Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday Doubles: 'Open' Pot Slow Roast Lamb Shoulder with Leeks & Lemon Balm + Fast Roast Rack of Lamb with Rosemary

Sunday roasts can start to feel a bit samey eventually, and though I try and be experimental I often fall back to the old favourites. This Sunday though I was definitely feeling a bit more experimental, so not only decided to try some new ideas out but also to do a double roast with lamb both fast and slow.

I first had this at River Cottage, and loved the idea of tender slow roast lamb falling off the bone at the same time as tender pink juicy lamb with crispy fat. Sure it's a bit more work to do, but the slow roast pretty much takes care of itself once it's in the oven so you're not slaving in the kitchen all morning.

I've been experimenting with slow roasts in particular at the moment, and am working in an idea where the meat is pushed into a deep roasting container (I use a big Creuset pot) on top of various vegetable and herb flavourings. This keeps the more tender ingredients from burning, and helps the meat steam and roast at the same time keeping it really moist without losing that lovely crispy fat. I've done a fair bit of this with lamb recently, so was looking for something unusual, and as I gazed out my kitchen window my eyes came to rest on the Lemon Balm ...

The ingredients for the slow roast

Lemon and lamb are good bed fellows, but the lemon balm would be too light by itself, so I went for that other stalwart with lamb, leeks. The method's quite simple:

  • slice 2 leeks an average thickness, put them in the bottom of a deep Creuset pan or similar, add a little olive oil, salt & pepper, and toss together.

  • add a very generous bundle of lemon balm, criss crossing the leeks to cover.

  • rub the shoulder of lamb with a little more olive oil, season well, and then squeeze it on top. It must be a tight fit, so if necessary take a cleaver to any tricky edges, and then tuck whatever has been cut off in any holes.

Lamb tucked into the pot over the other ingredients

This then went into a normal oven at 150ÂșC for 4 hours. I did need to add a generous splash of lamb stock (water would have done) after about and hour and a half, as it was getting a little dry by then. You do need to keep a vague eye on it, but if you don't have the time just add the stock at the beginning of cooking instead.

Then there was the fast lamb. For this I managed to find a small rack, which to my mind is the best lamb for fast roasting like this. The butcher had chined the back, making it easy to carve later, so I squeezed a rosemary sprig in there, criss crossed the fat with a sharp knife to speed up the crisping, and seasoned well. Then into a very hot oven, I did it as hot as I could in mine, for only 20 minutes, plus about 10-20 minutes resting after.

The rack of lamb once cooked

Our broad beans, which we overwintered this year very successfully, are being very prolific, so we'd purposefully left some to get large with the idea to make minted broad bean puree. Didn't come out quite the way we wanted, a bit too loose I think, but tasty all the same. Also served this with buttered thyme potatoes, nice combination that.

The finished dish. You can make out what's left of the leeks on the left of the plate, they caramelised wonderfully. I didn't serve the lemon balm, that was just for flavour

The end result was a lovely combination of flavours and textures, and there's not much I'd change. Oddly enough I thought the lemon balm might have made it a little antiseptic, but in the end the flavour wasn't strong enough, so next time I'll add more I think. The leeks had caramelised so much they were delicious but powerful, so probably dominated the lemon balm a little - though not the lamb. That's a tricky meat to dominate!

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