An independent sort of lunch

Spring Spring is here.

On Sunday, I arranged to meet Katy at the flower market at 11 and I’d invited a few friends to join us for lunch afterwards. I needed an independent sort of recipe, one that would allow me maximum bouquet bothering time, something I could nudge into being with a little light prep and then bung in the oven to become lunch all on its own.

Seven hour leg of lamb is a good candidate on such occasions. I’ve been wanting to try the one from Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook for ages. (I have a weakness for a bad boy with a batterie de cuisine and he has to be the very best of that genre.)

The ingredients

Now if you try this recipe, don’t do what I did and buy a joint so big it won’t fit in your largest pot, thus requiring your husband to go around to the neighbours’ to borrow a hacksaw. ‘You doing a bit of DIY?’ asked Kev. ‘No, sawing through bones,’ said Séan. ‘Oh right, we’ve got plenty of black bags if you need any later.’ I love living next door to a very, very dry Scot.

Along with the lamb, I needed a side dish with an equally self-sufficient spirit. Step forward, AB’s gratin dauphinoise. The oven time is shortened because he simmers his potatoes in cream to part cook them first, so all I had to do when we got back from the market was pop the potatoes simmered in cream (it makes me happy just typing those four words) into the oven with the lamb while we sipped chilly glasses of fizz, nibbled olives, salami and roast cauliflower, read the papers and swapped gossip.

Mel Mel asks ‘Just how big is the leg of lamb?’

Judy Judy, surrounded by the papers.

Tom, Beth & Richard Tom, Beth and Richard

Cauliflower Roast cauliflower

Salami Salami

Barney Barney sat on Stuart’s lap to make sure he didn’t miss anything.

Tom checks his iPhone Tom and Stuart

PS A huge, huge thank you to those of you who sent me first anniversary good wishes. I had no idea when I began my blog how much fun it would be. Pressing ‘publish’ for the first time was a strange feeling, much stranger than seeing my work in a magazine or newspaper. More intimate, somehow, and much more personal. But I’ve loved it. I love the quirky imperfection of it. And I love it most of all when you share your own stories, too.

Gigot de sept heures

Gigot de sept heures Plated up

Look, it’s not going to win any beauty contests but it’s tender, intensely flavoured and delicious.

Serves 8

1 leg of lamb, about 2.7kg/7lbs
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced, plus 20 whole garlic cloves
55ml/1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 small onions, thinly sliced
4 carrots, peeled
1 bouquet garni
250ml/1 cup dry white wine
225g/1 cup plain flour
250ml/1 cup water, though I think you need less (see below)

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas mark 2. Using a paring knife, make many small incisions around the leg. Place a sliver of garlic into each of the incisions. Rub the lamb well with olive oil and season it all over with salt and pepper. Place it in a Dutch oven or large casserole and add the onions, carrots, bouquet garni, unpeeled garlic cloves and wine. Put the lid on the Dutch oven.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour and water to for a rough ‘bread dough’, mixing it well with a wooden spoon. Now, Anthony B suggests an equal amount of flour and water which was a bit too sloppy to stick to my pot. Just add enough water to make a rough paste – don’t worry you’re not going to eat it. Use the dough like grout or caulking material to seal the lid onto the pot so no moisture can escape. Put the pot in the oven and cook for 7 hours.

Remove the pot from the oven, break off the dough seal and breathe. It’s intoxicating. At this point, you will be able to carve the lamb with a spoon – not for nothing do the French sometimes call this dish ‘gigot d’agneau à la cuillière’.

Gratin dauphinoise

I must have made hundreds of dauphinoises in my life, but never one like this, where you simmer the potatoes in the cream before putting them in the dish. I rather like it – great if you’d like to do all the chopping and simmering ahead and just slip it into the oven an hour before lunch. I added the Gruyère, as instructed, and though it was good I think I prefer it in its naked, unadorned, uncheesy state. Obviously, leaving out that 115g of Gruyère almost makes it into health food.

Serves 4 – so I doubled the quantities here.

