Slow-cooked Shoulder of Lamb, Brown-Rice Pilaf with Broccoli
Spring has arrived, and my market basket reflects this. Bright leafy greens, ice-white fennel, bags of tomatoes and young root vegetables are being turned into soft risottos, simple salads and bold accompaniments for crispy-skinned roasts.
I have been enjoying the spring lamb - the tactile nature of holding a slightly charred chop between my fingers and nibbling away at the crusty edges is deeply satisfying. I have fallen in love with a particular cut, the shoulder. Sweet, flavoursome and a little fatty, it can be turned into creamy stews, chargrilled on a barbecue, gently braised with intriguingly aromatic spices or enjoyed as a Sunday roast.
Every now and again it's good to roast a joint of meat so slowly that the cooking aromas fill the house and the meat becomes so soft it can be pulled apart with a spoon. The juices won't run pink, but the flavour contained within the mahogany-hued pan liquor more than makes up for it. You could cook the lamb with the bone in, but it's easier to handle without. The nutty flavour of brown rice is a great accompaniment to something with such complex flavours.
- Three days before you want to cook the lamb, make a series of small cuts in the meat with the tip of a sharp knife.
- Strip the leaves from the rosemary stems and finely slice the garlic. Place the meat in a large container, then stud with rosemary and garlic. Pour over the oil, cover and marinate in the fridge.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place the meat in a casserole dish large enough to take all the vegetables. Roast the lamb in the oven for 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 160°C and remove the casserole from the oven.
- Cut the carrots, celery and leek into 3cm pieces and tuck them around the meat. Chop the onion in half and add to the dish. Pour the tomatoes, wine and stock over the lamb, cover with a piece of greaseproof paper and a close-fitting lid and return the dish to the oven.
- Cook slowly for 3 hours. Remove the dish from the oven and carefully lift the lamb out and place on a serving dish. Season it with salt and pepper. Strain the cooking juices into a small saucepan and discard the vegetables. Bring the juices to a simmer over a medium heat, then cook until the liquid has reduced and thickened. Carve the meat into thick slices and place on a serving platter. Pour the cooking juices over the top and serve.