Our nights are still cold here in Blighty and a meal like this is most welcome. It is a delicious arrangement of lamb and vegetables with very mild but wonderfully flavoursome spicing. Although we say it’s for two people (Brenda is extremely prone to large portions), we had plenty of leftovers and could have fed four!
1 shoulder of lamb (0.75kg)
1 whole but small head of garlic (6-8 cloves)
2 carrots, peeled and roughly diced
2 onions, peeled and roughly diced
2 ancho chillies
1 chipotle chilli
350ml full-bodied red wine
1-2 tsp redcurrant jelly
For the spice mix
4cm cinnamon stick
1 large branch rosemary, leaves stripped
1 tsp black peppercorns cloves
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 star anise
2 bay leaves
Maldon sea salt
courgette batons fried
handful of fresh coriander
1) Cut off any excess fat or sinew from the lamb. Rub all over with olive oil
2) Put all the spices for the spice mix in a dry frying pan and heat on a medium flame for about three minutes till things start to pop, the bay leaves are very nearly dry and everything is just starting to smoke and smell really fragrant. To stop the toasting immediately (you definitely don’t want the spices to burn), tip the contents of the pan directly into a pestle and mortar, and grind away for a good 3-5 mins till you have a powder – I actually sieved the grounds into a small glass bowl so that any stubborn bits of cinnamon or the stalk and central vein in the bay leaves which remained, would be captured in the sieve (and could be discarded), leaving a nice even, chocolate brown and superbly aromatic spice mix, to which I then just added a teaspoonful of Maldon sea salt.
3) Rub or sprinkle the spice mix all over the oiled lamb.
4) Break up the garlic head and bash the cloves to release them from their skins – a few whacks with a rolling pin is fine!! Scatter the chopped carrots and onions into the baking tin along with the bruised garlic, discard the stalk and seeds in both types of chilli and then tear or cut each chilli into four or five pieces and add to the tray. Put the wine in a jug and stir through the redcurrant jelly and than pour evenly over the baking tins’ contents, place the lamb on top and leave to marinate for four hours or preferably overnight, in the fridge and covered in tinfoil.
5) Heat the oven to 150°C
6) If cooking the same day, assuming a reasonably cool kitchen, you won’t need to have refrigerated the dish, but having marinated over night, allow it to come up to near room temperature by taking out of the fridge at least an hour prior to cooking – Brenda hates anything frigid in her oven……and although I know what she means, this is in fact mainly to allow the dish to come up to heat quickly once in the oven. Depending on the size of your joint, steam and braise away under its lovely tent of foil for around 3 1/2 hours, by which time it should be meltingly soft. Confirm this by how it looks and feels – by all means have a quick check at around half time and baste the met/veg with some pan juices if necessary, even topping up with 100ml water if it looks as if it might be getting a little dry, although this is unlikely if the tinfoil hat has been fixed on tight.
7) Lift out the meat, and place, covered, in a warm place to rest. Just before serving, don’t try and carve it, just break apart with two forks so you end up with something like pulled pork Meanwhile, whizz the contents of the roasting tray with a stick blender (or tip the entire contents of the roasting tray – minus meat - into the blender and process for a minute or two until you have a soft chilli and onion puree which will not be perfectly smooth) Warm through gently on the hob (either in the tray to save on the washing-up, or transfer to a saucepan). Add an extra teaspoon of redcurrant jelly and/or additional seasoning if required.
8) Serve with modest mashed potato (in other words, don’t go mad with cream and butter as the lamb is quite rich and the contrast will please the stomach) which can be mixed up with steamed spring greens. Best thing is a dollop (or smear if you’re being refined) of the chilli puree on a warmed plate, next to some neat spoonfuls of the spuds/greens mix, followed by the lamb piled onto the puree and all dressed with some torn coriander leaves. Enjoy!