The Taste Of Spring…French Style

The daffodils and narcissi are now in bloom, bringing some colour and warmth to our gardens, and showing that Spring is on its way. As we move into March with Mother’s Day and Easter fast approaching, and the hope of sunnier days to come, maybe it’s time for a really special Sunday lunch.

And the best Sunday lunch that you can have in Spring is, in my view, a wonderful roast leg of lamb, with all the accompaniments. A leg of lamb in Spring is sweet, rich and full of flavour.

Now the French know a thing or two about cooking, and their favourite celebration dish is a leg of lamb, served with flageolet beans and French fries.

Take a leg or shoulder of lamb, place in a roasting dish, making small incisions in the meat into which you should place slivers of garlic. Season well with salt and pepper and place in a hot oven. After twenty minutes, reduce the temperature a little, adding a little lamb stock to the pan. I like my lamb rare so only cook it a further fifteen to twenty minutes per 500gms/pound for a leg, longer for a shoulder. Check the joint regularly while cooking, adding stock as necessary.

Meanwhile take some King Edward or similar floury potatoes. I use organic potatoes and cut them into French fries without peeling them and then rinse them in boiling water, before drying them in a colander or sieve and then dunking them into hot oil for the first time. Lift them out of the oil as soon as they finish sizzling and before they start to colour, turning off the heat under the pan.

The traditional French accompaniment to a leg of lamb is tinned flageolet beans. Butter beans are a good substitute. Drain a tin of beans and add to the cooking juices in the pan ten minutes or so before the lamb is cooked. When roasting is completed, bring out the dish of lamb and beans from the oven and rest.

Reheat your cooking oil until it is very hot and then dunk the French fries for the second time to colour them and crisp them up. Sprinkle with sea salt crystals before serving.

Carve the leg of lamb in the roasting dish at table so that all the juices from the meat run into the beans, which you will serve in generous spoonfuls, alongside the meat.

This is a very rich and satisfying dish, full of flavour, and accompanied by a good, heavy red wine, a real Easter treat. Traditionally a French family would follow this heavy meal with a lightly-dressed green salad!