Tuesday, 25 June 2013

A spring dish for spring weather

It is the end of June now and the weather is best described as decent for a spring day. This is one of the worst weather years I can remember, and it has certainly affected my food choices. Light, summery ceviche and barbecued, spiced fish are nowhere to be found. I was eating winter food in March and April (when the temperature was rarely above 0), and so I shall eat spring food late this year. I am not missing a season. Lamb can lend itself quite well to summer; however this dish is spring lamb. The bitterness of the capers and lemon and the saltiness of the anchovies cut through the sweetness of the fat. It is a teasing dish, perfect for spring. The parsley, lemon and fennel offer an insight into summer flavours, but the sheer comfort of the fatty cut of lamb acts sternly as a reminder that we are not there yet.

Shoulder of lamb

For the lamb
- half shoulder of lamb, on the bone, skin scored
- a lemon
- large garlic cloves (minced), 3
- anchovies (drained), around 50g
- capers (rinsed), 2 tbsp
- parsley, bunch
- fennel seeds, half tbsp
- wholegrain mustard, tsp
- rosemary, a few sprigs
- sherry vinegar, tbsp
- olive oil, 2 tbsp

For the roasting tin:
- fennel, largish bulb
- garlic cloves, 6
- onions, 2
- vegetable stock, 250 ml
- water

The recipe uses a half shoulder of lamb, which weighs approximately 1.2 kg and serves around 4. If wanting to use a whole shoulder, then increase all ingredients for the lamb by about 1.5 times (twice may be a bit too much). Also, if getting a half shoulder, note how the joint looks on the photo - it is the half with the shoulder blade, and is a nice shape for roasting. The part of the shoulder with the foreleg hanging off doesn't roast well because of its shape, and tends to go dry and gristly (I learned this the hard way).

Start by finely chopping the anchovies, parsley, capers and rosemary. Add to a mixing bowl with the fennel seeds, mustard and garlic. Add the zest of half of the lemon, then chop the lemon in half and add the juice from one half. Slice the remaining half into thin slices and then into semi circles, then place to one side. Finally, add the vinegar and one tbsp of the oil, and mix well.
Coat a large, deep, roasting tin with the remaining oil. Place half of the mix in the centre of the tin (about the same shape and size of the shoulder), then place the lamb on top. Rub the rest of the mix onto the lamb and set aside for a couple of hours.
Uncover the lamb and preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Chop the fennel into largish chunks, and place around the lamb in the tin along with the onions (peeled and quartered), the garlic and the remaining lemon.
pour the stock around the lamb, along with enough water so the liquid is about a quarter of the way up the lamb. Cover with foil and place in the preheated oven. After 30 minutes reduce the temperature to 155 degrees and cook for a further 3.5 hours, removing the foil for the last 30 minutes. If at any point the lamb looks like it is drying out add a bit more water.
When the lamb comes out of the oven wrap it in foil and then a tea towel, and allow to rest for 30 minutes before serving.

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