Thursday, July 12, 2012

Cranberry and Pistachio Lamb Roulade

Most of my lamb cooking experience comes from the Lean on Lamb and Tri-Lamb Group.  Using their ingredients and recipes gave me a lot of confidence when I was making the dishes.  So, when they contacted me to come up with a recipe (on my own!) with a type of lamb they surprise you with, I was totally ready for the challenge but very nervous.  I don't create a lot of recipes from scratch, so this was new territory for me.

Dinner is served
The guidelines were to take the lamb and showcase its flavors.  I was excited when my massive amount of boneless leg of lamb arrived - there was plenty of meat for the dinner party, plus a little bit to practice with (thank goodness!).  While I am more familiar with recipes involving cuts like lamb chops, I had to think about how I wanted to use the boneless leg.

I first decided on flavors.  My mom has made a dish in the past that used cranberries and pistachios that I loved, so I decided I wanted to those ingredients as my base and go from there.  How to incorporate them into the leg was tougher.  After a bit of thought, I decided a roulade would make for a beautiful presentation and ensure incorporation of the flavors throughout.  I watched some videos online to figure out the best way to prepare the meat and thought the leg would sort of unravel - however, during the practice run I found out this was not as easy as it looked and I struggled a bit.  After a bit of work, though, I realized I could trim the meat, get smaller "sections" of the leg, open them up and pound them flat to make a few smaller roulades.  So, without out further ado, my recipe!

The Necessities (serves 10)
  • Boneless Leg of Lamb
  • 4 cups of dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup of dijon mustard
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 cups of salted and roasted pistachios
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Butchers Twine
  • Meat tenderizer or other heavy kitchen item
To begin I let the lamb defrost completely and trimmed off a bit of the fat, leaving some on for the flavor.  I allowed the lamb to open up as it naturally did (sort of falling apart) and you could see places that were barely connected, creating natural cutting points.  From there I butterflied the pieces and then flattened them with a tenderizer and a lot of muscle!  We happened to get a meat tenderizer from our wedding registry, but f you don't have one a rolling pin or heavy skillet would work in a pinch.  In the spirit of the challenge I did this on my own, though in the future I would ask the butcher to do this for me.  Approximately 5 pounds of meat made for about 6 pieces of flattened meat, which I set aside for later.

Tenderizing the Lamb!
From there, I gathered the "stuffing" ingredients: pistachios, cranberries, garlic and mustard.

The Ingredients
I added 3 1/2 of the 4 cups of the cranberries, the pistachios, garlic and mustard to the food processor and let it go.  While you don't necessarily need a food processor, I wanted to grind everything together well.  The pistachios I bought were salted (mostly because they were the only ones I could find that were pre-shelled, and shelling all those pistachios individually is HARD!), so I held off on adding more salt to the stuffing.

Cranberries and Pistachios
All of the ingredients
Now it was time to make the roulades.  Having never done this before, please excuse my techniques!  I took the flattened lamb, generously salted and peppered each side and then splattered a bit of olive oil on top (which would become the inside of the roulade.)

Salted and Peppered
Using my hands, I grabbed a handful of the stuffing and patted it down onto the flattened lamb, about a quarter inch thick.  I sprinkled some of the remaining cup of dried cranberries over top.  Then, starting from one end, I rolled the meat up like a roll of sushi.  While the meat was not completely even, it worked!

Ready to be rolled
All rolled up!  The toothpicks were a great help
I then popped in some toothpicks to stabilize the roll and tied it up.  To begin I unraveled a bunch of butchers twine and snipped off the end.  I looped the twine around smaller circle of the roulade and tied it off, wrapped it around the long ways, looped it under the first circle and then just continued to wrap it around and then tied it off at the other end.

The start of the wrap
I wrapped all of the flattened lamb pieces up and placed them in a large casserole dish that had some olive oil drizzled on the bottom.  I had some leftover stuffing that I pressed onto the top of each of the roulades to create a crunch topping.

How cute are they?!
I placed the dish into a 350 degree oven for 35 minutes, though I probably could have stopped at 30 or 32 minutes.  Our meat thermometer did not really work, and while waiting for the proper temperature the outside cooked slightly further than I wanted, but I was still pleased with the result.  Once done, I allowed the meat to rest for about 15 minutes under some tin foil.

Shhh...resting meat!
To serve, Nick sliced each of the roulades up, each slice being about an inch thick.

Ready for slicing
We served this lamb over some Israeli Couscous that was cooked with some saffron (from Dubai!), as well as some peas and spring onions we had received in our farm share.  I loved the contrast of the reds and browns of the lamb with the yellow and green of the couscous.

So pretty and ready to serve!
We also steamed up some asparagus to go along with our dinner.

Since our Beacon Hill apartment doesn't allow for a dining table, and we were having a bunch of guests over, AND we figured this dish deserved to be served off of a proper table, we decided to have our guests up to the roofdeck!  The warm weather and beautiful views made this dinner even better.

Sunset dinner views
Ready to dig in!
I was actually impressed with how this turned out (if I do say so myself!).  I promise it was not just me, our guests, and Nick, were also impressed.  The stuffing was not only vibrant in color but also in flavor.  The lamb was still the star of the meal, and the richness of the meat was perfectly paired with the sweet and savory stuffing inside.  The roulade only enhanced the presentation of the dish - the extra muscle to flatten the meat was worth it.  

Lets just say I have WAY more confidence when it comes to not only cooking lamb but meats in general.  This was quite an adventure, but I'm so happy I pushed myself. 

What have you made lately that challenges you?


  1. I have to say, cooking with a full leg of lamb scares me a little, but this seems totally worth it!

  2. The presentation is gorgeous, and the roof deck setting is simply stunning!

  3. What a GORGEOUS final plate!! Not to mention a completely beautiful spot to enjoy it!

  4. I am so impressed with this meal! I love pistachios, that was a great choice

  5. I've been kind of obsessed with pistachios recently so this dish is absolutely perfect!

  6. I am so impressed! That roulade looks beautiful... and I love Israeli couscous. I passed on this challenge as I'm somewhat without a kitchen right now, but I definitely don't think I could have been this creative.


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