Sunday roast: Rub for shoulder of lamb and a gravy
Photo by Kieran Scott
Our small family dinner table was grey — a mottled 1960s artefact with chrome trim and ultra-modern curved steel legs. On any weekday winter morning, it was a deathly cold slab. My bare forearms would hover above its ice-rink surface. I was sure my skin would stick to that Formica and steel table, trapping me there, inches away from my Milo and toast, keeping me from school and offering me up by default to do the washing-up.
At Sunday lunchtime, that grey table changed completely. The frosty slab was replaced with warm cream linen, stacked high with plates, cutlery and glasses. The kitchen would be warm and flooded with the smells of Dad’s roasting lamb shoulder or a freshly sacrificed chicken. Tall bottles of ale would be open on the bench and we kids would be piled among couch cushions and bedspreads dragged in from the dark tombs of our bedrooms. Everything was different on Sundays.
Normally gone by 6am with his shearing gang, my father would be in the house and my mother was, for one day a week, truly relaxed and happy. The kitchen was Dad’s domain on Sundays and he was a true master of self-sufficiency. After church, we would drag potatoes from the garden, knock the heads off cabbages and tear out winter parsnips, then clean and prepare them with Dad overseeing knife skills and cooking times. He would set to work, trussing and seasoning the meat and expertly stirring the gravy into a velvety, savoury wonder.
We all sat when we were summoned, prayed to a God-like provider, who I thought was "my father" not "Our Father", and had plenty of everything piled on our plates. We talked, laughed and ate. We were a family. Dad at the head of the table, with my mother directly to his left, his right arm free to fend off the flying food, spoons and glassware my youngest brother habitually cast about. My sister would sit next to my mother, following her lead, and the four boys occupied the rest of the modest table, with my older brother in the place opposite Dad whenever he was home from boarding school; otherwise it was my spot, where I’d stare right down the barrel of the man I most admired, watching him conduct his Sunday overture, gently touching the back of my mother’s hand to ask for the salt or gravy. I would rest my arms on that transformed kitchen table without fear of injury — content and happy in the heart of our Sunday lunch.
- Grind garlic, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, mint, olive oil and salt into a paste and massage into lamb. Cover and leave overnight in the fridge before cooking.
- In the roasting pan, once the lamb is cooked and resting under a shady tree, add wine to deglaze the pan scratchings. Dissolve cornflour in cold water and add to pan. Add ground coriander and chilli flakes and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir constantly until you have a nice gravy, adding more wine or water to suit if required.