I have carried the weight of this around for more than a decade and now I have to clear my conscience. We had been holidaying in the Poitou‑Charentes region of France. We had made the short trip into Saintes for the weekly market. I was feeling ambitious and wanted to prepare a butterflied leg of lamb. I circled the market and located the lamb butcher, having previously tried to buy beef from a boucherie chevaline (horse butcher), causing much mirth for the butcher and embarrassment for me. In my dire French, I conveyed that I wanted the joint boned. With much smiling and what I thought was comprehension, the master craftsman set to work.
With loud commentary, speed and dexterity, the butcher trimmed the joint and presented it to me. I had not managed to communicate that I wanted it off the bone. I had one last go. He beamed what I thought was understanding and set to with the commentary and flashing blade once more. A small crowd gathered. He worked carefully and rapidly, carving three beautiful flowers, complete with stems and leaves and re-presented the lamb leg artwork it to me. What could I do but praise his artistry and applaud. The crowd joined in. I thanked him, paid and left with my artwork.
Temperatures were in the mid 30s that year. It was hot. I couldn’t bring myself to roast the leg of lamb. I did not want to try deboning and butterflying the beauty using only holiday home utensils. Eventually, hunger and necessity won out and using blunt, cheap knives, I destroyed the finest piece of ovine artistry ever seen. It’s ragged remains were thrown on the barbecue without ceremony. I carry the guilt to this day. With that as my backdrop, I am attempting Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Garlic and Rosemary.
First we need to remove the bone from the leg. This is not very difficult, if you do as I suggest. Slice about 3cm into the flesh on either side of the lower leg.
Then work out where the upper part of bone goes to in the leg. It is pretty straight from the knee to hip. Cut into the flesh to expose the bone.
Carefully trim around the bone and remove it. Trim off any excess fat and extraneous bits and pieces that you find in the centre of the leg. Gently cut into the flesh to allow you spread the meat out. Cut three or four pockets,like in the photo.
Stuff the pockets with rosemary and lots of chopped garlic.
Put it in foil. Season with balsamic vinegar and black pepper. Secure the lamb with 4 long skewers to seal the pockets and to give some rigidity to the meat. Wrap it up and leave it in a cool place for a couple of hours.
Fire up the barbecue and roast the joint. Remember that it is only a few centimeters thick (a couple of inches) and does not need too long.
Take it off. Rest it for 10 minutes before carving and serving.
We had it with a simple salad, bread and olive oil.
We are returning to France this year. I don’t plan to stop in Saintes. I don’t think I could live with the guilt.