I am Armenian. And you can't be Armenian without learning how to make a lamb roast. Of course, I suffer from the "I cannot cook as good as my mother" syndrome. No daughter of an Armenian mother ever feels that she measures up, however, I think I have come very close. When I first started cooking, I deliberately made dinners that wouldn't compete with my mother, such as chicken curry and tuna casserole. It was a cop out, but a start.
With that in mind, it's hard to believe that I ever had the courage to tackle a roast leg of lamb. Believe me, I have had my share of mishaps here—under cooked, over cooked and just plain tasteless. But I kept at it until I found the perfect formula. Dare I say, it's even better than my mother's?
Roasting requires a bit of trial and error. You may have to make a dish several times, before hitting on the exact seasoning and cooking time. But if you follow my advice, I promise you a shortcut to success.
Ask your butcher to roll and tie a 4 pound leg of lamb.
Then marinate it for four hours in:
1/2 cup of olive oil
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 tablespoon of paprika
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
Here's an important tip: Do not ever use citrus in the marinade. It makes the meat tough.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Roast the lamb for 25 minutes, uncovered. Then lower the heat to 300 degrees and continue roasting for approximately an hour and a half (two hours total roasting time) or until a meat thermometer registers 155 degrees.
Let the meat rest for about 15 minutes before slicing. Ideally, lamb should be served on the rare side, but if you prefer your meat less pink, you can increase the cooking time.
I served the lamb with a wonderful spinach salad. The recipe for the salad comes from my cousin's restaurant Charentsi 28 in the capital city of Yerevan, Armenia. I visited my family in Armenia last year, and loved the beautifully updated traditional dishes served at the restaurant.
To make the salad, you need:
1 bag of baby spinach (buy the pre-washed stuff)
1 bunch of beets (do not discard the leaves as they are going into the salad)
Portobello mushrooms (again, buy pre-sliced but rinse them)
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
1 red onion, sliced thin
Cut and wash the beet tops and mix with the spinach greens in a large bowl.
Boil the beets, until the skins come off easily (I then roast the beets until tender, but you could just boil them till they are tender.) Set aside to cool.
While the beets are cooking, saute the mushrooms in butter for about 4 minutes (add water to avoid burning if necessary). Drain most of the liquid. And set the mushrooms aside.
For the dressing (the most important part) you need:
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 large clove garlic, crushed
about 1/2 tsp salt and a 1/4 tsp pepper (to taste)
Using a wire whisk, mix the dressing ingredients well and set aside until just before serving.
To assemble the salad, add the sliced onions and cucumbers to the bowl with the spinach and beet tops. Slice the cooled beets and add, along with the mushrooms to the greens. Pour the dressing on and mix well. Using lemon instead of vinegar in the dressing makes all the difference here. Enjoy!
*****Now that Virginia has expanded her repertoire beyond chicken curry and tuna casserole, she is pursuing a wide range of culinary adventures both at home and abroad. She blogs at In The Heart of a Former Hippie and can be found studying cookbooks and travel brochures in her spare time.