Food & Wine Magazine: December Cover Recipe

Spiced Leg of Lamb with Olives, Apricots & Lemons

Rating: 4 out of 5 (interesting, innovative & tasty)

Initial Thoughts: Huh. This doesn’t look much like the gooey, sinfully decadent dessert I was expecting. Come to think of it; there hasn’t been a sweet cover recipe all year. What be up with dat?!

THE TEST: Even though this recipe falls into the non-dessert category, my disappointment was short lived because – well – LOOK!

Isn’t this a gorgeous looking roast?!

The recipe is courtesy of Jeff Cerciello, chef at Los Angeles’ Farmshop restaurant. It is straightforward to prepare but has several steps, which although not time consuming definitely need to be done ahead of time. At the center of this dish lies the fiery North African spice paste harissa, which along with olive oil is rubbed into a bone-in leg of lamb after garlic is shoved into slits across the surface of the meat. Homemade preserved lemons are made by curing lemon slices in salt and sugar, and are then laid on top of the lamb along with fresh thyme and baked in the oven. Just before the meat is finished cooking to your desired level of doneness, dried apricots and oil-cured black olives are thrown in for good measure.

Is now a good point for me to interject with my deviations from the recipe? Okay good.

Even though I was most excited about the cured lemon slices, for some reason when it came time to prepare the lamb I completely spaced on them until just before throwing the lamb on the BBQ. Personally, I blame my distraction on the four different types of Christmas cookies I was baking, homemade eggnog I was making and photographing for an upcoming blog post, not to mention parenting two little girls who have been home from school for a week and are verging on near hysteria over Santa’s impeding arrival.

I also decided to have Mr. Spock fire up the BBQ as the oven was occupied by the aforementioned cookies. While it turned out well, I think braising the meat in the oven as called for in the recipe would work much better for this dish. There was a level of moistness and tenderness that was missing from the BBQ.

Because there were only three of us dinning the night I made this recipe, instead of cooking an 8-pound leg I prepared two itty bitty boneless leg roasts. I also seemed to have overestimated the expiry date on my dried apricots. Who does that?! But I still topped the lamb with the oil-cured olives, which added a nice saltiness to the dish.

THE RESULTS: We all agreed that this was a recipe we’d definitely make again in the future. To be honest, I’d like to try making it without all of my inadvertent deviations. In particular, I imagine the cured lemon slices would have imparted a nice, tangy bite that was missing. I would also avoid cooking it on the BBQ, even though the flavour of the char did compliment the smokiness of the harissa nicely. And the salty olives, spicy chili paste and rich lamb would have been perfect with the sweetness of apricots, rounding out the overall flavour profile.

I loved the creativity of this recipe and can’t wait to make it again!

Now I’m going to hop on over to Aimée White’s blog to see what she thought about this month’s cover recipe. Aimée prepared this dish weeks ago for her sweetie’s birthday! I LOVE having her ‘virtual’ company in the kitchen each month cooking up cover recipes, and can’t wait for us to discover what 2012 holds for us with F&W. If any of you would like to join us, the more the merrier!  And don’t forget to check out Kendall Harris’ wine pairing suggestion – it’s been a long time since I had a merlot and this one is great! 

Cover Recipe:
Spiced Leg of Lamb with Olives, Apricots & Lemons

NOTE: This month’s wine pairing once again comes courtesy of our resident wine expert, Kendall Harris, whose suggested merlot by Rodney Strong was perfect with the rich lamb and fiery spice from the harissa. Another great suggestion Kendall!

Wine Pairing by Kendall Harris of Wine2Three

For this particular dish I recommend trying a Merlot. A nice fruity Merlot; something widely available and well-priced like the classic $22.99 (CDN) version from Rodney Strong of California.

Here are the factors to be considered: with spicy food, the general rule of thumb is to pair it with a sweeter wine such as Rieslings or Gewürztraminer. Spicy Food does not suit spicy wines so for this recipe which is high on heat, a spicy Shiraz, Malbec or Zinfandel are not the best option.

I suggested a red wine because this is a weighty dish, and I wanted a fruity wine (which is sweeter tasting than a really dry red wine) to complement the spiciness of the lamb. This California merlot is a soft fruity choice that I’ve had twice and loved, and it’s widely available.

Hope you like it!

Kendall Harris shares her adventures in the wine world as Wine2three on Twitter & Facebook. She is WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust) Advanced Certified & is currently developing a weekly wine series on ShawTV, where she is a full time reporter. Join her on Facebook – click LIKE at for regular fun wine info!


As part of my culinary New Year’s resolutions, I have committed to creating each month’s cover recipe from Food & Wine Magazine.

NOTE: If any of you would like to follow along with me and join in on the fun, I’d love to compare notes! So pick-up a copy of the latest issue of Food & Wine and get cooking. Be sure to send your comments and photos to

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