Leg of spring lamb – Sous vide or not sous vide? That is the question.

Leg of Lamb Sous Vide (14 of 15)Spring has well and truly sprung in these parts. The daffodils have shown their smiling yellow faces to the world and retreated into their subterranean bulbs to see out the next three seasons. The weeds have bloomed again in every flowerbed and paving crack they can find and the horrendously expensive spring lamb has reared its bleating head (metaphorically, if not physically) in the better butcher shops around Dublin.  So I knew I was going to have to do something with a leg thereof.

Without going all Shakespearian on you, the question arose as to how to cook it. Sous vide or not sous vide, that is the question. Whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune etc. Sorry, I digress. Irish spring lamb is a real treat. It is also an expensive treat if you go too early, with a medium-sized leg of genuine spring lamb costing in the region of €50 at Easter. One can lay one’s hands on faux spring lamb for anything around €20 a leg. Trust me, there is a difference. A big difference.

The trick is to wait for a week or two after the panic of celebrating a chap being nailed to a cross. The price of a leg plummets and we can then feed the family without having to take out a mortgage. A nice leg of the genuine stuff made its way into my possession and I wanted to do something a bit different with it. Given my new-found love for all things sous vide, I decided to give it a whirl.

I also wanted to experiment further with pulses. So I decided to cook Sous Vide Leg of Lamb with Mixed Beans and Spinach.

The mixed beans made an interesting change. Try it. It's very nice.

The mixed beans made an interesting change. Try it. It’s very nice.

For this dish of deliciousness, you will need the following:

Ingredients

  • 1 leg of lamb (spring lamb from Ireland, not poor quality stuff from elsewhere)
  • 3 teaspoons of fennel seeds
  • A few sprigs of rosemary
  • 400 grammes of spinach
  • Your choice of tins of butter beans, chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans and such like. I used half a dozen tins.
  • 500ml of good stock (I used chicken)
  • A handful of mint
  • Plenty of salt and black pepper

The most difficult part of preparing this meal was boning the lamb. Naturally enough, I have a picture of the action part of it. Though I have spared you the deep cutting and slicing end of things (for a change).

Bone gone, rolled up and tied with string.

Bone gone, rolled up and tied with string.

When the lamb is boned, rolled and tied with food grade string, throw the fennel seeds into a hot dry pan and fry them until they are just about to smoke. (Work it out for yourself, I can do it, so can you).

A pretty artistic shot of he fennel seeds frying. I like it!

A pretty artistic shot of the fennel seeds frying. I like it!

Rub all over with some olive oil.

Rub your leg all over with olive oil. (Couldn't say that in anything but a food blog).

Rub your leg all over with olive oil. (Couldn’t say that in anything but a food blog).

Rub the oiled leg with the fennel and the rosemary.

Wonderful flavours - perfect with lamb.

Wonderful flavours – perfect with lamb.

Vacuum seal the lamb and pop it in the water bath. For the sous vide technicians amongst you, I cooked it for 8 hours at 55º C. Next comes the other technical bit. Open all the tins and rinse the beans.

Plenty of roughage in the beans. They make a delicious side.

Plenty of roughage in the beans. They make a delicious side for the lamb.

Slice the mint.

A big handful of mint adds lovely flavour to the pulses.

A big handful of mint adds lovely flavour to the pulses.

When the lamb is cooked, add the stock to the beans in a saucepan and then add the spinach and mint. Heat through and wilt the spinach while you are at it. Stir to combine. Take the lamb out of the plastic bag.

The lamb in the bag really doesn't look up to much.

The lamb in the bag really doesn’t look up to much.

Heat a frying pan and brown the lamb on all sides (or as best the shape of the lamb allows).

The lamb browns nicely and quickly. Something to do with it being cooked already, I believe.

The lamb browns nicely and quickly. Something to do with it being cooked already, I believe.

All that is left to do is to carve the lamb (like in the top picture) and serve it sitting on top of the pulses.

This is easy to carve, easy to serve and very easy to eat. Delicious.

This is easy to carve, easy to serve and very easy to eat. Delicious.

