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Parthian Lamb

Parthian Lamb

Roasted leg of lamb, based on two Roman recipes in Apicius (8.6.8 and 8.6.10). This recipe is a great reenactment of what the Passover Sacrifice might have looked and tasted like during the Second Temple period, in Judaea.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Roman
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 3 hours 20 minutes
Servings 6 people



  • 5 lb Lamb Bone-in Leg
  • 500 ml White Wine
  • Olive Oil Extra Virgin
  • Coriander Ground
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper Coarse Ground


  • 10 oz Prunes Pitted
  • 4 Onions Large, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Wine Vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Savory Ground
  • 1 tablespoon Asafoetida Ground
  • 4 tablespoons Olive Oil Extra Virgin
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper Coarse Ground



  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare to place the lamb on a roasting pan rack inside the roasting pan.
    Leg of Lamb on Roasting Pan Rack inside the Roasting Pan
  • Rub the leg of lamb on both sides with olive oil. Then rub with salt, black pepper and ground coriander. The spices will stick to the olive oil and should cover the whole leg.
  • A bone-in leg of lamb will roast to medium rare in about 18-20 minutes per every pound. So if your leg of lamb weighs 5 pounds then it will roast in total for 1 hour and 40 minutes. You should weigh your leg of lamb and adjust the timing according to its weight.
  • Place the lamb on a roasting pan rack inside a roasting pan with the fat side up and place in the center of the oven.
    Leg of Lamb - Rubbed and Basted in the Center of Oven
  • Baste the whole leg in white wine.
  • Roast the lamb at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes on regular bake mode without a fan.
  • After 15 minutes, reduce the temperature of the oven to 350 degrees F. Continue roasting the lamb for another 1 hour and 10 minutes.
  • Every 20 minutes baste the leg in white wine. Make sure to cover the whole leg with wine. There is no need to flip the leg over.
  • Check the internal temperature of the lamb every 20 minutes with a thermometer by poking it in a few places. The internal temperature you are trying to reach is 130 - 135 degrees F, which is medium rare. If you like your meat cooked to medium then keep roasting until the temperature reaches 145 degrees F. The timing specified in this recipe is for medium rare.
  • For the last 15 minutes of roasting turn the convection feature of your oven on so that the fan will run. This will crisp up the fat on the leg. If your oven does not have a fan, then just ignore this step.
  • Roast the lamb for 5 minutes with the fan on. Then take the sauce that you prepared by now and cover with it the whole leg of lamb. Roast for the last 10 minutes with the sauce on the leg.
  • Measure the internal temperature of the lamb before taking it out of the oven and make sure it has reached 130 - 135 degrees F for a perfect medium rare.
  • Remove the pan with the lamb out of the oven and let it rest for 15-20 minutes.
    Parthian Lamb
  • Carve the meat of the lamb, slice and serve with the roasted sauce.
    Parthian Lamb - Carved and Served with Sauce


  • As soon as you placed the lamb in the oven begin making the sauce.
  • Place the pitted prunes inside a bowl with warm water. The exact temperature of the water is not important. This will allow the prunes to soften and plump up, which will make them cook a lot faster. Keep the prunes soaking for at least 30 - 45 minutes. The water from the prunes will turn brown and the prunes will become a lighter brown color and soft, which is normal.
  • Finely chop all four onions into small cubes. Do not worry about the fact that it may look like you have too many onions. They will cook away in the process and you will need them to make enough sauce to cover the whole leg of lamb.
  • Take a large sauce pan and cover the bottom of it with olive oil. Saute the onions in the pan while constantly flipping them with a wooden spoon for 15 minutes.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of savory, and 1 tablespoon of asafoetida to the onions, and saute for another 15 minutes while constantly flipping the mixture.
    Sauce - Sauted Onions
  • Remove the prunes from the water and add them to the mixture in the sauce pan. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and saute the mixture for 15 minutes, while constantly flipping it with a wooden spoon.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of wine vinegar, and saute the mixture for another 15 minutes while constantly flipping it with a wooden spoon. Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • After about 30 minutes of sauteing the prunes should start to disintegrate and become a mush. The onions will becomes very soft a mushy as well, although they will not disintegrate. The sauce will be done when this mushy consistency is achieved.
  • Make sure the sauce is completed at least 10 minutes before the lamb, so that you can place the sauce on top of the lamb as described in the previous section.


The original Apicius recipe called for liquamen, a classic Roman fish sauce. Since I am allergic to fish and cannot make or eat liquamen I have substituted it with wine vinegar. For a more authentic taste use the following ingredients:
  1. Retsina wine from Greece, which is fermented in pitchers covered with resin, as the original Roman wines were, instead of oak barrels. The Romans most prized wines were from Greece. A good brand of Retsina wine is Kourtaki which is sold in many wine stores in the US, such as Total Wine and Bevmo.
  2. Wine vinegar from Spain, either Sherry or Sweet Moscatel, which have a stronger taste, or Sweet Pedro Ximenez vinegar, which has a milder taste. All of the above mentioned vinegars are made based on recipes closer to what the Romans would have used. A very good brand of Spanish wine vinegars is Los Villares, which can be purchased in Whole Foods Supermarkets throughout the US.
  3. Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Greece, especially Crete. Just like wines, olive oil taste varies based on the variety of olives used and the region where they were grown. The Romans imported the majority of their olive oil from Greece, which was considered to be of the highest quality. A few different brands of Greek olive oil can be purchased in Whole Foods Supermarkets throughout the US.