Icelandic Leg of Lamb – Sunday Roast

There are a few courses Icelanders are as proud of as the leg of lamb. Icelanders will swear by it, and you will have a hard time finding anyone who will tell you that Icelandic lamb meat is not the best in the world.

The Icelandic sheep have played a significant role in Iceland’s success since the settlement, and their influence increased with each century. In the beginning, Icelanders ate a varied diet of lamb, beef, goat, pork, poultry, horse, fish, walrus, whale, shark, and more. The diet got simpler as the weather got colder in the 14th and 15th centuries. Pork farming died out, as did grain farming. People relied more and more on fish and lamb.

Fresh Icelandic Lamb Meat

The arrival of ice boxes and fridges made it easier for people to keep meat fresh, and slowly but surely, the act of smoking, salting, and curing meat with lactic acid went out of fashion. We still eat it, of course, especially during Christmas and the midwinter festival þorrablót (hangikjöt is excellent!).

Society was also changing; the wives stayed home more often, cooking lunch and dinner for their husbands. Sunday was often the only day of the week, everyone was home at the same time, and it became traditional to do a Sunday roast around noon to early afternoon.

The meat of choice was nearly always either a leg of lamb or a rack of lamb. Occasionally, people grilled a whole chicken, but that was the most expensive meat in Iceland for decades.

Additionally, the leg of lamb is often the go-to dish when people want to treat themselves.
It is also generally eaten during Easter – The Easter Lamb. But that is, of course, many other nations know of and has been a tradition since before Christ.

But enough of history! Below is a recipe for Icelandic Leg of Lamb and accompaniments.

Ingredients

  • Leg of lamb about 2.5kg (5.5 lbs)
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • Tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Rosemary

Accompaniments

  • 700g (1.4 lbs) potatoes
  • 300g (0.6 lbs) sweet potatoes
  • 250g (0.5 lbs) carrots
  • 2 onions
  • Rosemary
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • Olive oil

Sauce

  • The stock from the oven pan, approx. 500-750 ml (2-3 cups)
  • 40 g (1.4 oz) butter
  • 40 g (1.4 oz) flour
  • 2 dl (7 oz) cream
  • 1 tsp. red currant jelly (or some other sweet berry jelly)
  • salt and pepper

Method

  • The meat is salted and peppered to taste; cut slits into the leg, push in garlic cloves, and add rosemary on top and/or into the slits.
  • The vegetables are cut quite roughly, and it’s okay to include the skin of the onion. If garlic is used, it is cut into chips and placed with the vegetables.
  • Place a deep oven pan together with the oil. Season with salt and rosemary.
    The leg is laid on top.
  • Roast at 180° C for 1 1/2 – 2 hours; it depends on the leg’s size.
  • When the roasting time is halfway or so, the meat broth is poured into a pot.
  • Raise the temperature to 200° C for the last 10 minutes or so.

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