Cooking lamb in a nest of fresh fragrant hay is a very old cooking method. It is very similar to French style of ‘En Papilotte’. The hay acts as a great insulator, keeping the heat in and giving a moist textured roast with a gentle grassy taste. Cooking in hay is something that would lend itself to a supper party, as it makes a great centre piece and an interesting talking point. However, you will need to get hold of some good clean hay, so perhaps you can chat up a local farmer! You will need to soak the hay before using – just swish it around in a bowl of cold water and then squeeze it out gently. Cooking in hay is especially brilliant if you have an Aga. The method is suitable for most large roasting joints but here I have used a boned, rolled leg.
Don’t worry if you are fresh out of hay! Just follow the method and either open roast your lamb or cover with foil. You might want to glug in half a bottle of red wine, so that the lamb braises and produces the base for a delicious gravy.
1 boned, rolled leg of lamb – approximately 2kg
8 Garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
Bunch of fresh rosemary – you will need to use the tips of the stalks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3-4 good handfuls of clean hay, soaked in cold water for 5-10 minutes and drained
Pre-heat the oven to 220°C /Gas mark 7.
With a sharp knife make several deep incisions through the skin of the lamb, approximately 1cm. Push a slice of garlic, followed by a sprig of rosemary in each incision.
Put a layer of soaked and drained hay into a deep roasting tray and place the lamb on top.
Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with oil.
Cover the lamb with the remaining hay and cover with a piece of foil. Make sure there are no stray pieces of hay that might ignite.
Cook the lamb for approximately 2-2 ½ hours depending on the size of the leg.
Check the lamb is cooked your liking – if not, remove the foil and the covering of hay and continue to cook until done. Check by inserting a skewer into the thickest part and the juices should run clear. But as always, everyone has their own preference for ‘doneness’.
To serve, leave to rest for 15 minutes, remove the hay and carve.
Serve with Dauphinoise potatoes and a medley of young spring vegetables.
Antony Vila writes for the ultimate online food shopping outlet – Weetons.com. At Weetons.com, we’re all about bringing you the best locally sourced food & drink online. We have a huge selection of grocery products including award winning meats, cheeses and delicatessen food. Weeton’s is located at 23/24 West Park, Harrogate, HG1 1BJ, 01423 507 100
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