Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder

Like all right-minded people I love the Spring, and daffodils, and lighter evenings, and being able to venture outside without gloves, but there is one problem with skipping blithely into British Summer Time. You see, I really love winter food. Yes, it can be miserable when it's cold and grey and slushy and you can't bring yourself to get dressed because that means losing body contact with the radiator, but there are compensations for our Northern climate and they come from the kitchen. A stew, or a sticky steamed pudding, or some roasted root vegetables, or a big hunk of roasted meat. Sausage and lentil casserole, or brussel sprouts with bacon and chestnuts. Mince pies, and anything with gravy (except mince pies, clearly).

So as gladly as I welcome the blossom and the sunlight, this is also the time for a final hit of sticky, stodgy food before the time comes for salads and barbecues and ice creams. This slow roasted lamb shoulder is the perfect compromise. The recipe comes from Jamie at Home (from the Spring section!), and it makes a glorious finale to a winter of feasting.

Now, I should warn you that the clue is in the name and this recipe is not going to be a winner after a long day at work when you're hungry RIGHT NOW. At the weekend, however, when you've got the whole of the Sunday papers to read and a sofa to sprawl on, this is a triumph. A tiny amount of prep is all that's needed before it does its own thing in the oven for four hours, filling your home with the most gorgeous smell with no effort whatsoever from you. 

I cannot even tell you how delicious it was and the memory is making my mouth water right now. The lamb shoulder is one of those trendy, thrifty cuts which needs long, slow cooking, but after four hours in the oven it fell into sweet, tender shreds, not too fatty but juicy and delicious. The gravy is deep and full-flavoured, with tangy pops of sourness from the capers which cut right through the richness of the lamb. Now on the subject of the capers, I must confess that Jamie says to soak, drain and chop them. I didn't see that part of the recipe until I'd added them straight from the jar, and the gravy still tasted amazing. I can imagine that cutting the capers up might help to disguise them from any caper-cautious guests, but otherwise I think you're fine being slapdash. If anyone queries it, just call it rustic, peasant-style cooking and change the subject.

We followed Jamie's serving suggestions almost exactly, dishing it up with mashed potato and carrots, some leafy greens (kale, which we stirfried rather than boiling), and adding some roasted celeriac. These hefty accompaniments were perfect - sweet, nutty, gravy-absorbent - but by adding lighter sides and maybe skipping the gravy, the lamb itself can be reprised throughout the warmer months. I already have my eye on some minted crushed peas and new potatoes, or Nigella's salad with pomegranate and mint, or some hummus, pitta and tzatziki for one of the only actual hot days of an English summer. 

But right now it's drizzling outside and I have goose pimples. It's time for the leftovers, the sofa, a blanket and the rest of the papers.

Slow roasted lamb shoulder
Serves 6

- 2kg lamb shoulder
- fresh rosemary (say 10 sprigs)
- a whole bulb of garlic, broken into invidual, unpeeled cloves
- olive oil, salt and pepper

For the gravy
- a tablespoonful of flour
- 300ml chicken stock (we used home made, smugly)
- 2 heaped tablespoons of capers
- bunch of fresh mint, chopped or torn into bits
- 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar

Preheat the oven as hot as it will go, and arrange half the rosemary and garlic on the bottom of a high-sided roasting tray. Slash the fatty side of the lamb, and rub a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper all over the meat. Place the lamb on top of the rosemary and garlic in the tray, add the remaining sprigs and cloves on top, and tightly cover the whole tray with foil. Put it in the oven and immediately turn the oven down to 170 C. Put 4 hours on the oven timer and go and put your feet up.

Four hours later, the meat is done if you can pull it into delicious-looking shreds with a couple of forks. Transfer the meat to a chopping board, covering it again with the foil and, according to Jamie, a tea towel over the top. 

While it rests, pour off the fat from the roasting tray (there will be loads - just be glad that you're not eating it) and put the tray on the hob over the heat. Sprinkle the gungy roasted-on bits and goo on the tray with the tablespoonful of flour then add the stock, scraping all the stuff off the bottom of the tray and stirring until you have a dark gravy. Bonus - this not only tastes amazing, but also minimises the washing up pain later. Add the capers, turn the heat down to a simmer for a few minutes, then add the mint and the vinegar, stir and decant into a jug. 

Shred the lamb and watch people fight for it.

1 comment:

  1. This chef is a STAR!!!!! Such facility with both words and saucepans is rare. Plus her parents are immensely proud of her!


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