Leg of Lamb with Cinnamon-Thyme-Fennel Rub

This was our Easter dinner. As you’ll see, the idea was stolen from Gordon Ramsay with few changes; it came out great.


Begin with a 4-5 pound (2 kg) boneless leg of lamb. Drive a narrow but sharp knife into the lamb, twirling it to carve out cylindrical holes. Make 3 or 4 holes and into each place a cinnamon stick and a sprig of thyme. (This is illustrated in Ramsay’s video below.)

Here’s a picture of the cinnamon sticks and thyme sprigs that we used, plus some vegetables, seasoning, and honey that we’ll use later:

Next, mix some dry seasonings for a rub. We used:

  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp cloves

Coat the lamb in the rub. Don’t worry if you don’t have all of these seasonings; use whatever assortment you like. We do recommend including the smoked paprika and allspice.

By the way, over the past few years we bought a number of disposable pepper grinders that contained whole peppercorns, and gathered a collection of empty grinders. Recently we began buying spices as whole seeds and storing them in the grinders, grinding the spices fresh as we need them. Freshly ground spices do taste better than pre-ground spices!

The next step is to prepare some vegetables – we used carrot, celery, and onion – and to sear the surface of the lamb on the stove so that the meat will retain moisture in the oven.

In previous recipe (“Roast Beef, Beets, and Potatoes,” April 8, 2012), we skipped the stovetop step. In that recipe, to seal the surface we pre-heated the oven to 400 F and after 10 minutes cooking reduced the heat to 300 F.

In Gordon Ramsay’s rendering (see video below), he sautées the vegetables with olive oil and honey before searing the lamb. The honey caramelizes, adding flavor.

We decided to take an intermediate approach that is more in line with our preference for gentle cooking. We briefly cooked the vegetables in olive oil at low heat on the stove, and added honey so as to coat the vegetables evenly.

Here were the vegetables on the stove, in the pyrex pan we used also in the oven:

After a few minutes we pushed the vegetables to the side of the pan and seared the lamb at medium heat, 1 minutes per side. After searing the seasoned lamb is ready for the oven, placed fatty side up:

We cooked at 300ºF (150ºC) for one hour. It came out like this:

Sliced, it looks like this:

We had space in the oven so we baked some potatoes and beets along with the lamb. They were placed in a cake pan that hasn’t been used for its original purpose in many years:

We’ve found it’s least messy to cook the beets first and peel them after cooking.

The final step was making a sauce to drizzle over the meat. This was composed of a simple mixture of:

  • Juice and zest from one lemon
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp mustard

Served on the plate, it looked like this:


Gordon Ramsay’s video offers a good view of the process:

It’s an easy dish to prepare, but quite delicious!

Leave a comment ?


  1. Looks delicious. I’ve never been disappointed by a Gordon Ramsay recipe.

  2. “… sear the surface of the lamb on the stove so that the meat will retain moisture in the oven.”

    Cook’s Illustrated’s “The Science of Good Cooking” says otherwise (p. 51):

    Does searing really seal in the juices?

    In a word: no. Instead searing develops flavor though the Maillard reaction.

    The authors describe searing three 1.25″-thick rib-eye steaks and then cooking them in an oven to 125 degrees, and then repeating the steps in the opposite order with three more steaks. Both sets of steaks looked and tasted similarly and lost around 14 percent of their weight.

    Elsewhere, the book recommends using the oven first so that the temperature of the frying pan won’t drop when the cold meat hits it, delaying the Maillard reaction and overcooking the area close to the surface.

    Can’t deny that this recipe looks tasty, though!

  3. This is perfect timing, i was just looking around for a leg of lamb recipe this morning. I’ve got one from my farm, and its only about 2.5 pounds and bone in. All the recipes I am finding are for larger ones, along with yours. How would you suppose I cook a bone in around 2.5 pounds, follow your recipe but reduce the time a bit? Id appreciate your input I have never cooked lamb before and don’t want to screw it up!



  4. My stomach growled when I read this 🙂

  5. That rub sound extremely intriguing! A must try for sure 🙂

  6. Leg of Lamb … so much sweeter without the swearing 😆

  7. charles grashow


    New Link Between Heart Disease and Red Meat: New Understanding of Cardiovascular Health Benefits of Vegan, Vegetarian Diets

    The study shows that bacteria living in the human digestive tract metabolize the compound carnitine, turning it into trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), a metabolite the researchers previously linked in a 2011 study to the promotion of atherosclerosis in humans. Further, the research finds that a diet high in carnitine promotes the growth of the bacteria that metabolize carnitine, compounding the problem by producing even more of the artery-clogging TMAO.

    Prior research has shown that a diet with frequent red meat consumption is associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk, but that the cholesterol and saturated fat content in red meat does not appear to be enough to explain the increased cardiovascular risks. This discrepancy has been attributed to genetic differences, a high salt diet that is often associated with red meat consumption, and even possibly the cooking process, among other explanations. But Hazen says this new research suggests a new connection between red meat and cardiovascular disease.

  8. Leg of Lamb with Cinnamon-Thyme-Fennel Rub | Low Carb RSS - pingback on April 9, 2013 at 1:04 am
  9. Good thing I have already had lunch today!! This is a beautiful and very healthy dish.

  10. Recipe sounds wonderful. Apparently you do not agree with the comment (attributed to Jack LaLanne) “If it tastes good, spit it out”. The fact that healthful food can taste good makes the “Food Reward” concept at best misleading and at worst simply wrong. An addictive response to sugar (which I indeed have) should not be confused with the enjoyment of pleasing flavors.

  11. I follow a lot of Chef Ramsay’s work but I haven’t personally attempted any of his recipes. Between the video and the article I feel confident I could prepare this for my family. It looks absolutely delicious,thank you for the instructions.

  12. We made this recipe. Loved it!!!

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Ordered your book. Looking forward to reading more about your approach to optimal health.

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