Food is central to the way in which we celebrate life, whether it marks a religious feast or a casual gathering with friends and family. Often what we share around the table is less important than the spirit in which it’s offered, although bringing a roast to the table is always special. Favoured for its sweet juicy meat, lamb lends itself well to a host of different cooking methods and flavour pairings. Simplicity is often the secret to the best recipes. Cooking doesn’t always need to be complicated. This roast leg of lamb with sticky onion marmalade is testament to the art of slow cooking.
With careful consideration, I’ve aimed to keep the ingredients to a minimum and use them in such a way that concentrates the flavour of each. Today’s recipe focuses on three key players – succulent free-range Karoo lamb, red onions and Natura Sugars. When cooking with only a few ingredients, choosing the finest quality is most important.
I’m thrilled to be partnering with Natura Sugars, a Cape Town based company who’s exclusive range of unrefined sugars are truly superior. This special range of sugars are cultivated in Mauritius and are free from bleaching processes and irradiation. With 7 variants to choose from, they’ve become my go-to ingredient for baking and savoury meat dishes that require a sweet molasses contrast.
The combination of savoury and sweet is a familiar concept to most South Africans. Fresh and dried fruits have been mainstays to many local favourites for centuries, often appearing in lamb, chicken and beef recipes. Rather than the traditional use of fruit, I’ve chosen to caramelize onions with garlic, thyme and a touch of balsamic vinegar for acidic balance. While the lamb and onions contain natural sugars, the addition of molasses-rich demerera sugar amps up the caramelisation. To counter the sweetness, I’m pairing it chilli, rosemary and earthy coriander.
There are essentially two steps to this meltingly tender lamb roast. Marinating and slow roasting. It’s as simple as that. I’m a firm believer in marinating, whether in the form of a dry spice rub or an oil-based marinade. The meat benefits from an overnight chilling session as this allows the flavours to penetrate deep within the meat. Let’s talk about cooking methods. Slow roasting does an incredible job of gently cooking the meat, rendering utterly delicious pan juices with a marmite-like tang. Allowing the oven to do all the work is just plain clever cooking. Once the prep work is done, it requires very little involvement other than a watchful eye. The clinking of cutlery on empty plates will tell of huge appreciation from all who’ve shared in the feast.
Roast leg of lamb with sweet onion marmalade
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 2 stems rosemary, de-stalked
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 2 red chilies, with or without seeds, depending on taste
- 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt flakes
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon Natura Sugars Dark Demerara
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
For the roast
- extra virgin olive oil
- 2.5kg free-range leg of lamb
- 4 onions, peeled and cut into wedges
- 1 whole garlic bulb, halved
- 3 stems thyme
- 1/4 cup chicken stock
- 3 tablespoons Natura Sugars Dark Demerara
- 2 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar
- salt and cracked black pepper
- Starting with the marinade, toast the coriander seeds in a dry pan for several minutes until fragrant.
- Place all the marinade ingredients, except the olive oil in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Pulse or grind until fine. Combine the spices with the olive oil.
- Massage the spice marinade into the lamb, place in a non-metallic dish and cover with cling film. Refrigerate overnight.
- Remove the lamb from the fridge and bring up to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 180º C.
- Place the onions, garlic and thyme in a large roasting tin. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the leg of lamb with the fatty side facing down on top of the onions. Pour the stock in around the sides of the roasting tin. Cover loosely with foil and roast for 2 ½ hours.
- Remove the foil and turn the lamb over. Add the Natura Sugars Dark Demerara and balsamic vinegar to onions and stir through to combine. Roast for a further 1 hour, uncovered. Turn the heat up to 220º C and cook for about 20 minutes.
- Remove the leg of lamb and garlic bulb halves from the roasting tin and cover with foil. Set aside to rest.
- Place the roasting tin with the onions on the hob. With the heat on high, reduce the pan juices until sticky. Add plenty of black pepper and adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Return the leg of lamb to the pan and heat through. Serve with root vegetable sides and rosemary roast potatoes.