Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Home Made Mint Sauce

Well, sod seasonality! I said firmly to the laptop. No, I'm not referring to what we should cook or eat, but to the issues it raises for us scribblers. You might think that Easter would be a gift, with all its food traditions. Yes, but this is the ninth year of Tom Cooks! Fortunately, many of you are like me in that you can't remember what you cooked last month, let alone three years ago; however, others have gimlet sharp memories, ever ready to pick up on any repetition, to say nothing of  hesitation or deviation.

So at this stage, Easter can be tricky. Last year we did hot cross buns. On the old site we baked simnel cake, and in an On The Side article aimed at the historians we had a look at a range of things which are eaten at Easter time. Perhaps oddly, we have never up until now featured a lamb recipe. This isn't evidence of any anti-lamb sentiment in Tom's Food!, though my old man hated the stuff. My point has rather been in support of Scottish farmers. Our lambing season is generally around Easter time. See Easter Lamb Ain't Scottish.

It might be possible were we to go down the Italian route of preparing an Easter feast of abbacchio, that's to say suckling lamb. Utterly delicious, but I think it offends our British sensibilities for no logical reason. We don't have much of an appetite for suckling pig either.

But as it's obvious that many of you will be eating lamb this weekend with or without my approval, who am I to go against the flow? You could try slow cooked lamb shoulder which has proved to be one of the most popular recipes ever published in Tom Cooks! But for a feast you can't beat a roast. Roast leg of lamb done well is a thing of wonder, but it's not the easiest to carve. Why not instead try-

Roast Butterflied Leg of Lamb

A leg of lamb will generally come with the bone still in. What you want to do is to remove that and to open up the meat in one piece and spread it out. It will therefore take less time to cook and will be much easier to carve. The name comes from the shape. If buying your meat from a butcher you can ask him or her to do this for you, but it's really easy. Put the leg on a board. Starting from the knuckle end cut down along the bone until you expose it. Trim the meat away from the bone, then slip your knife underneath and remove it altogether. Remove any large chunks of fat, but you want to leave a thin layer on the skin side You can find a video here. If you were thinking of barbecuing the lamb your cutting needs to be more precise - see a longer video here - but as we're going to roast it, don't worry too much. Most supermarket lamb legs are sold with the shank already removed. Lamb shanks need a long slow cook, so you want to take that off.

You can roast your lamb on a bed of vegetables. Today I'm keeping it simple and cooking the lamb on its own. Beware. Cooking times in recipes vary enormously. This recipe should give you medium rare meat, which I prefer. Invest in a food thermometer. They're not that expensive. For rare/medium rare 57 - 65˚C; medium 65 -70˚C; ruined > 70˚C.

Finally, a word on the flavourings. As you are going to sear the butterfly, make sure that the garlic and anchovy are inserted deep into the flesh so they don't burn. Don't worry about non anchovy lovers. You'll ge the nice salty taste, not the fishiness. Some recipes tell you to insert little bits of rosemary as well. Don't. They will be crispy and unpleasant. Thrown in a couple of whole sprigs, which are easy to remove. I would wet them first to avoid scorching.


1 small leg of lamb about 1.5 - 2kg, butterflied; 2 garlic cloves; 3 or 4 salted anchovy fillets, each cut into 3 pieces; one or two sprigs of rosemary; olive oil, pepper.


Preheat your oven to 180˚C/Mark 4. Ideally use a large oven proof frying pan which is large enough to hold the meat flat. Alternatively, use one pan to sear the meat on the stove, then transfer to a roasting tin. If doing the latter, pre heat the tin.

With a paring knife make a number of deep incisions into the flesh. Into each one, bury a sliver of garlic or piece of anchovy. Rub the lamb all over with olive oil (don't season at this stage) and sear over a fairly high heat to brown the outside. Cook for about three minutes on each side. Before transferring to the oven, season with pepper. No salt is required if you use the anchovy, but if not rub with salt as well. Chuck in a couple of wettened sprigs of rosemary. Roast for about 30 - 40 minutes (see above).

As ever with roast meat, allow to rest, covered with foil, for at least half of the roasting time.

Mint Sauce

A peculiarly British accompaniment. If you like it, make your own. You'll never go back to the nasty bottled stuff again.


A large handful of fresh mint, washed, stalks removed, and finely chopped; 2 tbsp caster sugar; 2 tbsp boiling water; 2 tbsp white wine vinegar.


Put the mint in a bowl with the sugar. Add the water and mix to dissolve the sugar. Leave for 5 minutes, then add the vinegar. Leave everything io infuse for at least a couple of hours. When the sauce has cooled, place in the fridge.


  1. Janet Hood on 30th March 2024 at 9:39 am

    Woo hoo success

    • Tom Johnston on 30th March 2024 at 9:41 am

      Praise the Lord.

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