Sunday 17 June 2007

Seven-hour lamb: fall-apart, sticky, garlicky, lemony heaven

This, like all the recipes below, is an archived copy of a recipe originally posted on my other blog, Salmagundi.

Feck, but it's cold outside. My jeans harden instantly into frozen blue cardboard when I open the front door to let the pup out for a poo. A black frost has withered every plant in the garden. Dogs and cats are piled outside the front door, looking suspiciously rigid, like a pile of hairy frozen logs. (Only joking: they're snoozing by the hearth, in front of the feeble glow that passes for a fire).

Anyway, all I can think about is soft, tender, fall-apart, garlicky roast lamb, even though it's half-past ten at night and I've already sconed, while having a drink with my friend Nina, half a ton of olives and 200 discs of garlicky, olivey, capery marinated mozzarella discs (from the Cheese Factory Shop in Strydom Park - one of the Seventeen Shopping Wonders of Johannesburg; watch this space!).

So this is what I'm going to make my family tomorrow night:

Seven-Hour Lemon & Garlic Lamb

1 big shoulder of lamb (ask your butcher for this), or a large leg of lamb
10 cloves of garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons good dried oreganum
Finely grated rind of 2 lemons
1 tsp coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, thickly sliced
Juice of 5-6 lemons
2 cups (500 ml) white wine

Pre-heat your oven to 220 C.

With a sharp knife, stab inch-deep cuts into lamb joint, at an angle. Ten stabs top and bottom will do. Now crush together the garlic cloves, the lemon rind, the oreganum and the sea salt, using a mortar and pestle, or a blender. Add the olive oil and mix to a paste. Using your fingers, stuff this mixture deep into the cuts you've made in the lamb. Rub any remaining mixture over the joint.

Arrange the onion slices in a deep roasting roasting tin, or oven-proof casserole dish, and place the lamb joint on top of them. Now put the dish in the oven, which should be blazing hot. Leave it for 20-30 minutes, or until the meat is nicely browned and the fat is starting to blister and bubble. Now turn the joint over, pour over half the lemon juice, and half the wine, and turn the heat down to 140 celsius. Leave to roast for another half hour, then turn the lamb skin-side up, cover tightly* with tin foil or a lid, and turn the oven down to 120 celsius. Cook for another four or five hours (depending on the size of the joint), topping up and basting frequently with lemon juice and wine. Don't allow the juices in the pan to boil dry - you want about 1 cm of juice at all times. After a total of seven hours cooking time, check the meat: you should be able to pull it off the bone with a fork.

Remove the lamb from the baking dish, put on a plate, cover, and allow to rest for five minutes. Skim the fat off the juices left in the pan. Now pull the lamb from the bone, using two forks, and toss it in the skimmed pan juices. Season with salt and pepper, and squeeze over the juice of half a lemon. Serve with roast potatoes** and veg.

* Note: There is a school of thought that says that lamb should not be covered during this slow-roast period (thanks, Michael-the-Greek). If you don't cover it with foil, it will have a lovely, sticky, lemony glaze, and a fantastic flavour, but it will be a bit dry on the inside.

** Note: Don't put the roast potatoes in the same dish as the lamb. An hour and a half before you're going to serve the lamb, parboil the pots in salted water for 10-15 minutes, or until they are soft and fluffy on the outside but still slightly 'cucumbery' on the inside. Drain off the water and toss the spuds well so they get fluffy and ragged on the edges. Now heat some fat (preferably the fat you've skimmed off the lamb, but olive oil if you're health-conscious) in a roasting tin or baking sheet, on top of the stove, until it's spitting. Add the parboiled potatoes, toss well to coat them in the fat, and put into a very hot oven (at least 190) for an hour or more.

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