Sunday, March 08, 2009

Slow Roast Lamb with Wild Garlic & Red Onion

Finlly, it's back - the wild garlic is here again!

We love a bit of wild garlic, and there's something quite special about the fact that it's abundant once more, something to do with Spring being around the corner, promises of being back in the garden again, salads, warm walks in the sunshine, and even swimming in the river. Much as I love the Winter, whether cosy around the wood burner or playing in the snow, I always get restless towards the end of any season, eager for the next one to start and with it a whole new set of experiences ready and waiting.

And what better to go with wild garlic than lamb. Moretonhampstead had a big foodie festival on Friday (the 7th), and amongst all the things we picked up was a very well hung shoulder of lamb. I do prefer shoulder over leg, but then I like my lamb well done on the whole and think shoulder works much better like this because of the added fat that keeps it moist. I do like rare lamb now and again, but if I'm going to do that then I almost always go for a rack instead of a leg.

We didn't know whether we'd get any wild garlic, as last time we checked two weeks ago there was none, but we popped down to one of our favourite spots and sure enough there was loads of the stuff coming up all over the place. It really is the most profilic free veg you can think of, and it's not as if you need much of it so it'll stretch for many a meal. If you're not sure where to find it then you need to be looking out around stream banks and other wet places.

A close up of wild garlic next to the waters edge. It's the big broad leaves, and has an unmistakeable aroma of garlic, very strong.

A wider shot just up from the water. This is very early in the season but you can already see just how prolific it is. Later on there will be flowers as well, nice to sprinkle into salads.

I love a lamb shoulder roasted very slowly, and for this one (5lb joint) I did it very simply, sliced up two red onions quite thickly and placed into a large roaster, seasoned and then two big handfuls of wild garlic leaves - no need to cut them at all (but the Italian will insist that I wash them :-) and then the lamb shoulder (on the bone as ever) on top of that, with a bit more seasoning. The idea is that the onion and garlic is mostly covered by the lamb to stop them burning, and in return they'll flavour the meat from the underside and cook down and become a sort of sauce for the meat. Then in a normal oven at 150°C for about four hours. At least that's the idea ...

Ingredients all ready to go.

Wild Garlic & Red Onion ready for the meat to go on top

... I did add a glass of white wine after an hour or two to keep it moist but then had to go and teach online for a while, and by the time I got back the onion and garlic had cooked a bit more than I had hoped so we only managed to salvage about a third of it for the meal, but it was exceptionally tasty. And the lamb? Lovely flavour, incredibly tasty, and the skin was so light and crispy, kind of like fresh lamb crisps. I think the best comparison is with crispy fried duck, as you get the same sort of tender meat and crispy skin. Next time I really must pack it into a smaller roaster so that there's less chance of over cooking the onion/garlic, and maybe add a bit more liquid too neat the end of cooking.

Needless to say we've now got bags of leftover meat to play with plus loads of lamb stock from the bones. I think I might take that whole crispy duck idea a bit further - I feel some pancakes coming on ...

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