Slow-roasted French Leg of Lamb with Rocket Sauce and Heidedal Cinsault

When growing up on our family farm, Bergendal on the mountain near Citrusdal, we enjoyed a family feast of note every Sunday, counting 20 or more people at a time.

With every lunch a roasted leg of lamb and a huge platter loaded with baked potatoes were on the menu (My brothers loved their potatoes). Though my dad was lefthanded, just as I am too, he was not deterred from carving the meat into paper-thin slices. To carve it properly, the carving knife has to be razor sharp and I can still see him pulling the carving knife a few times over the sharpener before starting to carve the meat to perfection into neat paper-thin slices.

For me and my twin sister, Mientjie, the shin bone with its super-soft pieces of meat was and still are the best and he specially kept that to the side for us. Salt and pepper were basically the only seasoning my mom used to flavour the meat, because a Bergendal-sheep, which was grazing in the mountains was already well-flavoured. To top the feast a special wine, carefully selected and pressed from the farm’s grapes, was served.

Leg of lamb was not only served on Sundays, but it was also always part of any special occasion; to go with it, some salads and my auntie Martie’s chicken pie, the best in the valley. The table was mostly laid outside in the garden underneath the huge trees. We were really spoilt with a feast.

The award-winning Heidedal Cinsault are pressed from bush vines which my dad planted in 1976 on the sandy loam soil slopes of the mountain. This elegant and velvety wine with notes of berries and cherries, savoury black olives and black spice prefers a bit of savoury and saltiness in food.

Anchovies added to this leg of lamb, a recipe of French origin, creates this saltiness.

The Heidedal Cinsault is a special wine and when paired with a special dish, it is the perfect match in making magic and sweet memories when served on a special occasion.

LEG OF LAMB
Serves 8—10

Basting sauce
4 anchovies, chopped of 20 ml (4 t) anchovy paste
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
30 ml (2 T) finely chopped parsley
20 ml (4 t) fresh thyme, chopped
20 ml (4 t) fresh rosemary, chopped
Juice and grated rind of 1 lemon

Leg of lamb
1 large leg of lamb, shin bone still attached
2—3 onions, cut into large chunks
olive oil
black pepper to taste
250 ml (1 k) each white wine and vegetable stock

Potatoes
1 kg baby potatoes
2—3 red onions, sliced in wedges
olive oil
chopped parsley
salt flakes

Green beans
500 g young green beans
Salt and pepper
250 g baby tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Juice and grated rind of 1 lemon
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 150°C.

LEG OF LAMB
Place the anchovies, garlic and garlic in a bowl of the food processor and chop fine. Add the lemon.
Make a few cuts in the leg of lamb and rub in with the basting sauce.
Place the onions in an oven pan, place the leg with the skin side facing up, pour over some olive oil and add the wine and stock to thee pan. Oven-roast 4—6 hours or until soft. (the timing depends on weight of the leg.)

POTATOES
Boil the baby potatoes until soft. Cut the onions into wedges. String the potatoes and onions on rosemary sprigs or kebab sticks.
Arrange the kebabs on a baking sheet, pour over some olive oil and place in the oven for the last half an hour while the leg of lamb is in the oven. Sprinkle with salt and chopped parsley.

GREEN BEANS
Steam the green beans till just soft. Season with salt and pepper.
Stir-fry the tomatoes in some olive oil till the skin just burst. Mix with the green beans.
Mix the garlic, lemon juice and rind, add the olive oil. Pour over the green beans.
Break the leg of lamb in chunks with two spoons and serve with the green rocket sauce. Serve with potato kebabs and green beans.

ROCKET SAUCE
Makes 500 ml (2 c)
2 containers (40 g each) rocket leaves
60 ml (4 e) creamed horseradish
4 cloves garlic, crushed
80 ml (1/3 c) olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
250 ml (1/2 c) creamy plain yoghurt
Place all the ingredients in the bowl of the food processor and process till smooth. Serve with the leg of lamb.

FLATBREADS WITH PULLED MEAT

Flatbreads are a hit in the Piekenierskloof tasting room at the De Tol farm deli. Pull leftover meat in pieces and top a flatbread with it. Also add marinated olives (see recipe), red onion wedges and roasted tomatoes and spoon over some of the rocket sauce. Garnish with fresh rocket and enjoy with a glass Heidedal-cinsault.

MARINATED OLIVES
Makes 500 ml (2 c) olives
500 g Kalamata olives
250 ml (1 c) extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
5 ml (1 t) fennel seeds, lightly roasted
5 ml (1 t) coriander seeds, lightly roasted and crushed
Rind of 1 lemon, julienned
1 sprig rosemary
2 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves

Drain the olives and rinse under running water. Pat dry.
Mix the rest of the ingredients, add the olives and mix.  Make sure that the olives are all covered with the marinade. Spoon in bottles and seal. Can be kept for 2 months.

Green salad with rocket sauce
Place Cos lettuce leaves or baby spinach on a salad platter. Arrange steamed green beans and stir-fried tomatoes on top, add red onion wedges and olives. Top with pulled leg of lamb or even a few pieces of coppa or prosciutto and spoon over some of the green rocket sauce.

Chunky pulled leg of lamb with rocket sauce  
I never mastered the skill to cut a leg of lamb in paper-thin slices. My way of doing is to pull the leg in chunky pieces with two spoons and serve it with the rocket sauce.

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