I love this way of cooking lamb. It’s stupidly easy, requires very little preparation and is incredibly delicious. The slow cooking time allows all the bits in your baking dish to transform themselves into a tasty sauce without you having to do anything extra and, unlike a heavier winter braise, you are left with a delicate piece of lamb so soft that it falls apart almost by itself. The other clever thing about this recipe is you can easily use a larger shoulder of lamb without having to change the cooking time or ingredients.
- 2 brown onions, sliced
- 4 rosemary sprigs
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 litre chicken stock
- 1 lamb shoulder, bone-in (approximately 2 kg)
- 12 pearl onions, with stalks attached
- 8 small bulbs young garlic (see note)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Preheat oven to 150°C.
Place the sliced onion, herbs and chicken stock in a baking tray that is large enough to hold the lamb with a bit of extra room to add things.
Season the lamb shoulder very heavily with lots of salt and pepper and place it in the baking tray skin-side up. Cover the lamb first with a sheet of baking paper, then use a large sheet of foil to cover the top of the lamb and around the baking dish. Place in the oven and then step away, carry on with your life and forget about it for the next 6 hours.
At this stage there should be delicious aromas coming out of your kitchen. Prepare the pearl onions by trimming the tips, peeling off any outer layers of skin that look papery, and cutting the stalks a little but leaving about 6 cm of the green. If you are lucky enough to have found some bulbs of young garlic, cut the stems off and peel off the papery outer layer.
Pull the lamb out of the oven, carefully peel off the foil without burning yourself and lift the baking paper. Stop, admire your lamb and then scatter the pearl onions and garlic around the baking dish. Re-cover with baking paper and foil and bake in the oven for another 1 hour.
Again, carefully pull out the lamb, turn up your oven to 220°C or as high as it will go, un-wrap the foil and take away the baking paper. Back in it goes for the final half hour to give you a nice crispy skin.
Once it’s ready, the lamb should be so soft that all you need to do is tear the flesh away with a pair of tongs.
Serve the lamb on a platter with the pearl onions and young garlic, and the delicious melty onion sauce poured over the top. An extra drizzle of oil and a few turns of black pepper are also good.
Appropriate served with nearly any vegetable or salad that takes your fancy (see note).
• Young garlic isn’t always easy to find so if you are having trouble substitute 2 heads worth of garlic cloves peeled and left whole.
• Serve with some fennel salt and salsa verde for a bit of extra spring greenness. It would also be very delicious with a side of minted peas with chargrilled baby cos.
Photography by Benito Martin
Styling by Jerrie-Joy Redman-Lloyd
Top plate from Koskela; lower plates and salt dish from The Fortynine Studio.