This was the main dish at our Yule feast yesterday. We had eight people, and just enough lamb left over to make a nice shepherd's pie later. (I'm still tinkering with the recipe for that one.)
Egyptian Leg of Lamb
3-5 lb. boneless leg of lamb
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin seed
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
pinch fennel seed
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
In a mortar and pestle, combine 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon cumin seed, 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander, and a pinch of fennel seed. Grind coarsely. Pour the combined spices into a gallon ziplock bag.
Add 1/2 cup red wine vinegar to the bag. Shake to distribute spices.
Rinse the leg of lamb, then shake off excess water. Place the lamb inside the bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible, then seal. Turn and squeeze the bag to distribute the marinade and spices evenly around the meat.
Place the sealed bag in the refrigerator for 2-5 hours. Rotate it several times so that all parts of the lamb are evenly exposed to the marinade.
Preheat oven to “rotisserie” setting (about 450ºF) for 10 minutes.
Remove lamb from bag. Rinse briefly; don't worry about getting all the spices off. Set the lamb on a plate or cutting board.
In a small bowl, combine 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin. Stir spices together. Sprinkle spice blend evenly over all surfaces of the lamb.
Insert rotisserie rod through center of lamb. Fasten the rotisserie forks into the ends of the meat. Insert the rod into the oven. Place an oven rack in the lowest position with a shallow pan to catch the drippings. Set the oven to the “rotisserie” function and turn it on. Set the timer to allow 20-30 minutes per pound of meat. So for a 3 lb. leg of lamb, 60-90 minutes; for a 5-lb. leg, 100-150 minutes. (20 minutes per pound leaves the meat quite rare, 25 should leave it medium, and 30 leaves most of it well done with just a few pink spots.) Lamb should register at least 145ºF when done.
Remove from oven. Remove rotisserie forks and rod. Set the lamb on a serving platter and cover with aluminum foil. Allow lamb to rest for 5-10 minutes before carving.
Lamb is a tender and delicate meat with a rich flavor. It benefits from rotisserie cooking, as this allows the fat to melt nicely into the meat and develop a tasty crust with the herbs.
This recipe uses many traditional Egyptian spices, and lamb is a classic feast food in Egyptian culture. The flavor is quite different from the more common Greek recipes using leafy herbs.
Ideally, the marinade should be made with all whole spices, freshly ground in a mortar and pestle. I used ground coriander because I couldn't find whole coriander seed.
If you don't have sea salt, ordinary table salt will do. The vinegar needs to be robust in order to complement the flavor of the meat; if you can't find red wine vinegar, a dark apple cider vinegar will work. Don't use plain white vinegar.