It's a beautiful summers day in late July, just before the maddening crowds make Provence un-bearable. I'm up early and have visited my favourite butcher just off the main square of St Remy de Provence, and secured a beautiful leg of lamb. Until very recently this lamb was munching on the wild herbs of Les Alpilles, thyme, rosemary, marjoram and oregano.
Even if not in Provence, this is a simple stunning meal, just add a few more herbs!
1 leg of lamb
2 bulbs of garlic
2 rosemary sprigs (plus thyme, marjoram and oregano if not in Provence)
100 ml best olive oil
for the tian:
2 white onions, finely sliced
2 eggplants, chopped into mouthful pieces
2 ripe tomatoes
2 garlic cloves
a sprig of rosemary
salt and black pepper
I've bought my lamb on Saturday as I'm planning to eat it on Sunday with the family under a huge plane tree which happens to hold a colony of bats, but at lunch it's shade not bats which provide the major attraction!
So on Saturday afternoon, stud the leg with the garlic cloves and rub well with the olive oil. Chop the herbs roughly and scatter over the leg of lamb. Wrap the leg in a plastic wrap and leave in the fridge until tomorrow.
Now take a few garlic cloves, chop finely and combine in a bowl with chopped thyme and rosemary. Mix with about 80 ml of olive oil, cover and set aside. The following morning (Sunday) rub the flavoured oil well into the lamb. Ensure that the mixed herbs form part of the marinade over the lamb.
Now let's prepare the tian!
Firstly fry the garlic in an oven-proof dish in a little olive oil, without browning! Add the sliced onions, eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes, wedging them in tightly. Sprinkle over the rosemary sprigs, season with a little salt and black pepper and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 200C
Take a good thick roasting tray and heat over a high flame, adding olive oil until just smoking. Place the leg of lamb into the tray and brown generously, turning until well caramelised but not burnt.
Immediately transfer to the oven and cook for 1 hour, basting every 15 minutes. After 1 hour, remove from the oven, loosely cover in foil and rest for a minimum of 10 minutes.
Add the vegetable tian to the oven after the lamb has been in for 10 minutes and cook for 1 hour until slightly caramelised but beautiful!
Serve together with a local Cote de Rhone or perhaps a Provencal Rose - either way a fabulous lunch in Provence or anywhere else for that matter.
Dessert - have a snooze under said plane tree whilst children swim and play in pool - bliss !!!!!!!!!