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Boiled leg of lamb with caper sauce [Recipe]

A largely forgotten English classic, ripe for revival. I've timed this post to run alongside a piece I wrote for the Guardian today on boiled meats.

If you've never cooked meat this way then I strongly recommend it: the lamb emerges perfectly tender. The sauce is essential: it piques the meat and brings the dish zip and oomph. I served it with baked potatoes but perhaps Jersey news would have been better at this time of year. I also had un-English broccoli because I found a head lying the fridge, but any green veg would have done. Mutton is more traditional, of course, but lamb works just as well. A big glass of red is mandatory with this one.

Boiled leg of lamb (or mutton) with caper sauce

Serves 6-8

2.5kg leg of lamb or mutton
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 3s
2 onions, halved and peeled
4 sticks celery, cut into inch-long sticks
2 bay leaves
Few sprigs of thyme
Few sprigs of rosemary
1 swede, peeled and roughly diced (optional)
2 parsnips, peeled and quartered (optional)
10 black peppercorns, whole
1 tsp salt

For the caper sauce

2 tbsps butter
2 tbsps flour
6 tbsps salted capers, rinsed
Good handful flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Put the lamb in a big pot and add the vegetables, herbs, salt and peppercorns. Pour over enough water to come 3/4 of the way up the lamb. Slowly bring to the boil, removing any scum. Put the lid on and simmer extremely gently for 1 hr 45 mins to 2.5 hours, turning a couple of times. The lamb is ready when a skewer slides in without much resistance. When the lamb is done, drain and reserve 750ml of the lamb liquor and let the lamb rest in the remaining stock.

For the caper sauce, make a roux by heating the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat and adding the flour. Cook for a minute or so then gradually whisk in the reserved lamb stock. Simmer for 20 minutes until the sauce has reduced a little and deepened in flavour, then stir in the capers and parsley. Check seasoning (you shouldn't need much salt) and serve with the carved lamb, some spuds and green veg.


  1. Mutton is underrated.Its good with a stock sauce with olives and sun dried tomatoes.

  2. Tres Fergus, Ollie. Love it. Great companion recipe for your brill piece for WoM

  3. Northern Snippet - Thanks, good tip.

    Alex - It is très Fergus, you're right. Très English really. Glad you enjoyed the WoM piece.

  4. Boiled mutton was the Duke of Wellington's dish of choice.

  5. G - Was it now? Good to know, thanks.

  6. Great recipe, great piece. Boiled mutton was my grandpa's favourite. I was too young at the time and I've only been converted to the joys of boiled meat recently, in Italy, especially with green sauce and the Italian mustard fruits. My favourite column by far at the moment, waiting for consider blancmange!

  7. Racheleats - Thanks for the kind comments. Very sweet story about your grandpa. I love mostarda too. Quite a few people mentioned bollito misto in the comments to the WoM piece - must try that. But 'Consider blancmange' may be some way off, I'm afraid...

  8. mmm, i think i have changed my mind about boiled meats, Ollie. doesnt a big red make everything so much better? x shayma

  9. Hi Oliver. You're familiar with Oscar Wilde's line describing a prostitute procured for him as 'like cold boiled mutton'?