Kinda feel like I'm winning at Sunday. By 11:30 am I had been to the shops, cleaned the bathroom, mopped the floors and had a roast in the oven. We had our friends Amy and Marty and their two adorable children Noah and Nina around for lunch, and we needed something low maintenance enough to allow us to turn the disastrous filth we'd been living in into a presentable apartment. Somehow, we did it. But this is the magic of a roast. Once it's in the oven, you can walk away.
I'd never roasted lamb before, so I referred to my very old edition of the Woman's Weekly Complete Cookbook, or as Leith calls it, my book of women's tricks, and it informed me that I should roast lamb on a rack over a tray (to allow the fat to run off - don't worry, you'll use it later!) in a moderate oven for 25 minutes for every 500 g of meat. So that's what I did...
- shoulder of lamb (mine was 1.2kg)
- olive oil
- fresh rosemary
- salt and pepper
- assorted Winter vegetables (beetroot, carrot and onion in this case)
- duck fat (can be found at bourgie produce stores and butchers)
- fresh mint
90 mins before you want to eat: I always start a roast with the potatoes. They are non-negotiable in any roast dinner, and need longer in the oven than any of the other bits, and really blast them on a high temperature to get them going. So set your oven to 200 degrees and peel and chop the potatoes and put them in a bowl. Put about one large teaspoon of the duck fat in a ramiken and microwave it for 30 seconds or until completely liquid and translucent. Then pour this over the potatoes and add a generous amount of salt and pepper, and toss them until evenly coated. Put in your oven tray, scatter a generous amount of fresh rosemary over them and put the tray into the oven.
Next, prepare your shoulder of lamb. Take a large clove of garlic and cut some chunky slices from it. Then make deep incisions into the meat with a sharp knife and jam that garlic down in there. Make a rub using good olive oil, lots of sea salt, roughly chopped fresh rosemary and chopped garlic. Using your hands, smear this all over the lamb, getting into all the crevices. Pour any remaining oil and stuff the last bits of rosemary into the incisions with the garlic. Set up an oven tray over a baking dish, so that the lamb doesn't sit in its own fatty juices and crispens up.
75 mins before you want to eat: Turn the oven down to about 180 and put the lamb in on the higher rack, moving the potatoes down to a lower one. With a 1.2kg piece of lamb it will need to be in there about 1 hour and 15 mins.
Now prepare your vegetables by peeling and roughly hewing them. Add a few whole cloves of garlic in their skin. Put them in the same bowl you used for the potatoes and follow the same process. Then add them to the tray your potatoes are in.
Now walk away for an hour and maybe clean the floor.
15 mins before you want to eat: Put your peas in a pot of boiling water. Finely chop a bunch of fresh mint leaves. When the peas are done, drain the water and mix the mint through them in a serving bowl, with a knob of butter on top that can melt into them.
When the meat has been in the oven the requisite amount of time, take it out and slice right into the middle to check it's sufficiently cooked. If you err at all to under or overdone, err towards under, as it will continue to cook a few minutes longer even once it's out of the oven. Place it on a plate and cover it in foil to help retain the heat.
Now take the tray that has caught the lamb fat and put it over a hot plate. Add about two cups of boiling water and several spoonfuls of Gravox or powdered stock (I cheat, I love Gravox, it makes excellent gravy - lord knows what's in it but in this case I'm prepared not to think about it). Bring it to the boil and stir it down until it starts to thicken to the degree you want. After a few minutes, pick up the plate the meat is resting on and pour all the blood/juice that has drained from the lamb in this time into the gravy as well. Keep stirring at a boil another minute or two.
Then take your vegies from the oven and serve! I have one enormous platter I like to serve roasts on, and a matching bowl that is the perfect size for peas. And the best bit of all this roasting? Lamby leftovers to make killer sandwiches for work tomorrow. Brilliant.