Easter Sunday lunch – Pippa Mattei’s slow-roasted leg of lamb

Prepare a perfect slow-roasted leg of lamb, spiced with rosemary and anchovies, paired with homemade mint sauce for a traditional Easter lunch

Slow-roasted leg of lamb with mint sauce
Slow-roasted leg of lamb with mint sauce

The lamb is the symbol of Easter and has been prepared for Easter lunch for generations. Serving lamb for Easter lunch goes back as far as the Passover, when the sacrificial lamb was served with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, hoping that the Angel of Death would pass the Jews by and spare their firstborns, allowing them to exit Egypt.

In the past, it was considered a good omen to meet a lamb, especially around Easter, as it was a popular superstition that the devil, who could take the any form, was never allowed to take the shape of the lamb.

Whatever its history, a slow-roasted leg of lamb of Easter Sunday is a succulent, traditional meal, that pairs beautifully with homemade mint sauce. Try Pippa Mattei’s recipe using rosemary and anchovies for added flavour.

Slow-roast leg of lamb with rosemary and anchovies

Recipe by Pippa Mattei


  • 2kg frozen leg of New Zealand lamb
  • 12 sprigs of rosemary
  • 6 cloves garlic, halved
  • 75g butter, softened
  • 12 anchovy fillets, halved
  • Black pepper
  • ¼ bottle white wine
  • 1 lemon, juice only  

For the gravy

  • 2 tbsp flour
  • Some water that the potatoes have been boiled in

For the fresh mint sauce

  • A small bunch of mint leaves approx. 25 g
  • 2 tbsp Maltese honey
  • 4 tbsp malt vinegar
  • 2 tbsp boiling water


  1. Preheat oven to 220°C.
  2. With a small sharp knife, make about 12 incisions 5cm deep and insert the garlic halves, an anchovy half and a sprig of rosemary into each incision. Push in with your finger.
  3. Cream the soft butter with the remaining halved anchovies and smear it all over the leg of lamb.
  4. Grind over lots of freshly ground pepper.
  5. Place the lamb in a suitable roasting tin, and pour the wine around and squeeze over the lemon juice.
  6. Put in the oven and roast for 15 mins.
  7. Turn down the temperature to 180°C and roast the lamb for a further 2 ½ hours basting with the wine juices now and again.
  8. To test for readiness insert a skewer in the lamb, the juice that runs out should be clear not bloody.
  9. Take the lamb out of the oven and cover lightly with foil leaving at least 15 mins before carving it.
  10. Meanwhile make the mint sauce and the gravy.
  11. Put the roasting pan onto two hob burners, add the flour mixing in all the time. 
  12. Finally add the water that potatoes have been boiled in, stir well and then carefully sieve into the gravy boat if serving right away, or if not into a heatproof jug which can be heated in the microwave when needed.
  13. To make the mint sauce, put mint leaves and vinegar, honey and boiling water into a food processor and whizz till well mixed, stopping and scraping down once if necessary. Pour into small jug or bowl.
  14. Carve lamb and serve with gravy and the mint sauce and your choice of potatoes and vegetables (mashed potatoes are good with this).

Love Pippa Mattei’s recipes? Check out her award-winning cookbook Pippa’s Festa and 25 Years In A Maltese Kitchen available at all leading bookstores.

Recipe first appeared in Gourmet TODAY