Cookbook Confidential Cookbook Club – Sue Loncaric reviews “Nothing Fancy” by Alison Roman

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‘Nothing Fancy’ Yogurt Marinated Leg of Lamb with Spicy Fennel & Sumac

I’m delighted to provide another review for the Cookbook Confidential Book Club, hosted by Bernadette from New Classic Recipes.

Our selection for this month was ‘Nothing Fancy – Unfussy Food for Having People Over’ by Alison Roman.  In the past I enjoyed collecting cookbooks however having downsized we don’t have the room. I had not heard of Alison Roman, here in Australia so I did some research and discovered she is an American food writer, chef and internet personality.

The first sentence in the book explains ‘This is not a book about entertaining’.  A note written to herself ‘Roasting a nice chicken for people is such a good way to say, ‘I love you’”, articulates what the book is about.  It is about using our time ad resources to feed people we care about as an expression of our love.

‘Having people over’ rather than ‘entertaining’ adds a much more personal effect to the gathering and also takes the pressure off having everything perfect.

The book is broken up into 5 parts – snacks, salads, mains and sweet things and there are a variety of recipes in each section.  Recipes serve 6 and can be doubled if required. They are super easy to make and Roman has three tips:

1.     Ask for help

2.     Pick your battles – serving different foods that all need to be hot at the same time should not be one of them

3.     Never apologize for mismatched plates and wineglasses or if dinner is a little late.

It is all about enjoying the company of your guests at home – it’s not a restaurant so don’t put the pressure on yourself.

My husband’s birthday was coming up so I decided to make a special dinner for him and selected the Yogurt Marinated Leg of Lamb with Spicy Fennel & Sumac. The photo in the book looked impressive and perfect for a celebratory dinner served with Sweet Potato Mash and Steamed Broccolini. We both enjoy Fennel and Lamb plus I had discovered Sumac in a previous Confidential Cookbook Selection, Chris Kimball’s Milk Street Tuesday Night’s Mediterranean so it was a ‘no-brainer’. 

There were several recipes I wanted to try including the Salted Honey Panna Cotta which is on my list for one of my Home Restaurant Date Nights.

The recipe serves 8 to 12 so we had left overs which I think tasted better the next day!

Yogurt Marinated Leg of Lamb with Fennel


4½ to 5½ pound bone in leg of lamb (2kg – 2.5kg)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup fennel or cumin seeds finely crushed, plus more for serving
2 cups full-fat Greek yogurt, plus more for serving
6 cloves garlic, finely grated
¼ cup fresh oregano leaves, coarsely chopped, plus more for serving
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more for serving
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
2 large fennel bulbs, thinly sliced and divided
2 cups fresh parsley, cilantro, and/or mint, tender leaves and stems
Ground Sumac (optional)


1.     Using a sharp paring knife, score the lamb about ½ inch deep every few inches or so.  These incisions will help season the meat deeply and cook more evenly. 

2.     Season lamb with salt and pepper and sprinkle with fennel seed, making sure to get everything into incisions.

3.     Whisk yogurt, garlic, oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, olive oil and ¼ cup lemon juice in medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper.  Smear yogurt mix thickly over the lamb making sure all areas are covered. Let sit, lightly covered with plastic wrap at room temperature for 1 – 2 hours or overnight in refrigerator.

4.     Preheat oven to 300ºF (150ºC).

5.     Scatter half the fennel on the bottom of a large roasting pan, season with salt and pepper.  Place lamb on top of vegetables, fat side up.  (If braising, add 2 cups of water to the bottom of the roasting pan and cover tightly with foil).

6.     Roast without opening door about 60-90 minutes or until lamb registers 115º to 200ºF (60º – 90ºC).  If braising, continue cooking until lamb is tender and falling off bone approximately 3-3½ hours. Remove the foil).

7.     Increase the temperature to 450ºF (230ºC) and continue to cook lamb about 20 – 25 minutes more or it has reached 120º -125ºF (48º-50ºC).  This step is to brown and crisp the outside of the lamb.

8.     Remove from oven and rest for a few minutes then carve

9.     Combine remaining sliced fennel bulb and 2 tablespoons lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and crushed red pepper flakes. Add herbs and toss to coat.

