As a child, my favorite brown-bag lunch for school was a peanut butter and green jelly sandwich. I’m not sure which I enjoyed more; the minty flavor of that green jelly or the reactions of my little friends over my bizarre PB&J sandwich. While they ate plain old grape or strawberry jelly, in boring shades of purple and red, I feasted on a shocking shade of gooey green. I especially loved it when the jelly soaked through the bread as it sat in my classroom cubby, waiting to be eaten. The green-soaked exterior made the sandwich all the more of a gruesome shock at the school lunch table.
We almost always had green mint jelly in our house when I was a child. It wasn’t the result of my strange love for green jelly sandwiches. The mint-flavored jelly was usually leftover from one of my dad’s favorite meals; lamb chops. Lamb and mint are a classic flavor combination. There’s something about the fresh taste of mint which pairs perfectly with the slightly gamey flavor of lamb. A match made in culinary heaven. Those green jelly sandwiches were merely my personal bonus!
Recently, I picked up a butterflied leg of lamb with the intent of grinding it for my recent In Like a Lamb Shepherd’s Pie. But, on the day I planned to make the pie, my grocery store happened to have ground lamb available. So, I decided to skip the hassle of grinding the meat myself and use the pre-ground meat for the shepherd’s pie. This left me with a perfectly delicious leg of lamb sitting in the freezer, waiting to be used.
I decided to stick with the classic mint and lamb combination, jazzed up in the form of a fresh mint and walnut pesto. The goat cheese in my fridge begged to join the mix, so I happily complied. This is one of those meals which sounds a lot fancier than it really is. It only takes a few basic ingredients and a few simple steps to make this impressive dinner. It would work well for entertaining guests or a nice dinner any night of the week!
Leg of Lamb with Mint-Walnut Pesto
- 1 boneless leg of lamb, butterflied (approx. 1 1/2 pounds)
- 1 cup fresh mint leaves
- 1 cup fresh parsley leaves
- 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup olive oil (approximately)
- Salt and pepper
- 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
To prepare the pesto, blend the mint, parsley, walnuts, and garlic together in a food processor. Gradually drizzle in the olive oil until it reaches your desired consistency. (A thick pesto works best for this recipe). Season with salt and pepper, as desired.
Trim the lamb of any exterior fat and pound the lamb to about 1/2″ thickness, using a meat mallet or heavy, flat-bottomed pan. Spread a generous amount of the pesto over the lamb. Sprinkle with the goat cheese crumbles. Roll the lamb and secure with butcher’s twine (or a skewer, if you’re all out of twine, like me). Coat the exterior of the lamb with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in a baking dish and cook for about 35-45 minutes. Cooking time will vary depending on the size of your lamb and actual oven temperature. An instant-read meat thermometer will give you the best indication of doneness. An internal temperature of about 155-160 degrees should result in a nice, pink medium done. *Adjust cooking time for larger roasts.
Allow the roast to rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing. Garnish with any leftover pesto.
Serving tip: Serve with a side of roasted red potatoes. Simply halve or quarter baby red potatoes. Toss in olive oil, salt, pepper, and other seasonings, if desired. Garlic and rosemary work well. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 50 minutes – 1 hour, occasionally flipping to promote even browning. *If you place the potatoes in the oven right before you begin preparing the pesto and the lamb, the lamb and potatoes will finish at about the same time!