Welsh Honey and Dried Rosemary Lamb

This flavouring paste (or rub, if you prefer) is based on an old, perhaps even ancient, Welsh method for flavouring lamb. I used it a lot back in the 1980s and I was reminded of it when I visited Anglesey a few years ago. The sight of fine Anglesey honey for sale made me crave the intense flavour of this dish once again.

When I was young and easily-led, I used to listen to TV cooks telling me not to use dried herbs because fresh herbs are always better. I remember one of those cooks saying that if we needed proof, then we should try making mint sauce with dried mint and see how horrible it is. Years later I came across cooks choosing dried rather than fresh mint to flavour some very fine dishes and realised that dried herbs are different but by no means always inferior. You just need to use them in the right dish.

To be fair to those ancient TV cooks, though, there are certain dried herbs such as basil or parsley that really don't seem to work at all. And so what, you may ask, would be the point of drying rosemary when you can pick fresh leaves all year round? Well, this dish is the point of dried rosemary for me. Of course, you can use fresh rosemary in this recipe and very nice it is too, but it really isn't quite as good or as intense in my opinion. If you happen to have a little spare rosemary, then try drying some. It's easy to do, just hang some lengthy shoots of rosemary up somewhere airy and dry for a while. (Sorry that the picture below is rubbish - it was dark and I was hungry.)
Lamb Rasted With Honey 2
Of course, you can use any runny honey for this dish if you can't get to Anglesey, although, if you do get the chance, then it's a place that's well worth a visit. Or if you ever happen to be passing by the Welsh Food Centre in Bodnant, then don't pass by. Go in. You're very unlikely to regret it and they're almost certain to have plenty of local honey and lovely Welsh lamb for sale.
I used this paste on lamb shoulder on this occasion but it's just as good on leg or whatever cut you prefer. This should give you enough for a half shoulder or a piece of lamb for at least 2 people. Scale up as needed and, if in doubt, be generous with the amount of paste.

1½ - 2 tbsp dried rosemary
½ tsp sea salt flakes (from Anglesey ideally)
½ tsp black peppercorns
½  tsp ground ginger
1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic, peeled
½ tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
Squeeze of lemon juice
2 tbsp runny honey plus an extra 1 tbsp for drizzling
Half shoulder of lamb

Pound the rosemary, salt and peppercorns in a pestle and mortar until reduced near enough to a powder. Add the ground ginger and pound in the garlic. Stir in the oil, lemon juice and the honey. You should have a thickish paste. Rub this over the lamb and leave in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

Place the lamb in a roasting tin, drizzle over the additional tablespoon of honey and roast until done to your liking. It's a good idea to line the roasting tin with some foil - roasted honey can be very difficult to wash off. I prefer to roast the lamb at quite a low temperature, so for a half shoulder that’s about 80 minutes at 150ÂșC, but use whatever time you prefer or would be suitable for the cut of lamb you've chosen.

Allow the lamb to rest before serving. I think it's best kept simple with something like green veg and boiled potatoes but I've got nothing against gravy if you'd prefer to make some.


  1. Being Welsh, I'm very partial to Welsh ingredients. I know the Welsh Food Centre in Bodnant as my stepson lives nearby. Have some lamb in the freezer, sadly not Welsh, but will certainly use this rub.

    1. At my age it shouldn't come as a surprise but every time I go to Wales it always seems to be a revelation just how beautiful the place can be and just how good the food and produce is. In fact, it seems better every time I go.

  2. We built a house in the Beacons National Park. Abergavenny wasn't far and this is a real paradise for great food. Went to their first Food Festival, and now it's grown so much and attracts great chefs and producers. There's a brilliant smokery and cheesemaker and even a vineyard. Have you tried Y Fenni cheese?

    1. I haven't tried Y Fenni but it's now definitely very high on my list of food I've really got to eat especially since it seems that I don't have to go back to Wales to buy some.

  3. We had slow roast shoulder of lamb for dinner nearly every Sunday when I was a child, in the days when we had our dinner at lunchtime, decades before slow roasting was the fashionable way to do it and not only that but Derbyshire lamb from the butcher in the village. It was always served with mint sauce made fresh using mint from the garden.
    We would need to take a second mortgage to afford to eat like that every week now, Derbyshire lamb being a treat rather than an everyday food.
    You're right about the herbs. I like dried herbs and use them a lot. Forking out for those packets of expensive fresh herbs that you throw most of away is not my idea of living well on a pension.....being pensioners now! But dried parsley - yuk, it tastes of nothing pleasant!
    The rub sounds lovely, will try that next time we're feeling flush enough to get a half shoulder of lamb !!

    1. Yes we quite often had lamb when I was growing up, although we did have to make the Sunday roast last until Tuesday. We didn't have a garden but I found a local playing field that had mint growing in one corner and it used to be my job to make fresh mint sauce using a very blunt knife. It nearly put me off chopping for life.

  4. I do agree there are times when dries herbs cement their own, but sadlyI always end up with out of date jars in the cupboard as I use them so seldom. I love lamb and rosemary but have never used honey on it. Sounds delicious and I will remember this for the future. Unfortunately good lamb is not easy to come by here in Shanghai but will be returning to Scotland next year so lamb will be back on the menu.

    1. I found a few astonishingly out of date jars in the cupboard recently so I know what you mean. I was told that the use of honey on lamb (and other meats) was a very ancient method in Wales, but don't ask me to prove it.


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