Lamb baked in hay with mint and caper sauce

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YIELD : Serves 6


Lamb baked in hay with mint and caper sauce:

  • 3kg whole leg of lamb
  • 55g butter, at room temperature
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, cut into 2cm pieces
  • 6-8 handfuls hay

For the sauce:

  • 60g bunch fresh mint
  • 3tbsp capers in vinegar, drained
  • 5tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1tsp caster sugar

Flageolet Bean Ragout:

  • 300g dried flageolet beans or 3 x 400g tins, drained
  • 2 red onions, peeled
  • 3tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 x 400g tin tomatoes
  • 600ml vegetable stock
  • 1tbsp tomato purée
  • 1tbsp finely chopped rosemary
  • 1tbsp finely chopped thyme
  • 5 anchovies in oil, drained


Lamb baked in hay with mint and caper sauce

Assuming you don’t have a meadow at the bottom of the garden, you will find hay in a pet shop, but make sure it is the eating rather than bedding variety. The lamb remains wonderfully juicy cooked this way.

  1. Leave the meat out at room temperature for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Heat the oven to 200˚C/fan oven 180˚C/mark 6. Smear the surface of the lamb with the butter, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. With the tip of a sharp knife, make deep incisions all over the lamb. Stuff the holes with slices of garlic and rosemary.
  2. Place a large, deep roasting tin (with lid if possible) on the hob over a low heat. Lay 2-3 handfuls of the hay on the bottom and leave for about 10 seconds until it starts to smoke. Immediately take off the heat – you don’t want the hay to catch fire – and place the lamb on top. Cover with 3-4 more handfuls of the hay, packing it in fairly tightly. Cover with a lid or 2 layers of aluminium foil. Roast in the oven for 2 1/4 hours. Remove the foil and all the hay covering the lamb, wiping off any little bits with kitchen paper. Return to the oven for 30-40 minutes depending on how pink you like the lamb. Lift the lamb out of the roasting tin, brush off any hay and leave to rest on a board for at least 10 minutes before carving.
  3. For the sauce, remove the leaves from the mint stalks and place in a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Serve the lamb with a little of the mint and caper sauce along with a generous helping of flageolet bean ragout.

Flageolet Bean Ragout This bean dish is a perfect accompaniment to the lamb or can be served on its own as a vegetarian main course (if you omit the anchovies). I like to make it a day in advance so the beans soak up the flavours of the vegetables and herbs, but you may need to add a little more stock or water when reheating. If you can’t find flageolet beans, cannellini can be used instead.

  1. If using dried beans, cover with cold water and soak overnight. The next day, drain the beans and place in a large saucepan. Add half a red onion, cover generously with cold water and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer the beans for about 40-45 minutes or until they are tender but not mushy. Drain well and discard the onion. Set aside. (Omit all of this stage if you use tinned beans.)
  2. Finely chop the remaining 11/2 onions (or whole 2 onions if you are using tinned beans). Heat the oil in a large pan and sauté the onions, celery, carrot and garlic with a good pinch of salt for 12-15 minutes over a low heat, until the vegetables are softened but not coloured. Add the remaining ingredients including the beans (if you are using tinned beans, add them now) and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and simmer for 20-25 minutes, then serve.
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