photo: maria robledo

On a whim, I tried using olive paste as the seasoning for a boneless leg of lamb I planned to roast for Easter dinner – I simply slathered the meat with the paste, rolled it up and tied it. The roast was spectacular, with a Provencal savor. I did not realize that the salt of the olive paste would have a tenderizing effect on the meat, in addition to giving it a subtle, pleasingly “wild” flavor. Boneless Leg of Lamb Stuffed With Crushed Olives has become an Easter tradition.

You can use “bought” olive paste or make your own: Crushed Herb Scented Olives may be made up to 4 days ahead and kept covered in the fridge. It is great unto itself, spooned onto bread, pasta, crushed new pototoes…

For another spectacular lamb recipe, check out 7-Hour Spoon Lamb.

The lamb goes wonderfully with Crushed New Potatoes with Creme Fraiche and Coriander Seed.


Recipe: Boneless Leg of Lamb Stuffed With Crushed Olives

When a leg of lamb is boned, then opened up, it can be easily rubbed with any number of flavorings, from olive paste to Fragrant Herb Salt. Then it is rolled into a sausage shape and tied, allowing it to cook evenly and be easily sliced.

If you are in a hurry, you can use 3/4 cup prepared olive paste in stead of the olive-herb mixture.

12 servings

Crushed Herb Scented Olives:

Scant 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

3/4 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

3/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Pinch salt

1 1/4 cups (1/2 pound) ripe , meaty, brine cured black olives, such as Calamata or Gaeta, pitted and coarselychopped

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil


One 4 1/2 pound leg of lamb – boned, butterflied and trimmed of all visible fat – with the bones

8 to 10 sprigs thyme and/or rosemary

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup dry white wine

To make Crushed, Herb-Scented Olives, in a mortar, pound together the garlic, thyme, rosemary, lemon zest and a pinch of the salt. Gradually add the olives and the olive oil. Pound to a coarse paste. Alternatively, you can combine these ingredients in a food processor, pulsing until a chunky puree forms.

Spread the lamb skin side down on a work surface with the grain of the meat running from right to left (or parallel to the edge of the counter). Spread the olive paste over the lamb, working it into the seams. Working on a slight diagonal, roll the lamb lenthwise into a uniform sausage shape about 5 inches in diameter. Cut off the small, sinuewy flap of skin at the end that you have no way of tucking in. (You can sauté it up as a snack.) Tie the rolled lamb with cotton string at 1-inch intervals. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 6 hours or up to 2 days.

Remove the lamb from the refrigerator 1 hour before roasting to bring it to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 450′. Place a rack in a shallow roasting pan and arrange the lamb bones on the rack. Place the lamb skin side up on the bones and tuck the sprigs of thyme or rosemary under, around and on top of the lamb. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Roast the lamb 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350′ and pour the wine over the lamb. Roast the lamb 20 minutes, basting it twice with the wine. Reduce the temperature again to 275′ and roast 1/2 hour longer, basting it two more times, until the lamb reaches an internal temperature of 140′ for medium rare.

Transfer the lamb to a carving board and allow to rest 15 minutes before carving. Pour any pan drippings into a measuring cup to allow the fat to float to the surface. Skim off the fat and discard. Discard the strings and cut the the lamb crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Pour any lamb juices into the pan drippings, spoon them over the lamb and serve.

Related posts: conference call pot luck (with spoon lamb recipe)
make or buy: fragrant, wildly all-purpose herb salt
kitchen ‘tools for smashing’ + recipe: warm crushed olives (olivada)
recipe: new potatoes with crème fraïche and coriander seed + other swell ideas

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2 replies on “recipe for easter and other spring celebrations: boneless leg of lamb with crushed olives

  1. dear Sally,
    You have answered all of my questions about roasting a boneless leg of lamb!
    as I pour through cookbooks and search the Internet, you give the most direct information and inspiring recipes . You are a master .
    happy pasach easter.

    Love suzanne

  2. I’m so happy to hear you got answers you were looking for. Those cooking times work well with leg-in legs of lamb as well. Happy Easter!!!

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