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Leg of Lamb Cooked in a Salt Crust

July 31, 2017

Leg of lamb in a salt crust

Salt baking is something people usually do with fish, which has never made a huge amount of sense to me. Whenever I’ve eaten salt baked fish it’s been overcooked because the successful cooking of fish is so dependent on timing; if the thing is covered in a rock hard salt dungeon, you can’t look at it or prod the flesh to see if it’s done.

Leg of lamb with herbs

This is something I’ve experienced in some fairly high falutin’ restaurants, FYI, like the fish restaurant that everyone seems to love apart from me: One O One in Knightsbridge (boring, stuffy, quiet, in Knightsbridge). I ordered a salt baked seabass to share with someone else and it arrived on a shiny trolley, the waiter behind brandishing pick and hammer. Yeah, it’s dramatic when the crust is cracked and the steam and accompanying piscine waft rises but the fish within was mush. It’s always seabass, too, that seems to suffer this treatment. This is a fish that turns to texture of wet cushion stuffing if you so much as whisper you’re going to cook it.

Cleaver

So I’d never considered using the salt crust technique on anything else but then one day we needed a new way to cook lamb. It occurred to me that this might just work on something that actually likes long, slow cooking and can take a fair bit of salt. 

Leg of lamb cooked in a salt crust

Now I don’t want to be an insufferable tw*t but this may be the best slow cooked lamb in the world. The point of the crust, of course, is that it seals everything inside, so what you end up with is a leg of lamb which is, yes, salty but really pleasantly so. This is meat that’s basically been bathing in its own fat inside a super hot salt cavern.

Leg of lamb cut

None of the flavour is going anywhere so I thought I’d take advantage of that fact by adding in some herbs, and not the usual rosemary or thyme but loads of soft herbs like parsley, dill and mint. And I mean loads. The result is that the herbs season deep into the flesh. You could also smear it with loads of crushed garlic, of course, which I’m a bit surprised we didn’t do to be honest. We must’ve had a garlic-heavy side dish. It’s the only explanation.

Lamb Sliced

See? So much better than incarcerating poor fishes and you could put loads of different flavours in there. I’m thinking a rub made with smoky chillies (pretty much thinking that all the time right now), or a spice paste, heavy with cumin. Steamy.

Leg of Lamb Cooked in a Salt Crust Recipe

We ate it with these broad beans which were lovely but you could give green vegetables like courgettes or Tenderstem broccoli the same treatment.

1 x 2.2kg leg of lamb, bone in
1.5kg salt, a mix of coarse and fine sea salt (50/50)
4 egg whites
A large bunch each of dill, mint and parsley, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Set a pan large enough to hold the lamb over a medium and brown the lamb all over.

Mix the egg whites with the salt to make a sort of paste. Make a bed of this on the bottom of the roasting tin and lay the lamb on top, then cover with the herbs and the rest of the salt paste.

Roast for 2.5 to 3 hours or until a thermometer reads at least 65C.

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14 Comments

  • Reply Niamh July 31, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    Oh this looks SO good! Love the idea of doing it with garlic as you suggest. I will have to give it a go.

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves July 31, 2017 at 2:44 pm

      Thanks Niamh! I’m a bit obsessed with it now and want to make it again immediately.

  • Reply Liz Thomas August 1, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    Now that sounds really, really good. The flesh of the lamb looks beautifully pink and tender, Courgettes as a side — my long awaited glut has arrived and I’m having a great time with it!

    Thanks Helen, I think this would be a great lunch party dish as it seems that it looks after itself in the oven.

    cheers!
    Liz

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves August 1, 2017 at 5:32 pm

      It would absolutely be perfect for a party! Leave it in the oven, bring it out, crack the crust for drama etc etc.

  • Reply Liz Thomas August 1, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    I’ve just found out that today is Llamb’s day! Check this http://eatwelshlambandwelshbeef.com/en/blog/celebrate-first-ever-llambs-day-1st-august

    And we’re just off out to buy a leg of lamb for tomorrow’s dinner.

    I am Welsh but living in France so no Welsh lamb here unfortunately, however Aldi do a good deal on NZ lamb which is pretty good quality.

    Will report back

    Cheers!
    Liz

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves August 1, 2017 at 5:33 pm

      Huh, my lamby senses must’ve been tingling.

  • Reply Dan August 6, 2017 at 5:22 pm

    I am making this now (with a hodgepodge of smoked chilies and a tangier spice mix from the back of the cupboard). Had to do a running repair after the salt cracked in the first half hour, otherwise so far so good.

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves August 7, 2017 at 6:09 am

      Oh noooo! Well I’m glad you noticed and patched it up – good emergency skills there! That didn’t happen to me so that’s interesting. How was it?

      • Reply Dan August 13, 2017 at 11:56 am

        It was amazing, and so much fun when you crack it open.

        Don’t know why it cracked, perhaps insufficient egg white (I used two), perhaps because the lamb was cold when it went in. It had lifted a good centimetre.

  • Reply Deborah August 9, 2017 at 2:33 am

    Well I am shocked I made this fancy-pants (for me!) thing and it worked beautifully. Except I had it on convect and cooked it a bit too long, but thinly sliced on flat bread with spicy yogurt, perfect. I’ll give the credit to your excellent instructions (as always) and our excellent Hawaiian salt (Half that and half Kosher)
    Helen, your regret for not using garlic gave me the idea to make a paste of the fresh dill, mint leaves, 5 cloves garlic and a drop of oil which made a paste that really clung to the lamb before the salt went on.
    Aloha!
    Deb

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves August 9, 2017 at 5:20 am

      TOP PASTING!! Great idea, Deb. I have it in my head to do a reeeeeally garlic-y one with like, twenty cloves in there or something. So happy you enjoyed this!

  • Reply Ellen Taylor August 9, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    Hey Helen,
    I have never tried meat although I’m not a vegan. This recipe looks interesting and hope it will delicious also 🙂
    Going to try it soon.

  • Reply Daniel morley August 14, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    If I did this with half a lamb leg weighing about 1.2kg, how long do you think I should cook it for?

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