10.  Place lamb on large platter and scatter with fennel mixture, adding extra fennel seeds and sumac.   Drizzle with olive oil and flaky salt and serve alongside extra yogurt.


  • Lamb can be roasted or braised (covered)
  • I had to convert from Imperial to Metric
  • I also converted the servings to suit 2 rather than 4 – 6 (although this would reheat well for another meal if you want to make the full quantity).
  • Fennel is part of the carrot family although grows above the ground with a thick bulb.  You can use the feathery leaves for garnish, cut the bulb and serve with olive oil as an antipasto or roast.  Fennel seeds can be used and the plant produces a yellow flower.
  • Sumac is a popular Middle Eastern spice which is related to the poisonous shrub by the same name.  the culinary variety is safe to use and has vibrant red berries. I played it safe and just bought it in the herbs and spices section of the Supermarket. 
  • I preheated my fan forced oven to just lower than recommended temperatures
  • Lamb can be marinated 24 hours ahead, loosely covered and refrigerated.
  • Serve with vegetables or it would be delicious in a bread roll 

✰✰✰✰✰ – The recipe was relatively easy to make and the ingredients readily available at my local supermarket or already in my pantry.
✰✰✰✰✰ – The meal tasted delicious with strong flavours and I would definitely make it again. I roasted mine but I could easily see the recipe as a slow cook or braising as suggested in the recipe. It is an easy dish for a dinner party as once it is in the oven it basically cooks itself.

Mike enjoyed his birthday dinner and now wants a repeat!  

Would I buy the cookbook?

There are several recipes that I have bookmarked so yes, I would probably buy the Cookbook or at least borrow it from the library regularly.

About Sue

Sue Loncaric is an Australian Over 50 lifestyle blogger, certified health and life coach for women, and the founder of Women Living Well After 50.  She is a qualified Personal Trainer & Group Fitness Instructor and takes classes for Over 50 Women in the Strong Healthy Women Virtual Studio. 

In 2020 Sue fulfilled a dream of starting the Conversations with Women Living Well After 50 podcast, interviewing and sharing stories from women who are Living Well.  

Sue is passionate about living a full and active life in Midlife & Beyond. Her mission is to encourage and inspire women Over 50 to live a fit, fabulous, healthier, and happier lifestyle by guiding them to realize their full potential.

Sue’s motto is ‘Make it Happen because life is too short to wait”.

Sue currently co-hosts three link ups:

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You can connect with Sue through the comment section below, or via her Women Living Well After 50 Blog and social media.

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Thank you Sue for this excellent review. I hope you will all take some time to visit Sue Loncaric, She is a passionate blogger who writes about women’s health and wellness on her site “Women Living Well After 50.” She focuses on topics ranging from fitness and nutrition, to mental health and aging gracefully. She also provides practical tips for women who are looking to improve their overall well-being. Sue’s writing is both informative and inspirational, and she is known for her positive outlook on life. Women of all ages can benefit from her insights and advice.

5 responses to “Cookbook Confidential Cookbook Club – Sue Loncaric reviews “Nothing Fancy” by Alison Roman”

  1. Retirement Reflections – Vancouver Island, BC – Prior to retirement, I lived and worked in Beijing China for fourteen years (Middle School Principal/Deputy Director at The Western Academy of Beijing). Leaving international life behind, my husband and I retired to Vancouver Island in June 2015. To document both this transition and our new adventures, ‘Retirement Reflections’ was born. I hope that you enjoy reading these reflections, and will be willing to share your own.
    Retirement Reflections says:

    Hi, Sue – This looks and sounds like an amazing birthday dinner. Mike is a very lucky man (I know this goes both ways). Thank you also for the suggestion of the Honey Panna Cotta. I will definitely look that up!

  2. Okay, this sounds delicious! I have rarely met anything lamb that I didn’t love, and the spices mentioned here are all on my list of favorites. Fennel and cumin seeds are different enough that I would have trouble choosing and would probably end up doing half of each! Thanks, Sue, for taking time to test and review this one! Now I’m craving lamb…

  3. This dish sounds amazing, Sue and Bernadette.

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