Spiced Leg of Lamb with Olives, Apricots and Lemons

"I wanted to make a roast that would have big visual impact," says Jeff Cerciello, chef at Los Angeles's Farmshop restaurant. He decided to rub a bone-in leg of lamb with harissa, a fiery North African spice paste. Instead of using jarred preserved lemons, he cures lemon slices in salt and sugar for four hours before roasting the lamb.


Slideshow: More Lamb Recipes


  • Active:
  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 10 to 12


  • One 8-pound semi-boneless leg of lamb (aitch bone removed)
  • 4 small garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup harissa (see Note)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 10 thyme sprigs
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 lemon, very thinly sliced
  • 1 cup pitted oil-cured black olives
  • 12 ounces dried apricots, quartered

How to make this recipe

  1. <p>Using a sharp paring knife, poke small slits all over the lamb and insert a garlic slice in each one. Season the meat all over with salt and rub with the harissa and 1/4 cup of the oil, working it into the slits. Set the lamb on a rack in a roasting pan and top with the thyme. Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours or marinate in the refrigerator overnight (bring to room temperature before roasting).</p>

  2. <p>Meanwhile, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of the sugar on a large plate. Arrange the lemon slices on top and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of salt and the remaining sugar. Drizzle the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil on top and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature for 4 hours or refrigerate overnight. Drain the lemon slices, then rinse and pat dry.</p>

  3. <p>Preheat the oven to 325&#176;. Pour 2 cups of water in the bottom of the roasting pan and roast the lamb for 2 hours, adding water to the pan as it evaporates. Transfer the lamb to a platter and remove the rack. Add the olives, apricots and cured lemon to the pan. Return the lamb to the pan and roast for 30 minutes longer, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat registers 130&#176; to 135&#176;. Stir the olives, apricots and lemon slices occasionally and add a little water if the pan juices get too dry. Transfer the lamb to a cutting board, tent with foil and let stand for 45 minutes.</p>

  4. <p>Scrape the olives, apricots and lemons into a bowl along with any pan juices. Skim off the fat. Slice the lamb and serve with the lemon, olives and apricots.</p>


Harissa is available at specialty food shops or from chefshop.com.

Suggested Pairing

With this substantial leg of lamb, Sacha Baumann of Swirl Smell Slurp poured the Foradori Teroldego Rotaliano, a decadent, berry-rich red wine from Alto Adige in northern Italy. For an easier-to-find alternative, try Alois Lageder's Merlot, from the same region.

Photo © Jonny Valiant Published December 2011

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