Love Sauce, Hate Gravy? Anchovy Lamb Divides Us Too.

My eldest daughter has, as they say in polite circles, some issues. She doesn’t like gravy. As if that’s not bad enough, she claims to like sauces, jeu and reductions. So, when I am preparing our regular Sunday family dinner, her expectations need to be managed. Beef with a pan reduction is wolfed down while beef with a pan gravy will be rejected out of hand. As if cooking for my extended family was not difficult enough! So, when I decided to serve them with a leg of lamb with anchovies, thyme and garlic and a rich gravy, I knew that there would be a sales job to be done.

To help the cause, I wheeled out a couple of extra ingredients. To make the gravy more sauce-like, I included mustard and honey. So, my latest Sunday family dinner creation now takes almost as long to type as it did to prepare – Roast Leg Of Lamb With, Anchovies, Garlic, Thyme, Wholegrain Mustard and Honey.

Side note on awkward family members: Eldest daughter gave me an earful about using anchovies. She said she didn’t want her lamb tasting of fish. I fluffed my response and may have left her with the impression that there would be no anchovies…


This list is more about quantities as most of the ingredients are in the name.

  • 1 leg of Irish lamb (the best in the world)
  • 4 cloves of quality garlic
  • 1 handful of fresh thyme
  • 1 tin of anchovies in oil
  • 1 tablespoon of wholegrain mustard
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • Black pepper to season
  • Smoked sea salt flakes

Side note on the ingredients list: Use top quality where you can. It really makes a difference. This doesn’t apply to the salt. Use any salt, I’m just making the recipe seem fancier than it is in reality.

Get a small sharp knife and cut the garlic into shards. Trim the thyme into little bunches. Drain and half the anchovies.

There was no objection to the garlic. That’s a start, I suppose.

Stab the leg (the lamb, not your own) all over. Push the anchovies, garlic and thyme into the holes. This can be tricky as the anchovies are very delicate.

I used the garlic to push the anchovies into the holes.

Mix the honey and mustard together. Season the Lamb with the black pepper and salt. Pour the honey mustard mixture over the lamb.

That’s a whole lot of flavour going on there. Think of the gravy/sauce…

Put the lamb in a 180°C oven for an hour and twenty minutes (for medium rare). Take the Lamb out and place on a chopping board. Let it rest, covered in foil, for as long as it takes to make the gravy. Sorry, sauce, it is a sauce, not a gravy.

To make the sauce (gravy), add a couple of heaped teaspoons of plain flour to the roasting pan and stir to combine into a smooth paste.

That has the makings of a top notch sauce or gravy if you prefer.

Place it on a low heat on the stovetop. Add a glass of red wine and about a quarter litre of hot water. Stir until the whole thing combines into a silky gravy like sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Pass it all through a sieve.

Lovely lamb, seasoned with the lovely anchovies.

Carve the lamb and serve with lashings of sauce/gravy. Delicious.

There is no reason to hold back on the sauce.

Footnote on anchovies and lamb: Eldest daughter refused the sauce, having convinced herself it was a gravy. She really enjoyed the meal and had seconds and even thirds of the meat. She was not impressed when I later let her know that the anchovies were part of the dish. She never tasted the gravy / sauce. Her loss. It was a delight.

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  • So, do I have this straight? She likes sauce or jus but not gravy. Thing is, I’m not at all sure you can separate them that completely. In mu book, jus is just meat juice, sauce has other stuff and can be thickened. If your gravy was jus with thickening, would it be gravy, or still Just Jus? Ah, forget it, her loss is our gain. Or would be, if we were round to yours for Sunday lunch. I’d be slightly shaky on the anchovies myself, but they are a major source (sauce?) of umami, so why not?

  • I love gravy and a few anchovies make things taste savoury, not fishy. Your lamb looks delicious.

  • That is a fantastic looking leg of lamb and sauce or gravy looks so good. Funny, here in Sweden the English word “gravy” translates to sås. Don’t tell your daughter if she’s headed to Sweden.
    We’re having roast leg of lamb for our Julfest, so your cook got me thinking. I’ve never tried anchovies in a leg of lamb, but why not. I usually use rosemary and garlic for the slit stuffing, but thyme would be interesting as well. Conor a question please, are you using bone-in or boned leg? Sure wish we could get Irish lamb here, you’ve convinced me it’s the best.

      • Nah, Aussie lamb from the green rollong hills of SE Australia is the best!

