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Wednesday 9 October 2013

Sluttishly Savoury: Hay-baked Lamb

It isn't often I head to the pet shop to buy ingredients for my tea, dear readers - chargrilled guinea pig* and goldfish en papillote** are two notable exceptions - but that's exactly what happened last weekend, as I set off on a mission to buy hay.

The title of this post has probably already given away the fact that I needed the hay to roast my lamb. WHAT WITCHERY AND WIZARDRY IS THIS? It's simply brilliant, that's what.

Roasting lamb in a nest of hay lends an earthy depth of flavour to the meat, but the real news here is that this was HANDS DOWN the most tender lamb I've ever eaten - and I've eaten a lot of tender lamb. The hay keeps everything gorgeously moist and insulates the lamb, letting it cook evenly and slowly. Also: it smells amazing.

I used boneless rolled shoulder - it's relatively cheap and very versatile, but use whatever cut you like. Remember to adjust the cooking times depending on the cut you've got - your butcher will advise you, or if you buy from the supermarket, the label will guide you.

* Kidding.
** Still kidding.

Hay-baked Lamb (serves 2-4, depending on hunger levels)
You will need:
  • A few handfuls of clean, preservative-free hay (if you don't know a friendly farmer, buy eating hay from the pet shop but avoid stuff that's for bedding only. I used something fancy called Herby Harvest.)
  • About 700g boneless rolled shoulder of lamb 
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • A few curls of unwaxed lemon zest
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • Salt and pepper
  • A large knob of unsalted butter 
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
Make it!
  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7. 
  2. Soak the hay in cold water for 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, unroll the lamb and spread half of the chopped garlic onto the underside (the part that will be hidden when re-rolled). Add the lemon zest, about a sprig of rosemary (shredded from the stalk), salt and pepper. Re-roll the lamb and secure with string.
  4. Mix the butter, the rest of the garlic and rosemary (chopped) and the fennel seeds until soft. Score the outer flesh of the lamb and spread the butter mixture all over it. 
  5. Drain the hay and squeeze out any excess liquid. Arrange in a nest shape in a large, deep roasting tin. Place the lamb on top and cover with more hay.
  6. Tuck any loose hay ends into the tray, then cover with a double layer of tin foil, ensuring no hay is poking out (fire hazard ahoy!). Place in the centre of the oven for about 30 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and roast for a further 40 minutes (depending on the weight of your meat). This will result in medium-rare meat, so if you prefer well done, add about 15 minutes to the cooking time. Don't be tempted to peek - leave everything firmly wrapped up.
  7. After the specified cooking time, unwrap the foil parcel and check the meat is done. If you want to crisp the outside a little, lift it from its hay bed and place on a baking tray at the top of the oven, turned back up to 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7, for about 10 minutes. 
  8. Leave the meat to rest for 15 minutes before serving with roasties and your choice of veg. I opted for roasted shallots and fennel to complement the lamby-rosemary flavours. DO NOT EAT THE HAY. We're not horses, are we?
  9. Buy a small rodent so that you can use up the rest of the hay, or keep it to put around your strawberry (hayberry?) plants. 


  1. I have never cooked lamb but I am so doing this! If I were to get a fairly big leg, would I need more than one bag? Thanks, Helen

    1. As Anon says below, Helen, one bag should definitely be enough! I bought a 300g bag and still have hay left to make this recipe twice more - maybe even three times! Good luck with it!

  2. I've tried this and it really is delicious. One bag of hay should be fine, Helen.
    Don't forget the mint sauce. I love my mint sauce!

    1. Ah, yes - there has to be mint sauce, Anon!

  3. Thanks you guys!!! I will report back! Helen


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