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Roast Leg of Lamb with Anchovy and Rosemary

by Russell Norman from Venice: Four Seasons of Home Cooking

A deliciously succulent roast lamb recipe from Russell Norman's cookbook 'Venice: Four Seasons of Home Cooking', enriched with the classic Italian flavours of anchovy, rosemary and garlic.

From the book

Russell Norman


I have to admit, this is a cult recipe. I have seen and eaten versions of it everywhere and I make it often during the winter months for my Venetian friends. I was particularly chuffed that it was requested one November by a chum for the feast of Maria della Salute instead of the more traditional castradina.

There are two important notes I need to make. First, it is essential that you really pound the ingredients in the mortar to form a paste. This is pushed into the incisions you make in the lamb and will dissolve into the flesh during the cooking process. The smoother you make the paste, the deeper the flavour will penetrate. And second, you must rub the meat thoroughly with your hands to coat the leg and allow those pungent ingredients to glaze as it roasts.

This is a foolproof choice for a Sunday roast, by the way, and one that will fill the house with wonderful cooking aromas.

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2kg lamb leg
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
a large handful of rosemary, stalks removed
freshly ground black pepper
flaky sea salt
2 small tins of anchovy fillets in olive oil
a glass of white wine


Remove the lamb leg from the fridge half an hour before starting your preparation. Preheat the oven to 180˚C/gas 4.

Roughly chop the garlic and place in a large mortar with half the rosemary, a hearty twist of pepper and a very good pinch or two of salt. Open one of the tins of anchovies and place them, oil and all, in the mortar. Pound enthusiastically with the pestle for a few minutes, until you have a rough paste. Set aside.

Take a very sharp knife with a point and make half a dozen 3cm deep incisions into the lamb leg at even intervals. Place it in a large, deep-sided roasting tray. Work the holes open a little with your finger. Now push a teaspoonful of the paste into each hole with a single anchovy from the second tin and an equal amount of the remaining rosemary. Pour any leftover oil from the mortar on top of the lamb leg and rub all over with your oily hands. Pour half the wine into the bottom of the tray.

Cover tightly with heavy-duty foil and place in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil (but don’t throw it away) and baste the lamb with its juices, then turn the oven up to 200˚C/gas 6 and roast for a further 45 minutes or so, until golden brown. Remove the leg, place on a board and cover loosely with the retained foil. Rest for at least 15 minutes.

Place the roasting tray over a high flame and get the juices bubbling, scraping the sticky bits from the bottom and sides. Add the remaining wine and reduce the liquid for a few minutes until syrupy and rich. Pour into a warmed sauceboat.

Slice the lamb leg and serve with the sauce at the table. This goes rather well with Venetian potatoes.

More Recipes from Venice

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Grilled Radicchio

by Russell Norman from Venice

Swordfish Puttanesca

by Russell Norman from Venice


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From the book: Venice: Four Seasons of Home Cooking

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