For a long time, until it was replaced by duck breast in berry sauce. Emma always asked for Seven Hour Lamb for her birthday dinner (in winter). I think it’s the ultimate in comfort food. On top of that it’s very easy. In Paris a few years ago I had a pleasurable but slightly weird dinner at Le Safran (it has since closed).
After a weary garment buying day my feet were so tired that I couldn’t go too far from my hotel. I consulted my Paris bistro guide and picked Le Safran close by. I arrived reasonably early at about 8pm, walked in and found myself in one of those situations where you think ‘I don’t know about this’. It was too late to back out. Not one to make a fuss and feeling very awkward, I stayed. There I was in a really, really tacky dining room – badly painted yellow walls, worn yellow upholstery, end of April and Christmas decorations still up complete with flickering fairy lights. Horrible art on the walls and one CD repeating over and over.
The dinner? Absolutely delicious! I started with tomatoes farcies (stuffed tomatoes) and to follow I had the Seven Hour Lamb (I wanted to see how mine compared). I can assure you it compared well.
- 1 medium leg of lamb (for 4)
- 1-2 large carrots per person, peeled and sliced
- 4 large onions, peeled and sliced
- 4-5 large peeled and sliced Agria potatoes (more if appetites are large)
- Whole peeled cloves of garlic – as many as you like
- Plenty of fresh thyme, bay leaves, sprigs of parsley
- Salt and pepper
Trim fat and skin from the lamb. Season with sea salt and pepper.
Place the sliced carrots and onions in a lidded casserole dish, add most of the garlic and herbs. Season a little.
Nestle the leg of lamb amongst the vegetables and put the last of the herbs and garlic on top and drizzle with a little oil.
Place a piece of baking paper over the lamb, put the lid on and place in the oven at 150C.
Check after 2 hours. The vegetables and meat should have released some liquid. Add a little lamb stock or water if it’s dry. Repeat this after another hour or so. The liquid should come about half way up the lamb by this stage.
After 4-5 hours, remove from the oven and layer slices of potato all over the top of the meat and vegetables. The meat will be starting to fall apart by this stage. Add a little more stock or water if necessary and season the potatoes.
After 7 hours it’s ready (a small leg will take about 6 hours.) All the flavours will be melded together. Spoon it onto your plates. It looks messy but it’s delicious.
Serve with a green vegetable such as broccoli or beans and plenty of Dijon mustard and cornichons.
Note: When buying your lamb you think about the size of your dish so the leg fits in snugly. A large flameproof lidded casserole dish is best. Ask your butcher to trim the bone end if necessary to ensure the lamb fits your dish. Sometimes, if you’re cooking for a few people, two small legs usually fit in a dish better than one very large leg.
It’s easiest to slice the carrots, onions and potatoes using a mandoline on the thinnest setting. Be on the generous side with the vegetables – use more of each if you think everyone will be hungry.