  • It’s a funny old thing, gravy, and deeply divisive for something so apparently straightforward. Thick or thin; wine added, just the veggie water or the reductionist version of cooked-down pan juices; the plate swimming in the stuff or a judicious trickle. Personally I’ve never met a gravy I didn’t like, except for those weird granule things. I like the idea of using thyme instead of rosemary and I too have been guilty of truthful economy when it comes to anchovies. A delicious meal, in part or in whole. Lx

      • Granules? Only in the negative! My mum used them and I loathed them. Your younger daughter has the right idea, btw. Eldest will just have to have extra brandy butter on the pud. 🙂 xxx

  • I know it’s weird, but I refuse to eat anything with raw tomato in it, to the point of claiming a potentially fatal allergy. They are disgusting and gross, and will likely make me retch violently. I’m hyper-sensitive to the raw tomato taste to the point where I will throw away a burger rather than eat it, if the server has forgotten/didn’t bother when asked for one without said red veg/fruit turd. I am however perfectly happy with tomato paste, tomato sauce, tinned tomatones once cooked etc. Love a pizza topping and a nice pasta sauce.

    Kids are weird. And then we grow up. The jury is out as to whether that’s an improvement.

  • I’ll have her gravy! 😉 This lamb looks amazing — so perfectly rosy. Garlic and anchovies are such a great pairing. I may or may not have been known to mash up some garlic, anchovies, good olive oil, and a little cracked pepper and used that as a spread on crostini. Next time, I’ll add a little thyme — that is, if I actually ate this. 😉

  • Ha ha – I wonder if it’s the flour in gravy she that doesn’t like?
    I went to a Christmas lunch with friends many years ago, where they cooked a huge organic rib of beef. They siphoned off the juices to cook Yorkshire puddings and there was absolutely no gravy, not even Bisto! I was mortified, but at the end of the day, I love cooking and on Christmas day, I want to do be the chef.

  • I kind of empanthise with your daughter, but then I was subjected to lumpy gloopy inspid tasting gravy on my Sunday roast when I was a kid. My Mum was a lousy cook, a vastly different cook to yours truly. Give me a jus any day!

  • Conor – I can see your elder daughter and myself getting along like a house on fire! Yes, I love jus and reductions, yes I adore making and eating a properly made sauce: mention the word ‘gravy; and it seems like a flour-ridden mess I would not let near my plate~ OK, OK, the female mind is a good excuse 🙂 ! No leg of lamb in immediate sight but just love your other ingredients and have some more one-person manageable pieces of the beast at home: can’t wait to try!!!! . . . . and do you really have to send the ‘Irish lamb is best’ message to THE sheep country . . . . . we can sadly see the truth just from the pictures . . . .

  • The Dutch translation for gravy is jus! To me gravy means watered down, so I don’t tend to prepare it and almost missed out on a great Indian dish with tomato gravy (which to my mind was tomato sauce!). Lamb with anchovies, thyme and garlic is always a winner. We get Dutch and NZ lamb here, no Irish.

  • Ah, kids. My aren’t as picky, but one is a pescatarian. That is one gorgeous meal. My mother always stuck garlic clove halves into lamb. Haven’t seen it done by anyone until you!

  • My eldest daughter doesn’t like gravy of any kind either. Wait, she’s my only daughter, oh, and my only child. Nonetheless, I cannot wrap my mind around not liking gravy made from the wonderful juices of an excellent cut of meat. What’s not to like? However, I am salivating over that gorgeous lamb and gravy. I want to reach through the screen and pluck out one of those garlic cloves too, mmmm.

      • Yes, I did see on FB you have been under the weather. Actually, in my little neck of the PNW, it’s been unusually warm! Yesterday it got to 50 degrees F!! But back to seasonal temps today, although nice and sunny.

  • What’s wrong with gravy!?!?!?! 😉

  • *smile* Debbie, methinks it is ‘the word’ and not ‘the substance’ to which many of us object. And somewhat that depends on our geography and lifestyle and experiences. In Australia Sandra of ‘Ladytredspecs’ gives a rather correct picture of ‘non-cooks’ making gravy and those who could, making jus or sauce or whatever !! I remember coming here as an immigrant child shocked that people used something called Gravox or salty gravy granules to make ‘brown gloop’ and actually ate it !! The feeling has ‘somewhat’ remained: gravy is ‘nasty’ for many of us 🙂 !! For you in country US the word simply has a different connotation . . .

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