Mutton should not be gamey: it should taste like lamb, but with a fuller flavour. It isn't easy to find mutton, but a game dealer or other good butcher should be able to get it for you.
This method of slow roasting makes the meat tender and juicy. The wine, garlic, juniper and rosemary are Mediterranean touches, so this is really a Roman-influenced recipe.
Serves 10 people.
You can ask your butcher to bone the mutton, which will make it easier to carve. This is also worth doing if you want to use the leg bone to make knife handles or whatever, because roasting would make the bone brittle. You can stuff the cavity with a mix of chopped prunes, hazelnuts, finely chopped onions and fresh herbs. Remember to allow for any stuffing when calculating the cooking time.
Cut slots in the meat with a sharp knife. Push the garlic, juniper berries and rosemary into these slots. How much of each you use depends on your taste; too much juniper will make it bitter, and not everybody is mad about garlic.
Heat the oven to 150o C (300o F). Put the meat into a roasting dish. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper and then slosh wine over it. Put the lid on the roasting dish, or cover the joint with aluminium foil.
Roast the meat for 40 minutes per lb (450 g): if necessary, add more wine during cooking to keep the dish from drying out. Remove the lid or foil for the last half hour of cooking. When it's cooked, put the meat onto a carving platter to rest while you make gravy with the cooking juices.
To make the gravy, put the roasting dish on the hob and add some water (or cooking juices from vegetables). You should get nearly a pint of gravy. Thicken the gravy with gravy browning, or mix the cornflour with a little water until smooth, and stir this into the gravy. Keep stirring until the gravy has thickened. Strain it into a warmed jug, spoon the fat off the top of the gravy and serve. I retain the fat to use for roasting vegetables.
The recipe was given to me by my mother, who learned it from her mother - which is exactly how a Viking would have learned to cook.Shelagh Lewins
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