Chef's Table: Greek Roast Lamb

Spring is finally upon us and Easter is just around the corner.  It is time to finally lose the heavy stodgy food and go with something lighter.

Easter is a big deal with the Greeks and they like to take a whole week to celebrate the occasion with good food, excellent wine and music.  I first visited their country in 1998, taking a year out of the hotel business.  I was blown away by the beauty of the Islands and the friendliness of the people.  The Greeks are a crazy, fiery bunch, but we love them anyway.

For Easter Sunday I have the recipe for cooking a lamb roast, their way.  It works so well, it just melts in the mouth.  Then for Easter Monday we have a traditional Greek Pasta Bake, which is tasty and lighter than any Italian version.

For the Lamb roast.  Preheat your oven at 180 c. You will need the following:

  • One good quality leg of lamb or roasting joint.

  • Two tins of chopped tomatoes

  • Three cloves of peeled garlic

  • Three thin slices of lemon

  • Freshly chopped oregano

  • Half a cup of Orzo pasta, or short grain rice

  • Olive oil

  • Mavrodaphne sweet red wine

Wet a cloth or kitchen roll and spread over a work top.  Now place a RED chopping board over the top.  Unpack the lamb and weigh it.  Cook it for 25 minutes for every 450 grams, and a further 25 minutes after that.  So, for example, my 885 gram joint took one hour and fifteen minutes to cook to exact perfection. Cut off any string holding it together and rinse it under the tap for a few seconds.

  1. Take a GREEN chopping board and thinly slice half a lemon, and peel three cloves of garlic. 

  2. Open the lamb carefully and insert the lemon and garlic in the split, before holding it back together.  Rub a little olive oil into the lamb using the palms of your hands.  Wash your hands carefully afterwards, as you are about to handle a knife and this can cause slipping, which never ends well.

  3. Open the tins of tomatoes and add them to the baking tin, just spread them around.  Add a pinch of salt, pepper and sugar if you like.  Finally add 125 ml of Mavrodaphne red wine to the tin, this really adds to the flavour.

  4. Next, chop the fresh oregano as finely as you can, sprinkle half over the lamb and half into the tomatoes.

  5. Add the lamb to the baking tray and cover with tin foil.  Then, place in the oven for an hour.

  6. Once the hour is up, remove the lamb.  Add half a cup of Orzo pasta to the tray, and 80 ml of water, stir them in well. Put the Lamb back into the oven and leave it until it has reached the required cooking time. By then, the Orzo will have softened into the tomatoes.

  7. Remove from the oven, and carve the lamb.  Serve it with a little of the tomato and pasta sauce spooned over the top.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

By chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.