Article from FOCUS Magazine – Winter 12 issue.
Roasted leg of lamb with plumped apricots and grated ricotta salata
Lamb is one of my favourite meats: I love its depth of flavour and the variety of accompaniments it suggests. Its heftiness benefits from both the sweet and acidic components in a fruit garnish. Dried apricots provide concentrated flavour, and here I add another flavour accent by plumping them up with a soaking in brandy and balancing them with a garnish of grated salty cheese. Sheep often graze in salty marshes, and authentic ricotta salata is made with at least a component of sheep’s milk, further explaining the complementary nature of these flavours. I like to serve this with asparagus.
1 x 3.5-4.5kg boneless leg of lamb, trimmed and tied
8 garlic cloves
4 fresh rosemary sprigs
60ml olive oil
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
About 340g dried apricots, cut into quarters
200g roughly grated ricotta salata
Ingredient notes: Ask your butcher to trim and tie the leg of lamb if you are buying a whole leg or simply buy it already prepared from the supermarket. Fresh ricotta cheese is made from the whey (drained liquid, containing residual milk proteins) left over from a primary cheese-making process. It’s soft, very mild and lends itself to blending and enriching other ingredients, such as in cheesecakes or the filling for manicotti. The salata version, produced mostly in Sicily and Sardinia, is salted, pressed and aged for two to eight months, at which point it becomes hard and gratable. For this recipe, it should be roughly grated to provide a nice texture contrast.
Timing note: The lamb roasts in the oven for 1 hour and rests for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, the dried apricots are left to soak in hot brandy for 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6.
- Use a paring knife to make 8 x 2.5cm-deep slits evenly spaced into the leg of lamb. Push 1 garlic clove into each hole. Use the knife again to make four 5cm-deep slits in the leg and fill each of those with a sprig of rosemary. Rub the lamb all over with the olive oil, and season with the salt and pepper.
- Position the lamb on a rack in a roasting tin and roast for 1 hour. (The internal temperature should read 54-57°C on a meat thermometer; if the temperature is low, return the lamb to the oven to roast for a further 5-10 minutes.) Remove the lamb from the oven, tent with foil and set aside to rest for 30 minutes.
- As the lamb begins roasting, place the brandy in a small saucepan over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Place the apricots in a stainless-steel bowl, add the hot brandy, and leave the dried fruit to steep for 1 hour. The brandy should be completely absorbed and the apricots should swell in size.
- Carve the leg of lamb crossways into 2.5cm slices, transfer to a platter, pour the apricots with their liquid on top, and garnish with the ricotta salata.
The Italian Table by Ron Suhanosky
Photography: Alberto Peroli
Published by Kyle Books £20.00