Sunday, May 02, 2010

Italian Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Potatoes & Olives

I'm a big fan of the slow roast, though perhaps I do have something of an ulterior motive. It gives me time to get on with other things (which this Sunday unfortunately meant studying), yet means I can create a delicious tender and well flavoured Sunday roast without having to spend as much time and effort creating it as you might think. This Sunday it was lamb again, but given an Italian twist through the combination of a few recipes.

I rarely if ever follow one recipe, but I guess I'm experienced enough in the kitchen to combine them, picking up their various strengths whilst adapting them to suit what I have in the house and what it is I'm trying to cook. I do have an extensive library of cookbooks, well over 100 now, ranging from small pamphlets produced by local groups like the WI (that's the Women's Institute for international readers) to huge tomes like McGee's On food and cooking and the Italian classic The Silver Spoon. I absolutely love cook books, but much prefer scouring old book shops and charity stores for them, as opposed to buying new ones. I've found some wonderful gems that way, for example the fabulous Time Life Good Cook series.

But back to the slow roast. The tradition of slow roasting like this on a Sunday apparently goes back to the days when villages like mine used to have a communal bakery. Bread of course is traditionally baked very early in the morning, and needs a very hot oven. As these village ovens cooled people often used to bring their meat to the bakery and use the residual heat to cook their Sunday lunch, whilst they went off to Sunday church. Of course the longer you cook a slow roast the more tender and moister it gets (up to a point that is), leading to the idea that the longer the sermon in church the better your lunch would be! Not being a religious person myself, I tend to head to the pub (my favourite local The Lamb in Silverton) rather than the church, but at least I'm supporting some sort of local institution that way. I'd recommend the Dob's Best Bitter in particular, though that may be a bit biased again, seeing as the Exe Valley brewery who make it are based in my village.

I'd chosen a shoulder of lamb from Crediton Farmers market courtesy of Higher Hacknell farm this week, and picked up some waxy potatoes there from Linscombe as well. I knew I had some black olives knocking about at home, so decided to re-do an old recipe from Antonio Carluccio's Italian Cooking, but with a nod to Fearnley-Whittingstall's Meat Book and a touch or two of myself thrown in for good measure. Basically what you need is this - black olives, waxy potatoes, shoulder of lamb, onion, rosemary:

The ingredients ready to combine

Put all this together in a deep roaster, add plenty of seasoning, and toss together to make sure it's all well coated:

Everything ready to go in the oven

Roast in a hot oven (220ºC) for about 20 minutes, then turn down to about 150ºC for another 3 hours or so. Timings not too critical, you've got a fair bit of leeway either way with this sort of cooking - enough for a pint at least. I did baste it once during this time, but it's not imperative. One small note - I don't use my fan oven for this, I use a conventional oven. I find the fan is too hot and tends to dry things out too much with it's constant convection.

Eventually you should end up with this:

Everything cooked and ready to serve

You'll probably need to pour off some of the fat, depends on the meat. I used spring lamb this time around wish isn't very fatty, so only poured off a very small amount, but later in the season they'll be a lot more. Then straight out onto the plate and enjoy!

Flavour wise it's pretty strong, and if you don't like olives then you won't like this. It will depend to a certain extent on the olives themselves though as they tend to dominate - these were particularly strong, even a bit strong for me if I'm honest, but still delicious none the less.

We had a primo with this, something B cooked up with Ricotta, left over home made paste and chives from the garden - it was wonderful, really light and tasty. If you're looking for a light supper in the heat this would be the business I reckon - but that's probably another blog post :-)

Primo - home made tagliolini with a ricotta and chive sauce

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