Here’s an early Christmas gift: a tip. Leg of lamb cooked in the slow cooker is as easy as it gets, but will produce a meal that blows lamb lovers away. A long, slow cooking time gives the tough connective tissues in a lamb leg a chance to break down, resulting in intensely flavorful, melt-in-your-mouth meat you hardly need a knife to cut. Braising will have the same effect, but if you have a slow cooker, all you need to do is brown your lamb (a quick step that adds flavor) and toss it in with garlic, rosemary and a wine glass of red wine or whatever else you’d like to use. Bonus: you could cook potatoes or dry lentils alongside in the bottom, allowing them to absorb all the sticky lamb juices as they cook. Or swap your leg of lamb for lamb shanks, which are equally ideal for the slow cooker.
When choosing your lamb, remember that any meat cooked on the bone is more flavorful than that cooked on its own — but a boneless leg of lamb may be easier to fit in the slow cooker. I use a 6 qt oval Crock Pot, but the bone of a large leg of lamb will stick out — if this happens, I cover my lid in foil, sealing any gaps, and it works just fine.
As with any Crock Pot recipes, browning your meat first will add a layer of flavor, caramelizing its natural sugars before adding it to the slow cooker. This can be difficult with a leg of lamb if it won’t fit in a pan on your stove top. I get around this by browning it on the barbecue — the high, direct heat is ideal for browning it quickly on all sides before you toss it in to leisurely finish cooking. It will need a bit of liquid — wine or stock or both — and whatever herbs and garlic you like with your lamb. Crush the garlic or leave it whole, then scoop out the softened cloves of garlic, and eat them alongside the lamb and potatoes.
After 6 hours on low, the meat should start to fall off the bone but still have some tooth to it. If you cook potatoes alongside, they’ll be intensely flavored, having absorbed all those juices. Serve as is, or wrapped in soft flatbread with tzatziki.
Leg of Lamb in the Slow Cooker with Garlic and Rosemary
olive or canola oil, for cooking
1 bone-in leg of lamb
4-5 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped into chunks
1 head garlic, peeled
a few sprigs of rosemary
about a wineglass full of red wine
Rub the oil all over the lamb and either brown it in a hot pan or throw it on the grill to get some colour. Meanwhile, toss all the potatoes and about half the garlic cloves into the bottom of your slow cooker.
Put the lamb on top of the potatoes, squish a few more cloves of garlic and rub it over the surface, then sprinkle with salt. Toss in a few sprigs of rosemary and pour some wine in around the potatoes, cover (if the bone sticks out, cover the lid with foil to seal in the heat) and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Carve the lamb and serve with the potatoes, finished with a squeeze of lemon, if you like. Serves 6-10.