Greek Style Roasted Lamb
Let me tell you a little bit about dining with Greeks or at least dining with my family. A big Sunday dinner is never just what I have served here. I like to keep things simple. This has taken me a long time to figure out and sometimes it still kills me, but less is truly more. It’s a fact, and one that goes against the grain of Greeks and of course many other cultures, Trinidadians included. That is not the way I grew up though. My mom would prepare a roast just like this plus a pastitsio, Greek rice, keftedakia, loukanika, and a whole bunch of other sides and meats and oooooh I become dizzy just thinking about preparing all that food.
In the end nothing was wasted. You had leftovers for days and everyone was happy. It’s totally excessive though and my poor mom literally was chained to the kitchen for the entire day and right through dinner. She too has gotten tired of it all and keeps things much simpler. When it comes to a family dinner we both now agree that streamlined is the better option. That way we both get to enjoy the sitting and eating process as much as the guests.
That whole process still goes against everything we were trained to do. We still always have this nagging feeling of “we should have also made this that or the other”. Maybe that will eventually wear off. Or maybe it won’t - me and my Greek friends call that Greek guilt. I think I have spoken about it before but its a real nagging sense of guilt that lingers every time you do something non-Greek, or think non-Greek - God forbid! Hee hee! I’m Greek by ethnicity. I love the rich culture, the food, the dancing, rich history, the language (which I can speak and write thanks to my father’s tireless efforts) but I’m not as defined by it as I should be or at least I’m expected to be. There goes that Greek guilt again. Anyways you get my drift. I’m Greek but I’m not that Greek, or at least I don’t think I am. Let’s talk about this roast shall we….
Roast lamb the Greek way
As you see the lamb is very nice and browned, some may even say over done. It does have nice and charred edges. Greeks tend to like their lamb well done and it may look overly done but that is the way we like it – well done with a beautiful crispness to it but the interior is tender and oh so good.
This was my second time roasting a lamb. Big pieces of meat have always scared me but I am getting less afraid of cooking them. Lamb is always a treat and I always love a Greek style lamb. The flavours always take me back to big dinners with family. My mom didn’t make it often because us kids didn’t have an appreciation for it but we have grown to love it along with my grandparents and aunts roasted katsiki or goat.
The first time I had a whole roasted one was in Greece. I was like 12 probably and I remember it clearly as if it was yesterday. We arrived at my grandparents house late at night and early the next day I ventured out to use the bathroom (outhouse), to get the scare of a lifetime. I opened the door and before I could rub the sleep out of my eyes I was confronted with a hanging goat getting skinned by my uncle. Those few months were an eye opener in my life and were some of best filled memories of my childhood. That goat was part of my grandfathers herd. I got to go far into the mountains with him and my cousins, tend goats, milking them, watching babies get delivered, feeding the babies. It was amazing and then finally (I hate the way his sounds) eating that particular one from the mornings scare was a very delicious experience.
What makes Greek style roasted lamb so good
I think that ends my little personal experience and my history of Greek’ness or lack of Greek’ness. This lamb is delicious, tender, full of flavour thanks to all the fresh herbs and garlic, not overly gamey tasting thanks to the wine and vinegar marinade and easy because if I can roast a beauty like this, you most definitely can. When I make my lamb like this I usually don’t make a gravy. I squeeze lemon juice over the roast once it comes out of the oven and that is good enough for me. I also serve it with extra lemon wedges for a squeeze of it once it’s sliced as well. It is perfect with my lemon potatoes and a horiatiki salad. If you are going Greek with your lamb you might as well go Greek all the way! We enjoyed the leftover lamb by pan frying it in harissa paste making sure the edges got crispy and had lots of flavour and ate it in pitas like a North African gyro! I do hope you give it a try and would love to know how you love to roast your lamb.
How to make Greek Style Roasted lamb:
There really is nothing to it.
- Place lamb in an airtight bag or container, stir together the marinade ingredients and pour over the lamb massaging it in to make sure the whole lamb has made contact. Seal and allow to marinate 2-4 hours or overnight refrigerated.
- Once ready to roast - stir together rub ingredients rub lamb all over with it, place it on roasting tin with rack pouring remaining marinade into the bottom of the pan.
- Roast until very deeply golden and tender basting the lamb 1-2 times while it’s roasting (tenting loosely with foil if it starts to get to golden too fast)
- Allow lamb to rest 10-15 minutes and then enjoy! See notes below if you want to add potatoes making this a one pan meal.
- 5-6 lb lamb leg (I used spring lamb leg with bone in)
for the marinade
- 6 cloves of garlic grated
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp fresh rosemary chopped
- ¼ cup of olive oil
- 1 cup of red or white wine
- 1 tbsp of red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ cup of fresh lemon juice
- Zest from 2 lemons
for prepping the lamb before roasting
- 6 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 tablespoons dried oregano
- 1 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp of honey
- 1 stick of butter softened
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Wash lamb well and pat dry and place in a glass dish or sturdy sealable plastic bag large enough to hold the lamb.
- In a small bowl whisk together all the marinade ingredients and pour into the the bag or dish the lamb is in. Turn to coat and massage the lamb with it and seal bag/dish and allow to marinate refrigerated for a few hours up to two days. (the longer the better esp to help with gaminess and tenderness of lamb)
- Once ready to roast remove lamb from fridge and allow to come to room temperature then preheat oven to 400°F and prepare the lamb for baking.
- In a small bowl mix together the garlic, oregano, rosemary, butter, honey and Dijon mustard and set aside
- Remove lamb from marinade (keep marinade) and pierce the lamb all over with the tip of a sharp knife
- Rub garlic butter-herb-mustard mixture over lamb, pressing into incisions.
- Coat with remaining 2 tbsp of oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Line a roasting pan with a few layers of foil, place a rack over foil and transfer the lamb to rack.
- Pour the marinade left over from the lamb into the pan for aromatics and steam.
- Roast, uncovered, at 400°F for 15 minutes to brown and then REDUCE heat to 375°F approx 1½ hours, turn lamb over (optional) to make a crust on the other side, and continue to roast for another 45 minutes turning it back for the last bit of coking time (total roasting time is approx 2 hours and 15 minutes and roughly 20 minutes per lb. Internal temp for medium to well done should be approx 160-170°F). If the lamb gets to dark too quickly feel free to loosely tent lamb for remaining cooking time.
- Once done let lamb rest tented with foil for at least ten minutes then squeeze lemon juice over it, slice and serve. Slice and serve with the extra lemon wedges.
How to add potatoes to make this a one pan meal:
- 2-2½ lbs yellow potatoes sliced into wedges
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 lemon juiced
- Before adding lamb to the pan toss the potatoes in the roasting tin (without rack) with all the ingredients. Then make a well in the center of the pan. Lay the leg of lamb on top of the potatoes. And roast as normal. Toss potatoes 1-2 tikes during cooking to check if they need any liquid - if so add a little bit of water or broth. Once lamb is done you can remove it onto platter and allow it to rest and while it does you can increase the heat of the oven to a low broil setting and give the potatoes a little extra color if needed. (Optional) *Do NOT add the rack to pan in this case and do NOT add the leftover marinading liquid to pan if roasting potatoes with the lamb