Herb-Roasted Leg of Lamb with Mediterranean Barley

In Family-friendly, Main Dishes by Frances Largeman-Roth


Makes servings | Prep Time: 20 mins | Cook Time: 1 3/4 HRS

As the spring holidays approach, I’m excited about heading back into the kitchen with a focus on fresh, new ingredients. As I’ve written before on my blog, our family loves lamb. It is hands down my husband’s favorite food ever, and it’s Leo’s too (right after ice cream!). It’s definitely something special and a leg of lamb makes an impressive centerpiece.

If you’re new to cooking lamb, it can be a little intimidating, because you’ll generally find a bone-in leg of lamb that’s 8 to 10 pounds. Leg of lamb with the bone in is incredibly juicy and flavorful, but if you’d like something that is simpler to carve, you can go with a butterflied leg of lamb. Either way, lamb always goes well with Mediterranean ingredients, like the barley recipe I’ve paired it with here. It’s full of fresh herbs, lemon and pine nuts, which add a toasty flavor to the dish. If some of your guests are vegetarian, serve the barley separately from the lamb. And a nice bottle of zinfandel or shiraz would be perfect with this recipe.

In addition to being a great source of protein, lamb also provides essential nutrients, including niacin, selenium, zinc and vitamin B12. And don’t forget that 40% of the fat in lamb is the monounsaturated, heart-healthy type.

Here’s to serving up some new inspiration with family and friends this spring! 

Herb-Roasted Leg of Lamb with Mediterranean Barley
Serving size: 3 ounces of lamb and ½ cup barley

1 (8-pound) bone in, leg of lamb

¼ cup thyme leaves

¼ cup rosemary leave

4-5 large garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon sea salt

1.5 cups uncooked hulled barley, rinsed

¼ teaspoon sea salt

3 3/4 cups water

¼ cup pine nuts, toasted at 325° for 6-7 minutes

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ cup Italian parsley, chopped

2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

1 cup cherry tomatoes

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  1. Remove lamb from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350°F. Gently pat lamb dry with paper towels. Use a sharp knife to cut a cross-hatch pattern into the fat on the outside of the leg; set aside.
  2. Finely chop the thyme, rosemary, garlic and salt together to form a paste. Rub the paste all over the lamb and place into a lightly oiled roasting pan.
  3. Place lamb in the oven. Meanwhile, combine the barley, ¼ teaspoon sea salt, and water into a large pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low and simmer, uncovered, for 25 minutes, or until barley is tender.
  4. Transfer barley to a large bowl. Stir in the toasted pine nuts, lemon zest and juice, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, parsley, feta, tomatoes and salt and pepper.
  5. Roast lamb for 1 ¾ hours, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the leg reads 145°. Allow lamb to rest for 15 minutes before slicing. On a large cutting board, place leg of lamb on its side and slice with a large knife until you reach the bone. Then place lamb on the cut side and make vertical slices across the top of the leg. Make a horizontal slice under the cuts you just made vertically, and transfer slices to a serving platter. Remove additional meat from bone and transfer to an airtight container and place in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Transfer barley to platter as well, or serve separately. Serve the lamb with the barley on the side.