The Devil's Fish Strikes Back

I thought that I was rid of my anchovies. I thought that I wouldn't need to cook with them again. No more tangy weirdness annoying my palate.

But I was wrong. I was so, so wrong...

I looked in my fridge to find three remaining anchovies in a Tupperware box: my nemeses, waiting to be added to an innocent, unsuspecting recipe. I couldn't throw them away; I can't bare to waste food. I had to find another recipe that used them... fast.

Like a man possessed, I tore through my cookery books, until I found the very thing within the Fabulous Baker Brothers volume: roast leg of lamb with baker's potatoes; featuring those three pesky anchovy fillets in the ingredients. Marvellous.

A prepared leg of lamb. Big, isn't it?

Those ingredients in full:
one leg of lamb, top bone removed, with the shank bone left in;
three garlic cloves, sliced;
three anchovy fillets, chopped;
large sprig of rosemary, chopped;
30ml extra virgin olive oil;
salt and pepper.

For the baker's potatoes:
three large onions;
two garlic cloves;
100g butter;
eight large Maris Piper potatoes;
500ml chicken stock.

I mixed the garlic, anchovy, rosemary and olive oil together before rubbing them over the lamb, inside and out. I seasoned it with salt and pepper before tying the lamb up with some string (possibly the most "cook-like" experience of my life so far) before setting it aside for later.

My most "cook-like" experience so far...

I melted 75g of the butter in a pan and cooked the sliced onions and garlic until soft and golden. Some seasoning followed before they too were put to one side. I preheated the oven to 200ºC.

Next came the potatoes, which I peeled and sliced as thinly as possible, before layering them on the bottom of a large baking dish, followed by a layer of the cooled onions. I seasoned then repeated the process, keeping the layers going until I was left with a layer of potatoes on top resembling fish scales.

The lamb went on top of these potatoes before being placed in the hot oven to brown over about half an hour, after which I reduced the temperature to 180ºC. For a medium cooked lamb, with the centre pink, but the fat well rendered, one is advised to keep it cooking for another hour. I went for an hour and a quarter. Next time, I may go for an hour and a half: I found a bloody centre a touch disconcerting.

How do you like your lamb done, madam / sir?

I took the dish out of the oven and removed the lamb to wrap in tin foil and rest for at least 25 minutes. Turning up the oven to 190ºC (its highest temperature; go up to 220ºC if your oven's more advanced than mine), I dotted the remaining butter around the surface of the potatoes and returned them to the oven for 20 minutes: this was to brown and crisp the top of the potatoes, most of which had been obscured by the lamb 'til now.

And that was it. Quite an undertaking, really: the lamb cost a little more than I was expecting and was blooming enormous, even after cooking; for goodness sake, invite some people around to eat this with you because you won't make it alone, even over the course of a week (I speak from experience...)

Blimey, better get some friends over!

To serve, slice the lamb thinly to accompany the soft potatoes, soaked in delicious lamb juices.

Again, the inclusion of the anchovies added beautifully to the meat's flavour. That said, it's some time since I've cooked this and I haven't dared go near the Devil's fish since. Maybe I should try them again, on a pizza, maybe? Nah: no chance, mate!

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