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Tantalising aromas, butter soft, tender meat falling off the bone – I had wanted to try a low temperature, slow roast for some time and now was the time to do it. The lamb is cooked for about 4 to 5 hours until its flesh is soft enough to part from the bones with a spoon. In fact in France the recipe is called “Agneau à la cuillère” or lamb with a spoon. Slow-roasting was traditionally a community affair. In French villages, bakers made use of their ovens as the fires died down, after the morning bread baking, to slow-roast meats  for locals who would bring their meats to the baker and collect it several hours later at the end of the day for dinner. I do not have a local baker who provides that service anymore so I decided to try one myself.   I could not make up my mind whether to do a version with traditional rosemary and garlic or a Middle Eastern version with spices, so I settled on a combination of the two and used garlic, thyme, cumin and a touch of paprika and cayenne pepper. The meal got a resounding thumbs up from all my guests.
The key to cooking this way is without a doubt, the basting. That is the reason I included a cup of water with the lamb, no need for wine or anything special, good old fashioned, regular, tap water does the trick beautifully as the spice rub and the fat from the lamb melt into the water to make an aromatic jus with which to moisten the lamb. I basted about once every 45 minutes. I have found that the best and most moist result came from cooking in a deep cast-iron casserole without a lid. I used a 28-cm / 11″ Le Creuset for a 3 kilo / 6 1/2 lb leg of lamb.

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Isn’t that a beautiful leg of lamb from my local butcher, Alain Chapoulie in Le Bugue

 

 

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Just fits!

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After 2 1/2 hours of cooking

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At the table

Serves 6:

Ingredients:

A leg of lamb, about 3 kg / 6 1/2 lbs
250 ml / 1 cup hot water
For the spice rub:
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3/4 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 pinch sweet paprika
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 pinch cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 150 C / 300 F
Using a pestle and mortar, crush the garlic and salt
Add the pepper, cumin seeds, paprika, thyme and cayenne pepper
Gradually add the oil and mix all to a thickish paste
Melt the butter and stir into the spice rub
Rub the spice paste all over the lamb and place in the casserole dish
Place in the oven for 30 minutes
Pour in the hot water and baste the lamb
Continue cooking for 4 hours, basting every 45 minutes or so
If the juices dry up too quickly, simply add a bit more hot water
Remove from the oven and cover with a lid, let rest about 15 minutes
Transfer to a serving platter and drizzle the remaining jus over the lamb
Sprinkle with parsley and carve
Enjoy!

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