If ever there was a weekend for this recipe, it’s this one. The rush and post-prandial fug of Christmas may be lifting, but there’s still an indolence in the air, a desire not to start anything new, or too energetic just yet. I, for one, cherish this inbetween week, when the world slows and nothing much seems very important. I can barely be bothered to dress let alone cook. Which is why, and when, this ‘forgotten’ lamb is perfect.
We discovered this in a restaurant in Burgundy, where the distinctly un-French flamboyant chef-owner, with huge Iris Apfel glasses and brightly patterned clothing (no bleu marin for her, oh no), explained that she rubbed a mix of whatever dried herbs and spices she had into a shoulder of lamb, left it for a few hours then cooked it in the oven, oublié, for about 24 hours at the lowest possible temperature, around 60°C.
I didn’t quite believe this was possible, until we tried it. Then tried it again and again and again. The lamb retains all its juices (the roasting tin is practically dry at the end, which when you first see it is a bit odd) and is thus incredibly moist; it is a really easy thing to serve for two or four and there always seems to be plenty left for a shepherd’s pie the next day. Truly it is the simplest most delicious thing and, once you get past the act of faith required to leave a piece of meat to cook at such a low temperature (after the first attempt we upped the dial to 65°C) and for so long, you will probably put it on repeat too.
You will need a thermometer (unless you absolutely trust your oven) so that you can check that the temperature remains steady but, other than that, all you need is patience. You could probably even skip the spices, if you want; I never have but I think it would still be delicious. Also, our herb mix has never stayed the same (we started with the Hawaij mix from the Palomar cookbook, a variation of which is listed below, but have gone off-piste since then).
And, though I would usually never suggest a recipe that requires days not minutes, I make no apologies for the tomorrowness of this because it involves no work apart from the shopping and a desultory mixing together of dried herbs and spices. You will have a main course for four, plus leftovers, without using much more than a pan. Serve it with some cannellini beans, or mash, and/or greens and enjoy the last laziness of the year.
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
cumin seeds, 2 tbsp
coriander seeds, 1 tbsp
cardamom pods, ½ tbsp
whole cloves, ½ tsp
ground turmeric, 1 tbsp
sea salt, ½ tsp
freshly ground black pepper, 1 tbsp
1 shoulder of lamb (about 2kg usually)
1. Lightly toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry frying pan until fragrant and tip into a pestle and mortar or food processor. Bash the cardamom pods to remove the husks and then add the seeds to the cumin and coriander. Add the cloves, turmeric, salt and pepper then grind or process to a rough mixture.
2. Rub the spices into the lamb, wrap in cling film or put in a plastic bag and leave in the fridge for about 24 hours.
3. When you are ready to cook, put a thermometer into the oven then preheat the oven to 65°C. Once it is up to temperature, unwrap the lamb, put it in a dish or roasting tin then cook for 24 hours, checking the temperature every so often. That’s it. No turning, basting, faffing or anything else. And, if you’re not quite ready to serve it after the 24 hours, a few minutes more, or less, won’t hurt whilst you prep stuff to go with it.