I love, love, LOVE lamb (did I say love?), and in my mind it’s the quintessential Easter dish. For my recipe today, I’m heading to Greece.
Easter in Greece is the biggest holiday of the year, and food traditions span days, really beginning the Sunday before on Palm Sunday. On Holy Thursday, a special Easter sweet bread called tsoureki is baked, and eggs are dyed red to symbolize both the blood of Christ and victory over life. On Holy Saturday, the preparations begin for the Easter feast and the day is capped with midnight mass. The fasting of Lent is broken by eating a soup called Magiritsa, a soup of minced lamb tripe.
On Easter day, many families prepare a whole lamb, which is only available there during the spring. I’m not going to do this. Though I found so many lamb dishes that looked positively mouth-watering, I found that even getting one leg of lamb for myself was just too much food. Therefore, I improvised using lamb loin chops and baking them in parchment in the oven, a recipe I adapted from Jaime Oliver.
Cooking in parchment, or en papillote, is an easy enough method that I don’t regularly employ. It was great for a weeknight meal- taking all of 10 minutes to throw together and one hour of hands-off cooking.
4- 4½ ounce lamb loin chops
1 carrot, peeled, halved and cut into chunks
2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 red onion, peeled and cut into wedges
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
4 bay leaves
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 small bunch of dill, in sprigs
1/4 cup white wine
4 ounces feta cheese, cut into 4 slices
Asparagus, to serve
1. Preheat the oven to 350F
2. Combine the lamb, peas, carrots, tomatoes, onion, garlic, bay leaves, lemon zest and juice. Season. Cut four 12in-square pieces of parchment paper. Divide the lamb and veg between them.
3. Sprinkle with the oregano and dill. Drizzle over the white wine and top each parcel with a slice of cheese. Gather the sides up into a purse-like shape , twist the top and secure with kitchen string or fold into packets.
4. Place the parcels on an oiled baking tray.
5. Bake for 1 hour or until cooked through, then place a parcel on each plate and serve immediately.
To be honest, I didn’t love it. I think it just didn’t compare in my mind to a nice roasted leg of lamb that I’d really want for Easter. I think I was also thrown by the use of white wine rather than red. While I prefer white, I think that red would have added some more flavor.
I really wanted to make this stuffed leg of lamb, so if you happen to buy a leg of lamb for yourself, give this a whirl. And then let me know how it came out.