Last weekend I fulfilled one of my (many) dreams. We spent two nights at Ballymaloe. It was under the auspices of a rather significant birthday happening next month, but really, it was an excuse to eat like gluttons and wash it all down with a fair amount of whiskey. And bake. In a world famous cooking school. With Rachel Allen herself. A foodie's dream come true.
I am currently planning our next visit. But in the meantime, I have a fair few meals to cook, and succulent spring lamb is now at its peak. I love Rachel Allen's recipe for Slow Roast Spiced Lamb Shoulder (from Rachel's Recipes for Living). Thanks to Rachel, I now cook my lamb uncovered for the whole four hours, allowing a beautiful dark crust to form.
I roast almost everything on a bed of fennel, onion and lots of garlic. Here, with the addition of red wine, it produces a rich and sweet jam to accompany the meat. This also saves me having to make gravy or any other sauce, which more often than not, sends me over the edge.
But, even if you are only cooking for a small number of people, please, do not look away. Make the whole shoulder. And once cooked, shred it off the bone, mix with the fennel jam below, and freeze the leftovers in smaller portions for dinner another time. Simply reheat slowly in a heavy saucepan once defrosted. So worth it.
Roast Shoulder of Lamb
Inspired by Rachel Allen in Rachel's Food for Living
Note: This is a great dish for a crowd, and I often make two. Leftovers are always a bonus
1 shoulder of lamb on the bone (approx 3.5-4.5kg/7 1/2-10lbs)
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
3-4 fennel bulbs (1kg/2 1/4lbs)
4 large yellow onions (600g/1 1/2lbs)
2 whole garlic bulbs, separated (but don't bother peeling)
1/2 tbsp dried chili flakes
1/2 tbsp sugar
80ml (1/3 cup) red wine vinegar
375ml (1 1/2 cups) red wine
Toast seeds in a dry pan until fragrant, about 5 minutes
Grind spices together in mortar and pestle and add a good pinch of salt, a few good grinds of pepper and olive oil
Rub marinade mixture into lamb and let it sit on the counter for an hour or so to let the meat come up to room temperature
Preheat oven to 220C (425F)
Thinly slice fennel and onions and place in the bottom of a large casserole or deep sided roasting tray with the garlic cloves, chili flakes, sugar, red wine vinegar and wine
Nestle the lamb on top of the vegetables and pour enough water into the pan so that it comes half way up the side of the joint
Place in the oven for 30 minutes
Turn down the temperature to 160C (325F). Continue to cook for 3.5-4 hours, basting every 15-30 minutes, until the meat is meltingly soft and the vegetables resemble a jam/chutney
It is a good idea to let it rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. It also allows any fat to separate and can easily be skimmed off the top
I like to serve this straight out of the roasting tray, pulling the lamb off the bone with a serving fork or a pair of tongs.