Butterflied Leg of Lamb. Lepidopterist or Cook?

Lamb with fennel, honey and chilli (1 of 10)For the uninitiated amongst you, a lepidopterist is a butterfly expert. I wouldn’t know a Painted Lady if she landed on my face and a Comma would only give me pause, as it were. I do a pretty passable job of butterflying a leg of lamb but that doesn’t makes me a butterfly expert. As I was feeling fairly lazy when shopping, I bought my leg of lamb butterflied. So, I spent my time thinking about a marinade. This Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Fennel, Chilli and Honey will have you all a flutter.

If you want a step by step guide to butterflying, have a look here. The ingredients list is short enough and everything is available in the local supermarket (apart from the lamb – get that in a quality butcher).


  • A butterflied leg of lamb. (I used top quality Wicklow Mountain lamb).
  • A bulb of garlic
  • 2 teaspoons of fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of chilli seeds
  • Half a teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons of good quality honey
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
Lamb with fennel, honey and chilli (2 of 10)

This makes a really punchy paste.

Grind the garlic, salt and pepper together with the olive oil. Add it to a roasting dish and add the remaining ingredients (except the lamb).

Lamb with fennel, honey and chilli (3 of 10)

Don’t be afraid of using plenty of honey. It is balancing the heat from the chilli.

Stir this to incorporate and then add the lamb. Spoon the marinade over the lamb and cover.

Lamb with fennel, honey and chilli (5 of 10)

This is a pretty sticky marinade. Get it on the lamb, not on your clothes.

Store it in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight, if you are organised enough to do this the day before.

Take the lamb out of the fridge a couple of hours before grilling. This will get the meat up to room temperature. Fire up the barbecue. When it is hot, turn it down to low. Grill the lamb for a maximum of 25 minutes, turning once. We don’t want the meat cooked any further than medium rare.

Lamb with fennel, honey and chilli (6 of 10)

If a butterfly turns on a barbecue, will a tree fall n a forrest? Probably not.

Let the meat rest. Slice it how you like it, across the grain.

Lamb with fennel, honey and chilli (9 of 10)

I should have let it rest a bit longer. Look at that escaping juice!

Get a salad together and serve with some nice crusty bread.

Lamb with fennel, honey and chilli (10 of 10)

Your cooking habits will have a complete metamorphosis once you taste this.

All that is left for me to do is to recommend that you come out of your culinary chrysalis, spread your wings and fly with this lovely lamb. You will be both a Lepidopterist (butterfly expert) and accomplished cook.

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Latest comments
  • A marinated butterflied leg of lamb roasted in a kettle BBQ over charcoal was my party piece for many years, now I struggle to buy sweet young lamb. Supply is more miss than hit in Brisbane so no more lamb from me. I’m salivating looking at your lovely leg….

  • I love the look of this. I’ve just had dinner, but it got me drooling again!

      • You’ve got me there. I shall have to pay the butcher a visit…

  • Lamb on a barbecue, is there anything better?!

  • OmG, one of our absolute favourite!!! My eyes are feasting – thank you, Conor. 😉

  • Aaaah. A thing of beauty. I can see myself using little bits of bread to sop up those escaped juices from the cutting board. 🙂

  • Perfect – no scrimping on the garlic and chill 🙂

  • Sugar! Now I am curious!! Love lamb . . . cannot afford it half the time any more ’cause it all gets exported for mega-dollars! But don’t remember using fennel seeds or honey and both would add such a definite extra flavour. *smile* So when cycling you can view your future dinners ? . . . would we be so lucky !! [Am counting the nights to TdF by the way!!]

      • Martin – seems the best: but always the bridesmaid . . . Since ‘our Cadel’ left for bigger and better and easier . . . my hormones are not really working: look at Chris Froome, look at ‘our’ Richie Porte and can’t get quite excited 🙂 ! There is an Estonian guy, Tanel Kangert, who can climb . . . . might go for a total underdog . . . or perchance I too should add my long distance vibes to Martin!! I mean I vote for ‘Oirish’ you 🙂 !!!

  • I wanted to raise my hand and shout “ooh ooh, I know what a lepidopterist is!!” Sadly, I am neither of the real nor meat butchering kind. Lovely lamb, Conor.

  • A lovely summer dish. I love the idea of honey and garlic.

  • Fan of the gas barbie as well, but I have been experimenting with soaked wood chips, I think I can taste the difference but I could be fooling myself…

  • looks wonderful. If a painted lady ever lands on your face make sure you have a good excuse to tell your wife….

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