I can’t really remember the last time I wrote a recipe so quickly. The problem is not the recipe itself; it’s the intro which gives me grief many times. The thing is I just cannot bring myself to publish anything, in this case a recipe, without saying something about it. It does happen sporadically – I just start to ramble on, and after that you may get a teeny weeny paragraph at the end. That’s called writer’s block. Oh, those dreaded words…a creative slowdown, the loss of a deadline or the ability to produce new work, as Wikipedia defines it. The nerve! In my case, listening to Ed Sheeran isn’t helping. (Fans please note: this is not his fault. Of course.)
An Easter feast would not be complete without an impressive piece of meat at the center of the table. For me it just has to be lamb. For me, lamb was an acquired taste. It has a powerful overwhelming flavour and I don’t like to eat it regularly. Although this meat is very popular in Mediterranean countries, I don’t think it’s cooked often enough in Maltese kitchens. Beef is still numero uno, followed by pork. When I was a child roasts were a huge part of my life. Given the British influence on my country, I do think that kids my age grew up with Sunday roasts. Family tradition was important and in this the Maltese are very Mediterranean. We still believe in having lunch and/or dinner together at the table, though this ritual is also undergoing a gradual demise, together with other familial traditions. Unfortunately major celebrations like weddings, Christmas and Easter are the only few occasions where families still get together. Yet, there is hope…
I never roasted or braised anything other than chicken before we came over to the UK. This is only because of that one haunting phenomenon that stops us from doing whatever we want to do: fear. When I started this blog I knew I had to overcome my kitchen anxieties. I have so many more I want to conquer! But I didn’t know where to start. Since there are so many recipes for lamb, I had no idea where to start. My confusion disproportionately grew, until I found the one that broke the irrational cycle. You say drama, drama, drama. I say Oh-God-I-will-burn-the-whole-thing-with-the-kitchen. That’s fear for you.
James Tanner, one of my favourite chefs, has an easy recipe for a braised shoulder of lamb in Takes 5. I wanted to replicate the exact same recipe. As it happens I had to make some changes. (I still used the essential ingredients and recipe from the book as inspiration. His method is a bit chefy and I wish I did what the recipe said but I took some shortcuts.) As a result of my usual and still unexplained absentmindedness, I bought a boneless shoulder, instead of one with the bone in. So the cooking times went all wacky on me, but after the crisis was averted, I was happy with the result. And even happier with the eating, of course. This is what I did.
- 1.5 kg boneless lamb shoulder
- 1 tablespoon of regular olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 2 large onions, thickly sliced
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 10 large garlic cloves, left whole and unpeeled
- 200ml a good robust red wine
- 300ml vegetable stock
Preheat the oven to 230ºC. Rub the lamb shoulder with regular olive oil, salt and pepper, and place it in a hot cast iron pan, on top of the sliced onions. Put the pan in the oven and cook for 30 minutes, uncovered. Remove from the oven and take off any excess fat.
Now reduce the temperature to 175ºC. Add the dried thyme and garlic cloves to the lamb, together with the red wine and vegetable stock.* Cover the pan and cook for around 1 hour, or until the lamb is pink in the middle.
As with any roast meat, let it rest for a while before carving on a warm dish covered with kitchen foil. If you want to make a thicker gravy I would stick with James amount of wine, i.e. 500ml.* I will eventually try the full recipe and get the bone in cut. After all, the meat next to the bone is more tender and tastes better. I did like the boneless shoulder though and will come up with a stuffing to go with it. In the meantime buon appetito and Happy Easter.