A roast leg of lamb with white wine, potatoes, and lots of garlic: this is the centerpiece on any serious Easter table in Romania and in many other parts of the world.
A roasted leg of lamb with white wine, potatoes, and green beans on the side is probably my favorite Easter meal. Or it competes for first place with sarmale – Romanian cabbage rolls. Hard to decide!
I should probably do it like my family in Romania: cook both, add the chicken and semolina dumpling soup, the boeuf salad, and the chicken drob. Make a cheese or spinach roll, cozonac, pasca, and a couple more cakes... and, of course, the hard-boiled eggs.
And eat continuously for a week. And no, I am not kidding! This is the way it goes in Romania at Easter.
I don't get to make roast lamb often for Easter now because since I got married, we always have Easter lunch at my mother-in-law's house, and she never tasted (and never will) this kind of meat in her life. She always makes a roast duck for Easter.
But I do make roasted white wine lamb, pulled lamb, or shoulder of lamb quite often for us and for guests, and always in those years when the Romanian (orthodox) Easter and the German (evangelic) Easter don't fall on the same date. Then we get to have Easter lunch twice.
How to buy a leg of lamb?
I always buy it in ethnic stores (Turkish, Syrian, Russian); they always have it fresh, either shoulder or leg, boneless pieces, lamb chops, and so on.
Ask the butcher to trim the leg for you. They always have this long bone sticking out, and if that bone is too long, the leg of the lamb might not fit into your roasting tin. And you will probably not be able to cut it yourself at home, not with a regular knife anyway.
The butcher could also trim away some of the thick layers of fat; you do need some fat, but not that super thick outer layer.
If you would like to make lamb stock, take the bone that was cut off and make stock using that and the remaining bone after you have roasted and eaten the lamb. Leave the fat behind; there is nothing you can do with it.
How to roast lamb with white wine?
I tried to recreate this recipe on the memories I had of my mother's lamb many, many years ago: a leg of lamb slowly cooked in the oven with lots of wine. I can't still remember the aroma that filled the house that day.
A good thing about this recipe is that you can cook the meat and the potatoes in the same dish in the oven. This way, you can easily prepare the sides or the other courses on the stove. And for some other Easter food ideas, have a look at these Mini Egg Cookies or these Easter Baking Recipes (Sweet and Savory).
Flavor the meat:
- A typical way of flavoring lamb is to make some incisions into the meat using a small sharp knife and stuff these slits with garlic slivers.
- Be generous with the garlic; it really imparts a lot of flavor to the meat.
- Rub the leg of lamb all over with oil and sprinkle it generously with salt and pepper.
- You can use other spices as well if you like, but Romanian cooking is not using lots of spices generally, so salt, pepper, and maybe some sweet paprika are normally enough. Alternatively, you can use our delicious Lamb Seasoning.
- Add some sprigs of fresh rosemary and bay leaves to the baking tray; rosemary and lamb are great together.
- Add white wine and water to the tray as well.
- Make sure the oven is preheated.
- Once everything is on the tray, cover it loosely with aluminum foil.
- You have to make sure, though, that the liquid in the tin never cooks off completely; check about every 15-20 minutes and baste the leg of lamb with the liquid while you are at it.
- If the liquid cooks off, add more white wine regularly.
- Start with roasting the lamb for 30 minutes. Turn it on the other side, baste well, place the aluminum foil on top again, and continue roasting for another 15 minutes.
- Clean and half the new potatoes during this time.
- Turn the piece of meat again, baste it, place the potatoes around it, cover again, and continue baking for 30 minutes.
- Remove the foil, baste again, and continue roasting for about 15 minutes until the meat is nicely colored and the potatoes are soft.
The internal temperature of roast lamb
I don't usually cook this white wine lamb by checking the internal temperature; it is a standard Romanian dish, which cooks the meat quite well. However, checking the internal temperature gives you more freedom; it allows you to cook the lamb exactly to your liking.
To check the internal temperature, stick the thermometer about 5 cm/ 2 inches into the thickest part of the meat without touching the bone.
If you cook the lamb according to the internal temperature and the potatoes are not quite soft when you are done with the meat, remove the leg from the oven, place it on a large platter, cover it loosely with foil, and let rest while the potatoes continue roasting (uncovered).
The recommended safe temperature should be 63 degrees Celsius/ 145 degrees Fahrenheit for medium-well-done meat.
- Rare: 46-49 degrees Celsius/ 115-120 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Medium-rare: 49-52 degrees Celsius/ 120-125 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Medium: 54-57 degrees Celsius/ 130-135 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Medium-well: 60-63 degrees Celsius/ 140-145 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Well done: 65-68 degrees Celsius/150-155 degrees Fahrenheit.
What to serve with it?
- Green Beans with Garlic
- Healthier Green Bean Casserole
- French-Style Green Beans
- Simple Roasted Whole Carrots
- Whole Roasted Cauliflower
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Roasted Leg of Lamb in White Wine
- 1 leg of lamb about 2 kg/ 4.4 pounds
- 6 large garlic cloves
- 1 bottle white wine See note 1
- 1 cup warm water 250 ml
- 3-4 tablespoons sunflower oil
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 2 bay leaves
- 2.2 lbs new potatoes small, 1 kg
- fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius/ 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Prepare lamb: Wash the leg of lamb very thoroughly and dry it with kitchen paper. Make some deep slits into the meat using a small, sharp knife. Cut the garlic cloves into slivers and stuck these slivers into the slits in the meat. Rub the leg of lamb all over with the oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides.
- Place into a lightly oiled, large roasting tray, place the rosemary sprigs and the bay leaves around the meat, and pour about 250 ml/ 1 cup of the white wine and the warm water into the tin. Cover the tin loosely with aluminum foil.
- Roast the leg of lamb, taking care that the liquid doesn't evaporate completely. If that happens, keep adding white wine to the tray from time to time. Also, don't forget to baste the meat with the liquid every 15 minutes or so.
- Roasting time: After 30 minutes (1), turn the leg on the other side, cover again with the foil, and continue roasting for another 15 minutes (2)
- Potatoes: In the meantime, clean the potatoes very thoroughly. You don't have to peel them. Cut the potatoes in half.
- Flip: After the 15 minutes mentioned above, turn the leg of lamb again, place the potatoes around the meat and continue baking, covered with the foil for another 30 minutes (3).
- Remove the foil and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes (4) more or until it has a nice color and the potatoes are soft.
- Tip: Romanian people generally like their meat well cooked, so if you want the meat to be pink, cook it according to the internal temperatures listed in the blog post and in Notes.
- Let rest: Take the roast out of the oven, cover loosely with foil and let rest for about 10 minutes. Serve with the potatoes and other sides.
- You will start with 250 ml/ 1 cup of white wine added to the tray at the beginning of the cooking process. You will add more as required during the roasting time, but you will not need the entire bottle of wine:
- Internal temperature for lamb: