I love to incorporate as many edible wild herbs and flowers into dishes as I possibly can. They taste delicious, look pretty and often have healing attributes as well. This leg of lamb was inspired by a visit to the West of Ireland, where sheep graze on hills of heather, grass, and nettles. Adding heather to the herb rub gives the skin a distinctly sweet flavor when roasted. Remember to use gardening gloves when handling nettles, as they can sting!
– One 5-7lb leg of lamb, Frenched with inner bone removed by butcher for easier carving
For the Herb Rub
– ½ cup (10g) chopped fresh curry leaves, plus more for garnish
– ¼ cup (5g) finely chopped thyme
– ½ cup (10g) finely chopped rosemary
– ¼ cup (5g) freshly chopped mint leaves
– ¼ cup (5g) heather flowers, crushed
– ¼ cup (5g) young stinging nettle leaves, finely chopped
– ¼ cup (5g) minced fresh garlic
– 2 tablespoons lemon zest
– 2 tablespoons Irish Atlantic sea salt
– 1 long stem rosemary
1. Pulse the herbs, heather flowers, nettle leaves, garlic, lemon zest, and salt in a food processor until they form a paste.
2. Remove the butcher’s string from the lamb and slash the top-side fat in criss-cross fashion. Slather the top of the lamb with the wildflower and herb paste, being sure to rub it into the slash marks. Place the rosemary stem on top and retie the butcher’s string. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.
3. Take the lamb out of the refrigerator an hour before roasting time, and allow it to sit at room temperature.
4. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
5. Cover the lamb with foil and place it on a wire rack inside a large roasting pan. Pour 1 cup of water into the roasting pan and place it in the oven. Roast for 1 hour, then remove the foil. The internal temperature should be at least 125°F (51°C).
6. Cook for 1 more hour for a medium-rare roast (135°F [57°C]), and 30 more minutes for well done (155°F [68°C]). Baste with juices regularly throughout roasting time.
7. Remove from the oven and transfer the lamb to a plate. Let it rest while you make gravy with the reserving drippings.
Scullery Notes: You can substitute arugula flowers, nasturium, or chive blossoms for the heather in this recipe.
Imen McDonnell is a food and lifestyle columnist for the Irish Farmers Journal and a contributing writer to Condé Nast Traveler and Irish Country Magazine. In a former life, she spent her days working in broadcast production in New York, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles. She now resides with her husband and son on their family farm in rural Ireland and shares stories of farm life and food on her popular blog Farmette.
Imen’s modern Irish recipes have been featured in The New York Times, The Irish Times, The Sunday Times (UK), The Los Angeles Times, Saveur magazine, and more. When she is not cooking, writing, weeding, or photographing, you’ll find her in the farmyard with her husband and son, milking cows, feeding calves and chickens, or loving up their two donkeys and amusing Airedale terrier, Teddy.
The Farmette Cookbook is published by Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications Inc.