28 September 2010

Six-hour lamb

Long cooked shoulders of lamb seem to be everywhere at the minute. And they sound like a wonderful idea for this time of year when each days seem noticeably shorter than the last - the cut is a bit cheaper than leg but still very meaty and palatable to those that don't like sucking and fiddling with bones to get their food. I got a half-shoulder from a supermarket and after browsing a few different recipes decided to go for a simple moist roast with lots of onions and garlic and a little white wine. The food went in to a low oven at about 1pm and the inclement weather meant I felt only a small speck of guilt at lounging at home and finishing watching Series 4 of The Tudors (err..).

For The Vegetarian a butternut squash and veg sausage toad-in-the-hole seemed like a good idea. I cut up the squash to roast and toasted the seeds with salt as a snack (forgetting to keep an eye on it and burning them in the process).

Every hour or so the lamb was inspected, prodded and puzzled over. Was it actually cooking at such a low temperature? Should I add more liquid? When, if at all, should I cover with foil? Would the onions be cooked, in fact should I have cut them into much smaller pieces?

As the hours progressed the meat was undeniably being cooked, but the great gusts of appetising lamb smells multiple blogs had promised me were not apparent.

Eventually everything seemed cooked and it was time to serve. I allowed the lamb a good rest of half an hour whilst the toad was being done.

It's very fatty lamb shoulder isn't it? I hadn't fully appreciated this. Big ribbons of stiff, opaque fat were all over the joint on both sides before cooking. It had been at least partially rendered during cooking of course, but in truth the grease of it was a little over-facing. It also tasted exactly like a normal piece of roast lamb. Bah! Am I doing it right? Maybe a full on braise next time: it's sure to become very moist and will allow a fat-skimming stage.


  1. hi oliver,

    with shoulder, firstly i've had best results cooking it on an oven rack above a dish on the shelf below, to catch the fat. then you've got to crank up the oven full whack to begin with, for about 30 mins, after which turn it down to about 140C for 4 hours or so. rest for 1 hour, and you should have a beautifully tender, crusty, moist, and not too fatty piece of sheep. turning the oven up full at the outset guarantees those exciting odours.

    enjoy! tim.

  2. Mate,

    I don't think you even need the rack.

    chuck onion garlic rosemary 1/2 bottle of white wine in a roasting pan. Rub salt generously into the lamb. Put the lamb in the roaster aside the onions. Cover with foil, with good seal, and roast for 5 hours at 130. Leave it alone. Take foil off for last hour and poke the heat up a bit for the joint/onions to brown up if they're not already. If you can't pick the joint up by the shank end without the risk of collapse, it's done. You should be left with well reduced caramalised juices & rendered fat. Strain off fat and you have gravy.

    The trick here is that under the foil the wine creates steam which renders 80% of the fat through the joint. A cantonese cooking method you may be familiar with.


  3. ...oh and bollocks to the vegetarian

  4. Ah, cheers guys, thanks for the tips. I think I need to try this one again as it is such a great dish when done proper. Will have another bash soon.

  5. I'm quite tempted to do with Mutton in fact.

  6. Oli,

    I favour a mixture of the two methods described above.

    Get it up to room temperature then rub generous seasoning, rosemary and olive oil in. Whilst the oven is getting up to a medium-high heat (190 should do it), sear the shoulder in a frying pan getting nice brown bits on all sides.

    Then, sit the joint on a trivet inside a large roasting dish then seal it all in with foil. Whack it in the oven then turn down to a lowish heat (130/140 ish). Go for a 3 hour walk so you're not tempted to touch it (or get stuck into some DIY as I did last sunday when a lamb shoulder was in the oven). Prep veg, yorkies, whatever, then take the foil off for the last 45 mins of lamb roasting. Keep the foil to re-seal it in whilst it rests for 30-40 min after cooking and you faff with the rest of the meal.

    Might give Clyde's steaming in white wine a go next time - have done similar with chicken before.


  7. Sweet ta, sounds good. I now have even more methods to try - can vouch for Clyde's good cooking!