Old-fashioned legs of lamb have fallen victim to quick-and-easy cooking, but roasting lamb is what we all should do come Easter. While boneless legs may be simpler to carve, bone-in cuts (like any meat on the bone) are juicier and far more delicious. I like to cook this dish with beans; their melting texture and mild taste are a natural accompaniment to rich lamb. Canadian lamb has come a long way and is as good as anything you get from around the world. If you do decide to buy frozen lamb, then defrost it in the refrigerator 24 hours before cooking for the best results. (One caveat: Lamb fat congeals at quite a low temperature so heat your plates.) Serve with crisp vegetables such as sugar snap peas mixed with julienne carrots and chopped mint or thick stalks of spring asparagus.
Ready time: 2 1/2 hours, not including bean soaking
1 tbsp anchovies, chopped
2 tbsp garlic, chopped
2 tsp grated lemon rind
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp hot smoked Spanish paprika
2 tbsp olive oil
4 lb (2 kg) bone-in leg of lamb
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 cup onions, chopped
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
2 cups dried lima beans, soaked in cold water overnight and drained
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 heads garlic sliced in half
4 cups baby spinach (optional)
Combine anchovies, garlic, lemon rind, lemon juice, paprika and oil. Rub over lamb and leave to it marinate while beans are cooking.
To make the beans, heat 2 tbsp oil, reserving remainder, in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook for 5 minutes or until softened. Stir in thyme, rosemary and soaked beans. Pour in enough water to just cover the beans. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and cook covered for 30 minutes. Uncover, then turn heat to medium-low and cook another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally or until beans are just soft, adding more water if needed. Season well with salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 450 F.
Place lamb in a roasting pan and roast for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 F. Remove lamb from pan. Add beans to pan and give them a stir. Place garlic heads in the pan and drizzle everything with remaining 2 tbsp olive oil. Place lamb on top of beans and bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until lamb juices are just pink. You may need to add a little water as the lamb is cooking so that the beans don’t dry out.
Remove lamb from the pan and let it rest on a carving board. Stir spinach into beans and return to oven for 5 to 10 more minutes until the spinach is wilted.