Every body loves a Sunday roast don’t they? It is certainly a favourite in our house- in fact I think our youngest daughter would eat a roast dinner every day of the week if she could get away with it.
You know by now that I am fussy about my meat – I buy the best quality meat I can but, as that can cost a bit more, we don’t eat meat every day (veggie food tastes great too). I also like to know where my meat comes from; not just because of quality assurance but I love it when my food has a story of its own.
My lovely friends Joy and Mark have a beautiful and talented daughter called Robyn. Robyn is married to Will, an equally handsome and talented farmer, shepherd and fisherman. Now if this is all starting to sound a bit fairytale you need to remember that what this really means is that they are grafters; it’s a hard life being a farmer and the diversity is economically essential rather than romantic. Will works on his parents farm, the sheep are his own which affords him some independence and he sells his fish in the farm shop.
This particular lamb is from a Poll Dorset Lamb which was raised on the cliffs overlooking Gerrans Bay on the Roseland Peninsula. It was born in October (milder West Country winters allow for a late lambing) which means that it is generally younger and tastier than the standard Spring born lamb when it comes to market in time for Easter. Rob and Will also have a flock which lambs in February but the autumn born lamb extends the fresh British Lamb season quite significantly.
You will find New Zealand lamb in the shops all year round and it is significantly cheaper than British but it doesn’t taste half as good and it doesn’t support British farmers.
Rob and Will don’t sell their own lamb directly so you can imagine my delight when Joy turned up with some as a gift – I was as excited as a child in a sweet shop. We roasted a leg joint the following Sunday but I put the shoulder in the freezer for a few weeks until I could do it justice because meat like this needs to be treated with respect. When I finally made time to cook it I decided that the best way to get maximum flavour and tenderness from the shoulder of lamb would be through long, slow roasting.
The three classic flavours which complement lamb are garlic, lemon and rosemary but an addition that you might be less aware of is anchovy. A little anchovy enhances the lamb wonderfully without making it taste fishy (ok you might just have to trust me on this one) and I have included all these flavours in this dish. A good roast dinner needs a great gravy so I made my gravy using the juices from the roasting pan and lots of roasted garlic. Roasting garlic makes it sweet and almost caramel like with none of the sharp bitterness you find in raw garlic.
Unusually, for me, this was a roast dinner without roast potatoes but creamy mash was the perfect vehicle for making the most of the scrummy gravy. Add some seasonal vegetables and prepare for sighs of deep pleasure.
2kg Shoulder of British Lamb
2 or 3 large sprigs of Rosemary
3 Heads (Bulbs) of Garlic
3 or 4 Anchovy Fillets
Salt & Pepper
1 Pint / 1/2 Litre good quality Beef Stock
A Splash of White Wine
1 tbsp Redcurrant Jelly
1 tbsp Corn Flour
1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
Pre-heat the oven to its highest setting.
Chop the carrot and leek into large chunks, quarter the lemon, cut the garlic heads in half and place them all in a roasting tray with the vegetable oil – toss to coat.
Place the lamb on top of the vegetables and season well with salt and pepper. Cover tightly with tinfoil and place it in the oven.
As soon as the lamb is in the oven turn the temperature down to 170 C / 325 F / Gas Mark 3. Roast for about 4 hours. When the meat is cooked it should be so tender you can pull it apart with a fork – it won’t need carving.
Remove the meat to a warm plate, cover with foil and leave to rest in a warm place whilst you make the gravy.
LIft the vegetables out of the roasting tin and set aside. Spoon off any excess fat and place the roasting tin on the hob over a low flame. Blend the corn flour into the pan juices, add a splash of wine and stir well with a wooden spoon to pick up all the sticky bits.
Pour in the stock and return the vegetables to the roasting tin. Add the anchovies. Bring to the boil and mash the vegetables well to extract all the flavours. Make sure you squeeze all of the garlic out. Simmer for 5 minutes then strain into a pan. Stir in the redcurrant jelly and bring back to a simmer.
Taste the gravy and finalise the seasoning – decide if it needs a little more salt or sharpness or sweetness and adjust accordingly.
Serve the meat and gravy with mashed potatoes and seasonal veg.
NB Because I cook on a rayburn I normally hate recipes which say start with a high oven and turn the heat down. It takes about an hour for the temperature to drop! So I start with a high oven and then either put the meat in the warming oven while the temperature drops or I lower the heat, lift the lids and leave the door open ajar until the required temperature is reached.