Getting back to the original question, “To sous vide or not sous vide?” The answer has to be resounding ‘Yes’. However, it might not be the right question. I suspect it better to ask “Should I get a leg of delicious Irish spring lamb and serve it with mixed lentils?” The answer to that one would be a big, fat ‘Yes’ too.

Go on, give it a go….

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Latest comments
  • That is truly perfection.

    • Thanks Rosemary. It was very tasty, thanks be to goodness (and sous vide).

  • Informative and humorous too!

    • Thanks for the kind words. If I can achieve those two things, I have done OK.

  • It looks delicious 😉

    • It seems almost out of the ordinary to be discussing a pretty straightforward bit of meat with you MD. My cycling butcher friend and I are working on a couple of different cuts. He has a real interest in the less popular bits and that fits in well with me.

      • That sounds excellent! I look forward to seeing the results.
        A friend of mine did an amazing boned and stuffed leg of lamb sous vide – it was probably one of the best things I’ve had cooked that way 😉

        • So far, this is top drawer. But,I’m only starting out on the sous vide voyage. I have some simple enough to post yet. All positive but not as outstanding as this was. It was helped nicely by the supporting cast of pulses.

          • I’ve had some good steaks done half sous vide and finished on a barbecue, but by far the best ever has been the stuffed leg of lamb. I can’t remember what the stuffing was, but I’d previously cooked one in the oven stuffed with crab, sping onions, garlic and anchovies (plus seasoning) which was outstanding!

          • Wow, I would never have thought of crab. Interesting.

          • The crab was a revelation!

  • Fantastic and a refreshing change to see it served with something other than potatoes, much as I love them.

    • Thanks Linda,
      The pulses are a great alternative and not very expensive either at around a € a tin. They really do take on the added flavours such as mint in this case. I will be doing more with them.

  • Would just love to have a bakeoff twixt similar quality Irish and Australian lamb; bone in, baked in the oven and yes, served with all those wonderful beans and lentils 🙂 ! Like the spinach and mint addition also: shall copy . . . . oh but your prices are steep . . .

    • That would be fun Eha. We would have to meet somewhere in Africa to have a truly neutral venue. I suspect the Irish lamb would win. It lives in such a verdant environment, often feeding on herbs as part of it’s lifelong diet. The west coast lamb that lives on the sea facing mountain side in Connemara and Mayo actually taste of a lovely blend of the sea and herbs. It is quite remarkable. However, those particular beasts are rare and expensive. As they would be.

      • Well, if you travelled across the US we could meet in New Zealand as I am certain they feel their lamb is better than ours 🙂 ! Make it a third ‘competitor’ . . . also a case of green and verdant pastures which we usually do lack!! On the other hand a few days on the Emerald Isle one spring sounds awfully tempting 😀 !!

  • I’m with Eha, as a fellow Aussie, I find the price of even your superior Irish lamb out….rageous! Just a technical question here, o sous vide guru: why do you brown after instead of before? Just to satisfy my idle curiosity, you understand, I’m unlikely in the extreme to invest in the paraphernalia because I love a house that smells of roasting meat!

    • The browning after ensures that the meat looks like a traditionally roasted one. I did some shoulder a couple of weeks ago (two or three posts ago). I put a pic up of the meat done the other way. It looks like something pulled from a riverbed. It tasted just the same and was delicious. With the post bath frying, one gets a deal of house smells, particularly if we forget to put the extractor fan on.

      • In that case, I can see that the brown after method would be preferable from the presentation p.o.v.; no one wants to eat drowned meat… 🙂

        • I’m with you on that one Kate, unless it’s a fish. Not a drowned fish but, you get my feeble attempt at a joke, I hope.

  • Oh do I love lamb. It’s my favorite of all the meats! And this looks lovely.
    Although I agree with Eha and Kate, I love smelling my house up with roasted meats.
    Fun fact: in the states, Easter IS the time to buy lamb. It’s when it goes on sale. Unbelievably expensive the rest of the year. Probably because it all comes from New Zealand.

    • You guys need to hop on an aeroplane and get over here so I can cook you some decent Irish lamb. The NZ stuff that you get will have spent more time in a freezer than in a field. You haven’t lived until you have dined on this lovely meat.

      • I can only imagine how good it is. OK, Ireland in the spring is now on my bucket list!

