Very slow roasted shoulder of lamb with merguez spices

Food & drink
Very slow roasted shoulder of lamb with merguez spices

A shoulder of lamb is a hefty cut, but it’s cheap and it goes a long way.

This method leaves the lamb falling apart, tender from the best part of a day in the oven.

It’s very satisfying and relaxing to know that something great is happening in your oven at home whilst you’re out doing mundane things.  My mind often wanders towards the slow cooker or low oven at home when I’m trapped in dull meetings at work, talking round and round in circles yet again.  They can keep their little empires and office politics – I’ll have my roast lamb instead.

Toast a teaspoon each of cumin, coriander and fennel seeds together in a dry frying pan with a teaspoon of black peppercorns and half a stick of cinnamon until they start to take on some colour and smell exotic.  Grind the spices to a rough powder in a pestle and mortar or old coffee grinder.

Add a good pinch of cayenne pepper, two teaspoons of smoked paprika, two teaspoons of salt, two finely chopped cloves of garlic and the finely chopped leaves from couple of large sprigs of rosemary.  Mix together well.

Add enough olive oil to the spices to create a sticky but loose paste.

The spices add a pungent North African feel to the meat.  These are the same spices used in the Muergez sausage, popular in Libya, Tunisia and Algeria, although I’d hazard a guess that the proportion of cayenne is a lot larger in North Africa than here.

Next, prepare the lamb.  With a sharp knife, score the skin of the lamb in a diamond pattern, cutting no more than a couple of millimetres into the flesh.  Rub half of the spice paste into the meat, massaging it in well.

Roast the joint for half an hour at 220C, then use a spoon to spread the rest of the spice mix over the top of the meat.  Add a glass of water to the roasting tray to get the juices going, and cover the tray with foil.

The initial hot half hour just gets the cooking going and gives the meat some colour.  It’s an essential part of the HFW theory of meat roasting.

Turn the heat right down to 120C and leave to cook for at least six whole hours.

Very slow roasted shoulder of lamb with merguez spices

After this time, the meat should be falling off the bone, so just tear it into chunks.  Lamb shoulder is a joint that can’t really be carved with any elegance, so just hack away.

The lamb will be tender and delicious, warm and quite irresistible.

The pan juices are spicey and hot, and should be served poured over the meat.  Eat with something green – cabbage, broccoli, that sort of thing, and some roasted squash or potatoes.  This lamb is also superb stuffed into a pita bread with some salad.

This recipe is from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Everyday.