OK - so we (or at least I) have my Christmas Day main meal organised. The yummy ice cream for dessert, almond, apricot and brandy truffles for sweet meats (and gifts) and roast leg of lamb to be the hero of the main fare.
This year our household will be a little quieter than the last few Christmas Days with two of the boys and their families enjoying Christmas where they now live, one in Sydney and the other in Arrowtown, but the numbers will be made up with extended family and friends.
Some advice regarding your Christmas Day dining - don't leave your decisions on the menu for the big day too late.
Take care to write your shopping list early and give yourself plenty of time to get everything. Talk to your butcher and other suppliers and pre- order what you require, ensuring they will have it in stock for you.
When writing your list ensure you double check your menu and your recipes to ensure you write down all the ingredients you need to get in.
In the case of the leg of lamb that I will go through today, ask your butcher (as I did with the team at Windsor New World) to ensure that it is the full leg (including the chump) and that he tunnel bones it for you so you have plenty of room in the cavity without any splits to fill with the stuffing.
You could also ask him for some elastic bands so that once you have the joint stuffed you can slip these on very easily, which will save you trying to tie the joint with string.
Stuffing the joint serves two purposes. The first and most obvious is that it extends the joint, giving you several more portions.
The second, and perhaps more important, is that having a nice, moist stuffing helps the meat to retain all its natural juices during the cooking process.
Start the cooking process in a very hot oven so that you get a natural sealing of the meat, which in turn will allow the natural sugars in the meat to caramelise, keeping it succulent.
I find a blast of about 15 minutes is ideal for a good sized leg of lamb at around 220 degrees Celsisus, then drop the temperature down to 170degC, allowing a cooking time for medium to well-done of about 30 minutes per 500 grams of meat.
Note: remember to weigh the meat to check out the cooking time before you add the stuffing.
Having the butcher tunnel bone your leg will also allow for simple carving, which will in turn give you a better yield from your leg once it has been cooked and rested.
Remember to ask your butcher to give you the bones once he has boned your joint - these make an ideal roasting rack and also add to the flavour of your gravy.
For the stuffing
1 cup roughly chopped stale bread
100g streaky bacon roughly chopped
1 medium bulb of fennel finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed and finely chopped
1 cup roughly chopped dried apricots
1/2 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 tsp fresh rosemary
1 free range egg
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 Tbsp freshly chopped parsley
Melt the butter in a heavy based pan and lightly saute the bacon and fennel for 2 minutes.
Now add the garlic and dried apricots along with the thyme and the rosemary and continue to saute without colouring for a further 2 minutes.
Allow to cool a little, then add the bread along with the lightly beaten egg. Season with salt and black pepper, and add the parsley.
Fill the boned out cavity of your lamb leg with the stuffing and tie with string or use an elastic band.
To roast the leg
Pre-heat your oven to 220C.
Place the leg of lamb on the bones or a roasting rack and add 1 unpeeled onion into the roasting dish along with a chopped carrot and 1 chopped parsnip.
Place in the pre-heated oven and roast for 15 minutes.
Now turn the oven down to 170C and continue roasting until the required time.
Take the roasting dish from the oven, remove the lamb and place on a clean dish. Cover with a clean cloth, place in a warm spot and allow to rest for 20-25 minutes.
We would like to wish all Southland Times readers, their families and friends a very Merry Christmas.
Graham Hawkes operates Paddington Arms at the Queens Dr/ Bainfield Rd roundabout.
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