Monday, January 11, 2016

Slow Roast Lamb Shoulder

Roast Lamb - I just love it!  It's not massively popular in Malta (the local "haruf" available only for a very short time at the start of spring, the rest all imported), however it is an institution both in Australia and where i'm living now, UK (Sussex).  All of England, 50% of the total land in fact is used for pasture here in the UK, meaning that by far, the sheep and cow industry is the one that takes up the most space here.  I've seen sheep in the most unlikely places, right on top of Wales' tallest mountain, down the road from our house, randomly walking down the road with some ponies through country lanes.  This land is full of sheep!

Went to our local butcher, who happens to be a fantastic butcher who sells really good quality small stock farmed animals.  

The lamb he had that day was some local lamb that had just won a prize at the show.  YUM!  Bought half a shoulder with the mind to have delicious roast, and then make shepherd's pie with the leftovers. This is the kind of meal that you prepare  and kind of just forget about.  It's a perfect Saturday night dinner (esp if you've just brunch at lunchtime and are quite hungry!).  I like to make it on Saturday, and make a shepherd's pie on the Monday night - most of the hard work is already done! :) 

Just like most of my recipes, I always look to the internet and my cookbooks for inspiration.  When it comes to shoulder, low and slow is most definitely the way to go!! (Ah! the rhyming! it burns!) It's super simple and you will have fantastically flavoured, tender and juicy all the way through :) This recipe is a mix of one of Jamie Oliver's, Mary Berry's, James Martin and a few other tidbits around the web.  To be fair, they are all very similar recipes so just go with what you feel is best :) 

This feeds 4, or 2 plus leftovers for another meal.  For a larger piece of meat, you will need a longer cooking time, maybe up to around 4 hours?  But I've also cooked  whole shoulder for 2.5 hours like this and had it almost fork tender! :) 

Slow Roasted Lamb shoulder

1 x half lamb shoulder (or a whole if you have more people to feed!)
Fresh rosemary
Fresh garlic cloves, peeled (not chopped) 
Fresh pepper
Sea salt
Lemon zest
Olive Oil

Preheat the oven to maximum (mine goes up to 250C)
Stab little cuts into the lamb with a sharp knife and dot the meat with garlic and rosemary sprigs.  If the garlic cloves are too large, slice them length ways so that they fit into the holes. 

Chop up a bit of extra rosemary, zest one lemon, add to a small bowl.  Add some EV Olive oil, salt, freshly ground black pepper, stir.  

Spread mixture all over the lamb.  Place on roasting rack and place some hot water (not enough to touch the meet, just enough to catch the drips and make a gravy) in the dish below. Sprinkle some extra salt and pepper (trust me, the more salt on that fat, the better!!)

Place in oven for 30 minutes, until the fat is looking a bit bubbly, then turn down to 160 and roast, basting with juices and topping up the water every now and then (topping up with water will stop the dripping meat juices from burning, plus also will leave you with a flavoursome meaty liquor for a lovely gravy!) 

A half shoulder will take between 1 and 2 hours after the initial 30 minute blast to be ready.  It's not an exact science, and the shoulder meat is also quite forgiving after a low slow cook.  I cooked mine for about 1.5 hours this time, and it pretty much fell apart without the need for too much knife carving.  You can choose to use a meat probe to ensure that all the meat has reached a certain temperature, or just go with your guts.  It's important when cooking this way to understand that it will be super tender but also quite well done, even though the centre will still have a pinkish tinge, it's most definitely not medium or rare!  If you prefer your lamb to be medium rare, then your'e better off with a different cut like a rack of cutlets! :) 

Once the meat is cooked through,remove from the oven and wrap in foil, keeping in a warm spot.  Rest like this for about 15-20 minutes.  

I normally use these 20 minutes or so to prepare make the gravy, and finalise side dishes.  This time I was serving the lamb with Potato Gratin (recipe to follow), crunchy kale chips and steamed spinach :) and mint sauce! 

Roasting juices from pan
salt, pepper, chicken stock (to taste)

Place the roasting pan on the hob on a low heat, scraping until all the stuck bits get unstuck into the liquor.  Add a bit more water if it's too thick, and really stir it all around ensuring that it's all mixed through.  Strain all the gravy its into a small saucepan through a sieve.  Turn on the heat to a gentle simmer.
In a separate tiny bowl, mix 1 rounded teaspoon of cornflour with a bit of cold water to make a smooth liquidy paste.  Pour this in to the gravy, whisking as you pour it in.  Bring back to a simmer and stir until it's reduced and thick enough.  season to taste :)  You should have a lovely dark brown strongly lamb flavoured gravy :) 

Once ready to serve, pull bits of lamb off the joint with a fork, using a knife to help you through if needed.  

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