Growing on up on a New Zealand sheep farm, I have more recipes for lamb than you can shake a stick at. It is quite feasible that the only person who has eaten more lamb than me is Dad, simply because he has an extra 30 years experience. He prefers his lamb cooked more… simply… but he would certainly appreciate this herby version, one of the tastiest ways I have ever prepared a lamb shoulder. The inspiration came from Olia Hercules’ Kaukasis book, which details a recipe for spring lamb ribs, stewed in verjuice, herbs and spices. I’m happy to try anything, but not all guests may appreciate the sound of boiled lamb, so she kindly included a footnote about adapting the recipe to roast the meat. So in Hammersmith, the lamb was duly roasted, and it was perfect!
Don’t be put off by the amount of herbs included in this recipe. It’s fine that your lamb resembles lawn clippings before you cover it with foil. You will still get meltingly tender lamb without them, but you will miss a lot of the flavour. After 4 hours in the oven, the herbs break down and meld with the meat juices and a little vinegar to create a marrowy, flavoursome sauce, reminiscent of a warm salsa verde. This completely removes the need for gravy, which frankly does not go with this style of cooking anyway.
Served with the rice pilaf and tahini sauce as an accompaniment for the lamb and green vegetables, this recipe is a reliable source of delight at all times. I love it so much, I cooked it for 2 of us the other day. Check out my recipes to use up leftover roast lamb.
There are a myriad of herb combinations to use here – the main thing is you embrace the quantity of herbs. You can even use rocket, rosemary leaves, chives… but most important, don’t forget to chop up and use the stalks of the softer herbs, as they have excellent flavour. In this recipe, I have specified sorrel because it is the best, with a subtle lemony flavour that works perfectly here. It’s not the easiest to find, but if you can find it, use it!
Serves 4 or 5 very hungry people
- 1 shoulder of lamb, bone in
- 1 large bunch of sorrel (if you can’t find sorrel, use a bunch of tarragon)
- 1 bunch of mint
- 1 bunch coriander or parsley
- 1 leek, sliced in half lengthwise, rinsed and chopped (or a chopped bunch of spring onions)
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- Coriander seeds and Fenugreek seeds (if you can find them, they are at Indian supermarkets) – 2 teaspoons of each spice, toasted in a pan until fragrant, then ground in a pestle and mortar
- White wine or cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon
- Olive oil
- 1/2 Cup of water for cooking
Preheat the oven to 150 degrees.
First, toast and grind the spices as detailed above. Roughly chop the herbs and prepare the leek. Take out a trusty mini-chopper machine, or a food processor, for the next step. You can chop the herbs finely by hand otherwise. Dump the herbs and the chopped leeks in along with a good glug of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Blitz until mostly pulverised.
Put the lamb shoulder onto a large roasting tray. (Maybe put some foil down on the tray if you have one that is prone to sticking – it will make for an easier clean up later). Rub some olive oil into the lamb and sprinkle with more salt and pepper and the ground spices. Turn the lamb over so both sides are seasoned, but ensure the lamb is facing upwards to cook. Scrape out the contents of the mini chopper (the herbs) and arrange this on top of the lamb, then zest and juice the lemon over the top. Give it all a good rub so the flavours get all over the top of the lamb, including the sides. Sprinkle the vinegar over the lamb. This gives the most delicious tang at the end which I am grateful to Olia for suggesting as I would never have thought of this myself.
Pour some water into the tray, around the lamb. This will add moisture to the dish and stop the lamb from drying out. It will be gone by the time the cooking is complete. Tightly cover the lamb in foil. You will probably need two pieces of foil to cover the whole tray. Put the lamb in the oven and forget about it for 4 hours. Once it’s done, the lamb should be juicy and tender and cut away from the bone so easily you don’t really need to try.
I serve this with a rice pilaf to soak up the flavours, plus an Ottolenghi inspired tahini sauce to bring all the elements together. It is genuinely delicious, I hope you like this one as much as I do!
For pilaf, I have only one go to recipe, from Unami Girl. If you can’t beat it, I say repost it. The link is here.