Marinated and roasted salt-marsh lamb leg with wild garlic pesto

Marinated and roasted salt-marsh lamb leg with wild garlic pesto

Grill Smoke BBQ
Kris Kirkham

I urge you to try salt-marsh lamb when it’s available – generally during the latter part of spring and into early summer. The sheep graze on coastal marshland, which is abundant in herbal grasses, samphire, sorrel and sea lavenders. Such a rich and varied diet gives their meat a sweet-briny, almost floral, note. The wild garlic pesto ties in nicely with the season for salt-marsh lamb, and is a fresh, punchy counterpart to the unctuous meat. Regular new season’s lamb would, of course, work brilliantly here too.


Quantity Ingredient
1 x 2.5kg boned leg of saltmarsh or other lamb, skin on
3 tablespoons olive oil
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 lemons, zest finely grated
40g salted anchovies, finely chopped
1/2 bunch thyme, leaves picked
1 tablespoon black peppercorns, crushed
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
sea salt
black pepper

For the wild garlic pesto

Quantity Ingredient
1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked
handful wild garlic leaves
20g pine nuts
20g finely grated parmesan
50ml red wine vinegar
100ml extra virgin olive oil
squeeze lemon juice


  1. To butterfly the lamb leg, lay it skin-side down on a board and cut halfway through the centre of the leg to where the bone was. Open the meat out and cut incisions into each side of the leg to open it out further until you have a thick, even slab of meat.
  2. Lay the lamb leg, skin-side up, in a tray or dish. Using a very sharp knife, lightly score the skin in a criss-cross fashion – this will help the marinade to penetrate. Drizzle with the olive oil, then spread over the garlic, lemon zest, anchovies, thyme, peppercorns and vinegar. Massage the marinade into the meat, then cover and transfer to the fridge. Leave for at least 3 hours, or overnight.
  3. When ready to cook, light the barbecue and set for direct/indirect cooking. Place a lump of hardwood onto the ashen charcoal to start smoking.
  4. Remove the lamb from the fridge 20 minutes before cooking, to let it come to room temperature. Reserve the marinade for basting later. Season the lamb with salt, then lay it skin-side down on the grill in the direct heat zone and quickly sear for 5 minutes. Turn it over and sear the other side for 5 minutes, then transfer to the indirect heat zone, still skin-side down. Close the lid of the barbecue and cook for 25 minutes (the temperature inside the barbecue should be about 170°C). Turn over the lamb and cook for a further 20 minutes, basting with the remaining marinade a couple of times.
  5. Meanwhile, make the wild garlic pesto. Put the parsley, garlic leaves, pine nuts and parmesan in a blender and turn on to maximum speed. Add the vinegar and then slowly pour in the olive oil. You may need to scrape down the sides and re-blend to ensure it’s quite smooth. Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice and set aside.
  6. Check the internal temperature of the meat – it should be around 65°C for pink. Remove the lamb to a plate or platter and leave to rest in a warm spot for 20 minutes. Cut the meat into chunks and serve with the pesto and any resting juices.


  • You’ll also need a lump of hardwood and a temperature probe.
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