A bloody lamb steak is all well and good, and the lamb chops at Tayyab are indeed the stuff of dreams, but what really, really gets my juices flowing is lamb cooked long and low, ’til the meat melts from the bones. Plus, not having a tandoor handy at home, slow-roasting a shoulder or braising a brace of shanks is a far surer route to domestic bliss.
I was planning an idle bank holiday lunch a few weekends ago – one where we could sit and gossip at the table for hours, sloshing back buckets of wine. The food needed to be sensational – I have a reputation to uphold, after all – but it also needed to be effortless. I had a hankering for lamb and kinda fancied a roast, but was also wedded to the idea of a midday matinee at the Ritzy, so any last-minute pfaffing was out.
Trawling through a mountain of recipe books in search of inspiration, I hit upon just the thing, Nigella‘s warm shredded lamb salad with mint and pomegranate. It proved to be a wise choice. Not only for the aforementioned reasons, but because my lunch guest was feeling so seedy after the night before, she didn’t turn up ’til suppertime. The lamb was none the worse, merely needing a quick blast in the magic box to get the fat back up to lubricating temperature.
Now, a word about cooking times. The domestic goddess bungs a 2.5kg shoulder in a 140C oven overnight, using a roasting tin tented with foil in which to cook it, suggesting 170C for five hours if you’re cooking it the day you intend to eat it. My shoulder was considerably smaller – 1.3kg – so I used a lidded cast-iron casserole instead, and cooked it at 170C for three and a half hours. I used the same amount of water – I could have cut the quantity but liked the idea of having readymade stock for a sticky risotto the following evening.
1 shoulder of lamb
1 onion, quartered
6 cloves garlic
1 carrot, halved
1 stick celery, halved
500ml boiling water
small handful freshly chopped mint
On the hob, brown the lamb, fat-side down in your chosen roasting dish. Remove when nicely browned across its middle and set aside while you fry the veges, sprinkled with salt, gently for a couple of minutes.
Pour the water over and replace the lamb, this time fat-side up. Let the liquid in the pan come to a bubble, then put in the preheated oven.
About an hour before you want to eat, remove the lamb from the pan to a large plate. To finish the salad, pull the lamb to pieces, sprinkle with more salt and the fresh mint, then cut the pomegranate in half and dot with the seeds from one of the halves. Squeeze the juices from the other half over the salad and it’s done.
Confession time. I’ve been meaning to try this for years, and once I had, I couldn’t wait to do it again. I ordered another shoulder the very next day.