Simon Hopkinson’s roast leg of lamb with anchovy, garlic and rosemary – recipe

Lamb and anchovy, odd though it may seem, were made for each other. I think I am right in saying that this roast lamb is a continental classic – I have certainly seen it in both France and Italy.

Serves 4
leg of lamb 1.8 kg
garlic 4 large cloves, peeled and sliced lengthways into 3
anchovies 2 x 50g tins
rosemary a small bunch
butter 75g, softened
black pepper
white wine ½ bottle
lemon juice of 1
watercress a bunch, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 200C fan/gas mark 7. With a small sharp knife, make about 12 incisions 5cm deep in the fleshy side of the joint. Insert a piece of garlic, half an anchovy and a small sprig of rosemary into each incision. Push all of them right in with your little finger. Cream the butter with any remaining anchovies and smear it all over the surface of the meat. Grind over plenty of black pepper. Place the lamb in a roasting tin and pour the wine around. Tuck in any leftover sprigs of rosemary and pour over the lemon juice. Put in the oven and roast for 15 minutes.

Turn the oven temperature down to 160C fan/gas mark 4 and roast the lamb for a further hour, or slightly more, depending on how well done you like your meat. Baste from time to time with the winey juices. Take the meat out of the oven and leave to rest in a warm place for at least 15 minutes before carving.

Meanwhile, taste the juices and see if any salt is necessary – it shouldn’t be because of the anchovies. During the roasting process the wine should have reduced somewhat, and mingled with the meat juices and anchovy butter to make a delicious gravy. If you find it too thin, then a quick bubble on the hob should improve the consistency.

When it comes to good food smells, this is one of the best, because as you slice the lamb the waft of garlic, rosemary and anchovy hits you head on. Mashed potato is good with this.