my imagination going. After a long winter of hearty roots, it is like finding your best lipstick in an old handbag, buried in the back of a press.

The change of the seasons also means that the soft annual herbs are plentiful again. Mint sauce is one of my favourites. Sometimes I deliberately don’t list it on our menu, just so people will ask, “Was that mint sauce with the lamb chops?” I just smile knowingly and say yes … yes, my friend, that was mint sauce.

ROAST LEG OF LAMB WITH LEMON, ROSEMARY AND ANCHOVY

Serves six to eight

It is up to you how you want your lamb cooked. In the Murphy household we roast ours for 85 minutes at 180 Celsius, then leave it to rest for a good 20 minutes before serving. This generally suits those who like their lamb cooked medium. A few extra anchovy fillets, a few strips of lemon zest and a sprig of mint make a nice garnish if you plan to carve it at the table.

Ingredients

1 whole leg of lamb with the shank in 

Good rub of olive oil

1 tin of anchovies

6 cloves of garlic

2 lemons, zest of

Handful of rosemary, chopped

Sea salt and pepper 

Method 

Rub the leg of lamb all over with the olive oil. Wrap each clove of garlic in an anchovy fillet. Make small cuts in the lamb at regular intervals with a sharp knife, just big enough to slip the wrapped garlic into.

Season well with salt and pepper and sprinkle the lemon zest and rosemary on top. Leave aside in a roasting tin to come to room temperature while you preheat the oven to 180 Celsius or equivalent.

Roast the lamb for about 40 minutes per kilo. Cover and leave to rest for at least 20 minutes before serving.

GRILLED BABY GEM LETTUCE AND PEAS

Serves six to eight

This is a tasty way to use up the lettuce hiding in the salad drawer and the peas that have been lurking in the freezer forever. It is also good with a piece of fish. A few pickled caper berries and green beans go nicely in here, too, if you have some around, but they are not essential.

Ingredients

25g butter

5g mustard seeds

4 heads Baby Gem lettuce

450g frozen peas, defrosted

Salt and pepper

Method 

Melt the butter in a hot griddle or frying pan until it browns slightly, then add the mustard and fry until the seeds pop.

Cut the lettuce into quarters and place in the pan to brown on both sides until they have a nice colour. Pour in the peas and cook for a further five minutes, until heated through in the butter. Season and serve immediately.

QUICK MINT SAUCE 

Serves six to eight

I like to make this the day before I use it, but fresh is great, too, and it lasts for ages. This makes plenty for a family roast. It is good with a braised-lamb casserole, too.

Ingredients

Big bunch of mint

Pinch of salt

1tbsp demerara sugar

40ml boiling water

60ml malt or sherry vinegar

Method

Strip the leaves off the mint, roughly chop them and add a pinch of salt.

Dissolve the sugar in the boiling water.

Mix the vinegar and mint into the sugared water and set the sauce aside until you are ready to serve.

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