8 Yukon gold potatoes (I couldn’t get hold of these so I used Desiree), peeled and cut into 6mm/1/4 inch slices
500ml/2 cups double cream
5 garlic cloves, slightly crushed
1 sprig thyme
1 sprig rosemary
1 sprig flat-leaf parsley
Salt and white pepper
Freshly ground nutmeg (go easy)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
115g grated Gruyère cheese

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4. Place the potatoes in a large pot and add the cream, 4 of the garlic cloves and the herbs. Season with salt, white pepper and a little nutmeg. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer. After 10 minutes of simmering, remove from the heat and discard the garlic and herbs.

Use the remaining garlic clove to rub around the inside of the gratin dish. Butter the inside of the dish as well so that is evenly coated. Transfer the potatoes and cream to the gratin dish and sprinkle the top with the cheese. Place in the oven and cook for 40 minutes, or until the mixture is brown and bubbling. Remove from the oven and rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

15 thoughts on “An independent sort of lunch

  1. Hello Londiniensis, Delicious, isn't it? Though the plaudits must go to Mr Bourdain… I've made it with smaller legs and have kept the cooking time the same. It's still tender and delicious – sealing the pan with the dough stops it from drying out at all. I think this is the perfect recipe for a tyro cook, you really can't go wrong.


  2. Thank you so much for the Gigot de sept heures recipe. I made this for Easter lunch (also had to use hacksaw!) and it was superb! Plaudits all round.

    Just one question – a 7lb leg of lamb is not always easy to come by, or for that matter a practical size for a smaller(!) meal. How should cooking time be adjusted if using a smaller leg? (Yes, I am a tyro cook!)


  3. Karen, All dubious inuendo entirely intentional. And yes, do keep avoiding the speed bumps. It's very bad for one's suspension.
    Michele, Thank you dear! I hope you had a wonderful time in Spain.
    Mariana, Oh do do the dough thing. It takes minutes and means that not a whisper of moisture can escape – with foil you'll always lose a bit. It's kind of fun too, in a mud pie sort of way.
    When we say wattle, we mean sticks woven in a tight lattice onto which a coarse plaster was applied in really old buildings – wattle and daub. So interesting.

    Love to all,



  4. The lamb does sound like a dish with maximum flavour for minimum effort. It looks like a robust, totally satisfying dish. Forget the beauty contest when hearty, real food is called for. I will be honest though. I don't think I would do the pastry around the lid thing. Do you really think it makes a difference? I mean, would a piece of foil wrapped around the edges suffice?
    Your table springs to life with that beautiful yellow wattle. Yes. Wattle. Quite the opposite to you, I have never heard it called Mimosa.


  5. Congratulations on your year anniversary!!!!
    Best of all things in the year ahead -I can't wait to share it with you through this lovely creation.


  6. I will avoid the obvious reposte about most men coming with tools…

    As my devil-may-care daughter, Naomi, might say: Wedding licenses are speedbumps, not brick walls. For me, they ARE brick walls, so I'll curb my enthusiasm.
    However, I'll take comfort in the words of my patient mum: Men are like buses; a new one comes along every few minutes. Apparently, minting phrases runs in the family!

    Hugs, Karen the Valiant


  7. Salty, So pleased you could join us, darling.
    Catherine, Indeed not. I'm thinking of you.
    MarkyD, Of course, historically, it was made out of real dauphins and it proved so deliciously popular that eventually there were no more dauphins left. The dish evolved so that it is now made with dauphins' closest genetic match, the potato.
    Karen, He's a card. And he comes with tools. And he makes cocktails. Often for us, usually for his lovely wife. This might or might not hinder your enjoyment.
    Denise, I do my best and I'm very lucky. I plan to continue as long as the stove holds out. It's a really tough stove.


  8. Well, frankly, I'm quite interested in the dry Scot next door! He sounds like the sort of lamb I could learn to enjoy…
    Happy Spring to you, darling, from that drizzly spot across the pond..



  9. if the human race had thought of slow lamb and dauphinoise (made with real dauphins obviously) as a staple diet straight away instead of arsing about with bark, bugs, lizards and leaves we'd have made that hop from ape to the princes we are now a darn bit quicker. A now you've made me hungry….


  10. Hi Joy, Is wattle the name you give to mimosa in Australia? I've never heard it called that before. Whatever it's called, to me it always marks the arrival of spring with its fragrant blossoms as fluffy as little chicks.


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