Sisteron is situated at the foot of a deep gash in the rock created by the river La Durance , has always been known at the natural getaway to Provence, even by the Romans.
The old part of Sisteron is characterized by the twisting alleyways and houses with tiled roofs that are very typical of this part of France. There are numerous small squares with fountains and the trees provide a very pleasant shade. Another aspect to this small town is that Sisteron possesses one of Europe’s large abattoirs ( slaughter houses) for sheep and lambs. In peak season 2,000 animals are slaughtered here.
In the Hautes- Alpes, the blue sky often merges with the green of the pastures. The meadows are covered with white, peaceful looking flecks , resembling little stars.
A flock of around a hundred sheep grazes all day long on the thyme- filled grass. The lambs are scarcely more than a few days old when they accompany the flock up to the Alpine pastures. During the first three months of their young lives, they go up the high plateaux, feeding on their mothers’ good milk. The milk owes its special quality to the wild herbs contained in the aromatic Alpine grass that the ewes graze on.
The Prealpes breed of sheep has a somewhat elongated head, long, thin legs and produces only a small amount of wool. The quality and the tenderness of the meat produced by the lambs, however, are such that its fame extends, far beyond Provence’s borders.
A Sisteron lamb label does not exist as such, but meat from local animals, which have been bred accordingly to traditional methods, fed naturally and allowed to graze freely is given a red badge. The best way to appreciate the meat, which is virtually fat -free and tastes slightly of filberts, is to compliment it with a red wine from the south or southwest of France. For the traditional Easter lamb, a leg of lamb is roasted with rosemary, thyme, garlic puree or a clove. Beans are also a typical Provencal accompaniment. The Sisteron lamb is amazing and very tender, I got to taste it at a very well known restaurant ( La petite maison de Cucuron) in Cucuron.
Gigot D’Agneau ( Leg of Lamb)
( Serves 6 guests)
1 leg of Lamb, about 4 1/2 pounds / 2 kgs
3 sprigs of rosemary
Salt and fresh milled pepper.
Preheat oven to 480 F /250 c. Peel garlic cloves and slice. Make cuts in meat in several places, and insert the slices of garlic into the cuts.
Rub lamb lightly with oil and place in an oiled roasting pan. Add a glass of water & the sprigs of rosemary. Season the meat with salt & pepper then cook in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Reduce oven to 400 F / 200 C and cook the lamb for 25 minutes or more until ready.
* Carve into pieces and serve with a traditional accompaniment of fresh green beans garnished with chopped parsley.