Monday, June 15, 2009

Pot-roasted lamb shoulder

I once believed that the way to preserve tenderness in meat was not, as many people believed, to surround it in water or steam, but to roast it at a low temperature. I have since discovered that the temperature of my oven, at its lowest setting, is higher than the temperature inside a heavy casserole placed in the oven. This lamb fell off the bone. Serves 4.

1 half-shoulder of lamb
1tbsp sunflower oil
2tbsp white wine (or red wine) vinegar
1 head of garlic, separated into cloves
1 large onion, cut into chunks
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
1 sprig rosemary
2 bay leaves

In a heavy casserole, warm the oil over a medium heat. Put in the lamb, salted, browning it on all the sides it will rest on. The pan will get very hot; the trick is to turn down the heat if the oil threatens to burn, while still getting the meat to brown.

Pour in the vinegar, which may splutter and evaporate almost immediately. Tip in the garlic, onion, carrot, and herbs. Cover, and place in a gas mark S/130C oven, for three and a half to four hours.

Check on the progress from time to time. You want a very gentle simmer, and you may find that this low heat does not achieve it, at least at first. My smaller Le Creuset pan will respond to gas mark S; my larger one takes ages to warm up, and may require a gas mark 2/150C setting to achieve the same effect. You have to learn how your oven and equipment behave through trial and error.

Remove the lamb from the casserole on to a chopping board. Tip the vegetables and sauce, of which there may be a fair amount, through a sieve into a saucepan. Return the lamb to the casserole, cover it again, and return it to the oven. Squeeze the garlic from the husks into the sauce; discard the other vegetables. Simmer the sauce until you have a consistency and concentration of flavour you like. Check the seasoning.

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