  • Very nicely done Conor. I love a good leg of lamb. It looks perfectly cooked. How was the texture after 8 hours sous vide compared to traditional roasting?

    • Excellent question Richard. I found myself trying to compose an accurate response while walking the dog earlier. The meat was perfectly rare as shown in the picture. The texture was of a fine fillet steak, holding well on carving and melting in the mouth. It was pretty wonderful. Having said that, it is different to roast and adds another option rather than replacing traditional roasting. I think that covers it. Or, do I have to take the dog around the block again?

  • The lamb looks great, Conor, and I bet it was fabulous. You could have made the stock from the bone 🙂 Inspired combination with lentils, beans, spinach and mint. I am failing at imagining what that tastes like.

    • They are a very good combination with the lamb. They act well as a flavour transport for the mint. Though I didn’t post about it, I did make a clear gravy from the bag juices. That adds a punch of lamb and spice flavour too. The beans absorb any juices and the whole thing is very good indeed, if you will forgive my self congratulation.

      • The bag gravy is indeed very punchy. I even saw a recipe once for ‘harvesting’ that gravy from beef mince by cooking it sous-vide. I think they called it essence of beef.

        • It really is flavour packed. I wonder if one could do something with beef bones and a small amount of meat to get some top quality stock? Wort experimenting, I think.

  • Looks incredible! I love that you served lamb with beans and lentils. I can only imagine how wonderful this dinner was.

    • However good you imagine it, it was just a little bit better…

  • Looks so yummy… lamb always tastes great 🙂

    • Thanks Lilly, and thanks for hopping over here. I love those Lazy Penguins over on yours.

  • Conor, you said a chap being nailed to a cross. tee hee. Love it. Oh my do I love me some lamb and lentils. Fabulous combo.

    • Thanks Connie,
      They worked well. I hoped I didn’t offend too many with that reference.
      Best,
      Conor

  • This is beautifully prepared. I can’t wait to try it 🙂

    • I would love to see the end result. Please post it!

  • Good work here Connor. Lamb and lentils is a great old combination. I was surprised at the short time of sous vide, I’ve never done it with a leg though. I can only imagine how tasty that Irish spring lamb is. I was buying milk-fed lamb from NZ last year, tasty stuff,but the price was through the roof. I like the reading comments on your page too, people are really engaging you.

    • Thanks Adam,
      The shorter time has everything to do with the tenderness (age) of the meat. The price is driven here by traditional Easter holiday. It is interesting that in the US, Easter is the only opportunity to get people to buy it and the price goes down in a competitive sales environment. Here, there is the same competitive pressure and the price goes up. I’m glad I didn’t study economics!

  • Bring on the shakespear Conor. Cracking photos as always. That carving pic – dear good lord 👌

    • I was pretty pleased with it. It really shows off the SV method very well. The lamb was magnificent, as it tends to be here at this time of year. We are very lucky.

  • That looks really lovely. I have never sous vided…. (not sure if I am grammatically correct here) but that looks worth giving it a go

    • Hi Grainne,
      Sous viding is great fun and easy. It is well worth doing. Give it a go.

  • It is 10pm here in HK and you have made me very hungry for a full leg of lamb. Shall I call it a snack? Beautiful dish and love your rub and also with the mixed beans and herbs. Delicious and pinned!

    • A nice mid morning snack, BAM. Thanks for the kind words.

  • Wow. Right now I want to run back out and buy a leg of lamb, and cook it NOW. Not really practical tonight, but I’ll reserve a night soon for this!

    • A good idea, it was delicious. The meat was so tender, yet very flavoursome.

  • definitely sous vide Connor!!!

  • Mmmmm your bean mash with spinach sounds divine! The leg of lamb looks yummy too, but I’m afraid spring lamb from Ireland is nowhere to be found in the PNW. (“…chap being nailed on a cross…” LOL. I got a great chuckle out of that one-liner.) 😀

    • Thanks Kathryn,
      It’s a pity on the lamb front. There really are very few places further away from us than where you are, so it’s your fault!

  • Lamb ‘n’ Beans. Lamb-beans. Lambeens. Sounds Irish, doesn’t it? Let’s make it a Thing.

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