Leg of Lamb with Pesto
This is a great way to eat lamb on a weeknight or special occasion. This recipe is simple, delicious, nutritious and affordable. I bought all my ingredients at Costco (except for the lemons). Their Australian lamb is pasture raised and I bought my organic olive oil at a great price! For my small family, the lamb was able to feed us for multiple meals as we keep our protein to smaller servings (most of the time) and fill our plate mostly with vegetables. I suggest serving this with some sautéed zucchini, some wilted kale and some roasted garlic, or onions and mushrooms. It would also go great with some roasted root vegetables or sautéed or poached pears for dessert.
Let’s keep this simple: If you want to make this-
You will need
- Leg of lamb or other cut of lamb. If you do not like lamb, you could also use a rib roast or beef tenderloin or cut of red meat. Red meat is more appropriate to stand up to the strong flavors of basil and garlic.
- Fresh garlic. You can sub garlic powder for the marinade but I wouldn’t do the same for the pesto.
- Olive Oil.
- Fresh Basil
1. Marinate the Meat ahead of time
Try to do this the night before or in the morning of the day that you will eat this. 24 hours ahead would be superb but even one hour is great.
- Separate the excess fat off the leg as best as you can. For each person you will need between 3 and 8 ounces, depending on individual appetite. (children eat around 2 to 3 ounces and men usually eat around 8 but women usually eat around 4 ounces)
- Cut the lamb into “steaks”. Of course, you could use lamb chops, loin or roast a whole leg, but for a weeknight meal, I suggest steaks and the recipe is for that cut. Cut appropriately and then place the meat in a Ziploc bag.
- Garlic. Peel and mince a generous amount of garlic and place it into the bag. If you are out of fresh garlic, you can sprinkle some garlic powder but fresh is better and more beneficial health wise. We really like garlic so we used 4 large cloves for an 8 ounce piece of lamb.
- Squeeze the juice of 1/2 to 1 whole lemon into the bag. For a 2 person serving I would use half and for a family of 4 I would use a whole large lemon.
- Sprinkle with a pinch or two of salt.
- Close the bag and massage the meat, spreading all the marinade ingredients evenly.
2. Make the pesto right before you start cooking
- This is so easy and delicious. You simply put the basil into the food processor, add the garlic and turn it on while slowly adding olive oil until you get the consistency you prefer. You will want to add a pinch of sea salt. This is the AIP recipe with no addition but if you have reintroduced other nuts or dairy successfully, you can add some for extra texture and depth of flavor. I do mine plain and it is delicious. Any leftovers can be diluted with additional olive oil and lemon juice to create a salad dressing that is good in the fridge for up to 3 days.
3. Cook the lamb
- If you are new to lamb, I HIGHLY suggest not cooking it past being pink in the middle. It is best rare to medium rare. My husband loves medium to medium well steaks but every time I cooked lamb this way for him he didn’t like the flavor. He likes it only if it is pink or more, even if I have to remind him. So even if you think you want it to be medium or more, cook it to medium rare to medium (medium is still some pink left in the center) and try it that way first. Remember- its easier to put it back on the stove then it is to “uncook” something that is too well done. This may determine whether or not you like lamb or don’t like it.
- To cook the lamb steaks you can simply put them in a pan (cast iron cooks these fabulously) with a coconut oil or palm shortening (the lamb doesn’t need a lot of additional fat) and cook to your desired temperature using your favorite method that you usually cook steaks. We like to sear the steaks (about 2 minutes each side on medium high) and then shove them into a hot over (400 degrees) for about six minutes for rare, 8 for medium rare and 10 for medium. Our steaks are about 1 -2 inches thick on average. The thicker they are, the more time they will need but this will give you a ballpark idea ballpark of where to begin.
- If cooking a roast, I suggest searing the roast on medium high in the same cast iron skillet and then placing into a preheated oven at 400 for the appropriate time. Here is a good source for how long to cook a roast such as a leg of lamb or a prime rib. You may want to use this method if cooking for guests or for a dinner party for a better presentation.
When your steaks are done, simply serve and drizzle with some pesto. As you can see, I think it looks nice when they are cut and then the sauce poured onto the top. It’s great with sautéed greens of any kind, zucchini, onions and mushrooms and the likes.
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