One of the dilemmas when cooking a beautiful joint like a leg of lamb, is whether to roast it with the bone intact. Or to remove the bone entirely and roll or butterfly. The former is a chef's preference because the bone helps to prevent the meat from drying out and adds an extra element of flavour. But unless you have a practised hand, carving can be tricky. Whereas a boneless joint is very easy to slice up after cooking and resting. So, what is the best way forward?
A clever middle ground is to stuff the leg after removing the bone, particularly when you use the tunnel-bone method. Some forcemeat made from lamb mince, garlic and parsley is always a good approach and something that we often prepare for customers. It is not too far a stretch of the imagination but this simple combination can really lift lamb as a centre-piece for the table and will take a lot of people by surprise.
The technique itself is not for the faint-hearted, so you do need approach this with a degree of confidence - and a sharp knife! But once you get the hang of it, the sky's the limit for what you could actually go for with the stuffing.
As for cooking, we recommend a slow braise in a casserole, filled half way up with some lamb stock. The result will be juicy, tender and quite unlike any other lamb dish that you've had before.
Boning out a leg of lamb
1. Place the leg of lamb with the shank end pointing away from you and the inside of the leg facing up at you. Remove any big chunks of fat which are on the outside of the leg and not forming part of the leg joint.
2. The first bone to remove is the aitchbone, from the rump end, this is the most difficult bone to remove because of its shape, so don’t rush it. Using the tip of your knife start cutting around the visible parts of the bone, always trying to reveal more bone and cutting into the meat as little as possible. Try to find the whole outline of the bone so that you have more of an idea what you are working with.
3. You will find a ball and socket joint near the top of the aitch bone, you need to break through this. Use your other hand to pull and twist the aitchbone to the side as you are cutting, always working to help yourself follow the line of the bone. Remove this completely.
4. Next we want to remove the shank bone. You can quite clearly see the line of the bone on the inside of the shank so cut along the sides here and then work your way around the bone to reveal all the bone while trying to keep the meat from the shank intact.
5. At the bottom end of the bone, where it attaches to the next bone, you will need to break through this joint. You want to use your knife for this, it is a case of finding the cartilage weak spot between the two bones, once you have found that spot you can also use force to break it apart. Once the two bones are detached you can remove the shank bone entirely.
6. With the remaining central bone you are going to tunnel bone it, therefore keeping the meat intact and creating a pocket ready for stuffing. Starting from the end you removed the aitchbone from and using the tip of your knife start cutting around the bone working your way in. You need to get around the end of the bone, which can be bigger than it appears, first to reveal the central part. Once you can see the central and smooth part of the bone, stand it up and use the end of your knife to scrape down the sides of the bone. Going as deep as possible to expose as much bone as possible.
7. Once you have gone as far as possible from this side turn the leg around so you are looking at the other end of the bone. Repeat the process of working your way around the end of the bone and down the sides of the middle until you find it is completely detached and can be pulled out.
8. Hurrah! You have now deboned a leg of lamb!
Stuffing a leg of lamb
1. Get the meat from the shank end and gently stuff it into the cavity you have created from tunnel boning, effectively blocking off one end. If you have one use a skewer to hold this in place.
2. Add your stuffing in from the other end being careful not to over stuff, approximately 200g should be an adequate amount.
3. Then use the rump end of the leg to fold up and over the cavity opening and use another skewer to hold this in place.
4. Tie a piece of string, using a slipknot/butchers knot, tightly from top to bottom holding in place the meat covering both ends of the cavity.
5. Next tie one across the leg.
6. Now tie a third piece of string around the perimeter of the joint.
7. After these three knots keep adding strings across the joint, and you may find a couple more from top to bottom necessary too, until it feels firm and secure.