I hate this time of year. The weather’s glum, it gets dark absurdly early, and waking up to a foggy view over very damp fenland full of dead things does not make me leap out of bed springheeled with happiness. It’s time for some summery spicing before I am driven to emigrate.
I’ve written about how brilliant slow-roast lamb shoulder is before – the meat becomes falling-apart-tender, all the fat renders out, and the skin becomes crisp and delicious. In this recipe, you’ll push tiny pieces of lemon zest and garlic into pockets in the fatty flesh before cooking, infusing the whole joint with sunny flavour. I accompanied the lamb with hummus (I blogged the very simple recipe last year), an idiot-proof tzatziki (no recipe needed here – I just stirred a handful of chopped mint into a tub of Greek yoghurt with a little crushed garlic and some pepper), roast pointy peppers and a spicy pilaf. This makes a fantastic supper dish if you have guests, as the hummus, tzatziki and peppers can be prepared well in advance. The lamb needs very little attention for the four hours it’s in the oven, and the pilaf is all cooked quickly, in one pan. To serve six, you’ll need:
1 lamb shoulder
Zest of 1 lemon, pared into strips
1 large bunch rosemary
5 cloves garlic, cut in half lengthwise
Using a very sharp small knife, make little pockets in the lamb shoulder just large enough for half a clove of garlic. Push a piece of garlic and a strip of lemon zest into pockets all over the joint. Lay the shoulder in a roasting tin on a bed of rosemary, skin side up. Sprinkle the skin with salt and place in an oven at 220° C for 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 170° C and roast for four hours.
1¾ lb basmati rice
4 pints chicken stock
6 large shallots
2 tablespoons butter
5 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon Ras-al-Hanout
2 teaspoons harissa
1 large pinch saffron, steeped in an eggcup of boiling water for 20 minutes
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 handful sultanas
Salt and pepper
1 handful chopped fresh coriander
Slice the shallots finely and sauté them in the butter in a large pan with a lid until starting to brown. Add the chopped garlic and all the spices except the saffron and harissa, and continue to fry for four minutes. Add the sugar and vinegar to the pan and simmer for two minutes until the mixture looks syrupy. Add the rice, stirring well to make sure it is well coated, with the sultanas, salt and saffron. Pour over the stock and bring to a fast boil, then immediately turn the heat down, put the lid on and simmer gently for 12 minutes. Stir the coriander and pepper through the finished rice.
Slice sweet red peppers in half lengthways (use pointed peppers if you can find them – they’re sweeter than bell peppers) and place an anchovy fillet and sliced clove of garlic in each half. Drizzle with olive oil, place a knob of butter in each pepper half, and put in the oven alongside the lamb for the last hour of cooking. These peppers taste their very best at room temperature, so take them out at the same time you take the lamb out, and leave them to cool as the lamb rests while you prepare the pilaf. The lamb will keep its heat as it rests, but if you place the peppers on a cold plate they’ll be the perfect temperature when it’s time to eat.