Thursday, 28 March 2013

Lemony Lamb Shoulder with Potatoes en Papillote

With Easter coming up, I thought I'd share one of my all-time favourite recipes for feeding a crowd, and a dish that appears in my cookbook. For over fifteen years this heavenly dish of slow-cooked, fragrant, fall-apart lamb has been my preferred choice for a feast. I used to serve it with rustling golden roast potatoes but, as it's very rich, these days I pack tiny spuds in baking paper well ahead of time, sling them in the oven and bring the packets to the table all puffed and golden and painted with cheering messages.

Lemony Lamb Shoulder with Potatoes en Papillote
Photograph by Michael Le Grange. Image © Random House Struik 2012.

A large bone-in lamb shoulder will feed six hungry people, but not eight, so I suggest you order two smaller shoulders, which will leave you with plenty of leftovers. If you have a second oven, you can bake the potatoes at 180 °C; they will take 30-40 minutes.

Paint a message on each parcel using a fine paintbrush or calligraphy nib dipped in soy sauce. If you're not confident about your penmanship, print out the words in a font of your choice, then lay the baking paper on top and trace them with a soy-sauced nib.

What I love about this recipe - apart from its sticky-skinned succulence and unbeatable aroma - is that you can prepare it well in advance and leave it to do its sweet thing in the oven while you skip through the meadow gathering Easter eggs.

Lemony Lamb Shoulder with Potatoes en Papillote

2 large shoulders of lamb, bone in, or 2 legs of lamb
12 fat cloves garlic, peeled
½ tsp (2.5 ml) flaky sea salt
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
3 Tbsp (45 ml) good-quality dried oregano
2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
2 large onions, peeled and sliced milled black pepper
1½ cups (375 ml) dry white wine, plus more for topping up
juice of 2 large lemons, plus more for topping up
2 bunches flat-leaf parsley, or rocket or watercress

For the potatoes:
2 kg tiny new potatoes
salt and milled black pepper
4 Tbsp (60 ml/60 g) butter
sprigs of fresh thyme
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
a little melted butter, for brushing

Heat the oven to 150 °C. Cut any large blobs of fat off the lamb. Finely grate six of the garlic cloves, place in a bowl and stir in the salt, lemon zest, 1 Tbsp (15 ml) of the oregano and the olive oil. Using a sharp knife, pierce the thick parts of the lamb (top and bottom) in 8-10 places, at a diagonal, to a depth of 3 cm. Push a little garlic paste deep into each cut and rub any remaining paste over the top of the joints.

Put the onion slices and remaining garlic cloves into a large roasting pan and place the lamb on top. Sprinkle with the remaining oregano and plenty of black pepper, pour in the wine and lemon juice and cover tightly with two layers of heavy foil. Place in the oven. After 3 hours, remove the foil, turn the heat down to 140 °C and switch off the oven fan. Season the lamb with salt, to taste.

Roast, basting now and then with the pan juices, for a further 1 hour, or until the lamb is brown and sticky and falling off the bone. Top up with more wine and lemon juice if necessary: the liquid in the pan should be about 1 cm deep.

For the potatoes, cut out eight circles of baking paper, each the size of a dinner plate. Prick the potatoes and divide them between the paper circles. Season with salt and pepper and add a knob of butter, a sprig of thyme, a sprinkling of lemon zest, and any other flavourings you fancy.

Fold each circle in half to make a semicircle and tightly seal the edges by making small, overlapping pleats all the way round. Brush the tops of the parcels with melted butter and place on a baking sheet. An hour before you’re ready to serve the lamb, place the parcels in the oven and bake for the remaining time or until quite tender.  Lay a bed of flat-leaf parsley on a large platter and place the lamb on top.

Cover with foil and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Pour the juices from the pan into a small jug and skim off the fat. Serve hot, with the potato parcels, and pass the pan juices round in a jug.

Serves 6 if you’re using one shoulder; 12 if you use two.

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Kit said...

Sounds absolutely delicious, love the falling off the bone stickiness you describe. Only how do you manage the potatoes at that low temperature if you only have one oven?

I love the idea of soy sauce messages on the potato packages - definitely a wow-inspiring party trick!

Jane-Anne said...

Thank you Kit. If you put them in the oven at 140 C an hour or so before the lamb comes out, they'll be done (depending, of course, on the size of the spudlets). Enjoy your Easter weekend my friend x

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