In springtime, wild garlic appears all across Ireland in shaded woodland areas. It is easy to recognize from its distinctive garlic smell. There are two varieties which can be found: one has a long three-cornered stem and the other has a large, broad leaf. The leaves can be harvested and treated like any salad leaf. In this roast lamb recipe, I use the unique garlic taste in a pesto served alongside sweet slices of lamb leg.
An easy side dish to serve alongside the roast lamb is simply braised baby gem, with peas in white wine and thyme. If you want to make it more indulgent, you could add a little cream to the cooking liquid at the end of the cooking time.
This was one of the most impressive-looking lamb dishes I’ve ever made, and extremely flavorful! The intensely spicy green garlic pesto is a lovely way to celebrate spring.
I used only three Baby Gem lettuces since they were on the larger side, so get as many that will fit in a single layer in your pan after they’re halved. If you want your peas to retain a vibrant green color, put them in for the last minute of the lettuce braising time.
Roast Lamb with Wild Garlic Pesto, Lettuce & Peas
For the lamb:
A large handful green garlic leaves, finely chopped
Zest of lemon, finely grated
3 sprigs rosemary, leaves finely chopped
3 tablespoons canola oil
Sea salt and ground black pepper
For the wild garlic pesto:
1 cup chopped green garlic
2/3 cup grated Parmesan or mature Coolea cheese
1/3 cup pine nuts
2/3 to 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil or Irish canola oil
For the braised baby gem and peas:
1 tablespoon butter
4 slices thick-cut bacon, roughly chopped
Zest of 1/2 a lemon
1/3 cup white wine
3 fresh thyme sprigs
1/4 cup chicken stock
8 ounces frozen peas
6 spring onions, trimmed and sliced in half
6 Baby Gem lettuces, sliced in half
To make the lamb: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the lamb in a large roasting dish. Mix the wild garlic, lemon zest, rosemary and canola oil in a small bowl. Massage the lamb leg with the paste all over and then season with sea salt and ground black pepper. Place in the oven to roast for 15 minutes per pound for medium rare, or longer if you prefer your meat more well done. (Cook to an internal temperature of 125°F for rare or 135°F for medium.) Remove from the oven, tent loosely with foil, and rest for 15 minutes before serving in thin slices.
To make the pesto: Place garlic, cheese, and pine nuts in a food processor and process until a coarse paste forms. With the food processor running, drizzle in 2/3 cup of the oil until a smooth paste forms, adding more oil if needed. Season with sea salt and ground black pepper. Set aside to serve with the lamb.
To make the braised baby gem and peas: Melt the butter in a large high-sided frying pan. Fry the bacon until sizzling and crisp. Pour in the wine and allow to sizzle for about 30 seconds before adding the thyme sprigs, lemon zest, and chicken stock. Add the peas to the liquid and then nuzzle in the spring onions and baby gem lettuce. Cover with a lid and cook for 5 to 8 minutes until the lettuce is just braised.
Serve slices of the warm lamb with braised lettuce and pesto.
Recipe reprinted with permission.