I have been wanting to share this recipe with you for a while. Well, it’s more of a technique really. A way to cook the best roast lamb ever. It requires no effort. None. Apart from actually going to your butcher and buying a leg of lamb or three, getting a roasting tray and some foil ready and turning on the oven. That’s it. And the results are worthy of any dinner table. Tender, moist, flavoursome lamb that falls away from the bone with the touch of a feather. The thing that makes this lamb so great, apart from the ease with which it’s cooked, is the time that it gives you once it is done. It will happily sit on the kitchen bench wrapped in foil and a beach towel for hours. YES really, while you, well, get ready for the party!
The thing about once having been a cafe owner is that you get to repeat tasks over and over again, and you become quite skilled at certain recipes. By making mistakes and learning from them, you get even better too and realise what works and what certainly does not. So having cooked lamb like this to fill wraps along with tabbouleh and minted yoghurt many, many times, the process has become second nature, but the results are no less memorable.
I think the whole process of cooking lamb for lengthy periods of time first started after reading Paula Wolfert’s recipe for Seven Hour Garlic Crowned Lamb in her wonderful book The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen. Again I read Alice Waters‘ thorough explanation of slow cooking shoulder joints in her book The Art of Simple Food and somehow combined the two accounts to create a method where I could put lamb in the oven just before I went to bed and then take it out first thing in the morning ready to take to the cafe with me to satisfy lunch time customers. The technique is well tested.
Preparing lamb in this way has also become a favourite dish with some of my regular chef by the sea catering clients. Perhaps because even though the meat in itself is a spectacular but understated main, it’s the perfect partner to such a wide array of sides. Complemented by smoky baba ganoush or piquant chimichurri, at home with roast potatoes or herby quinoa, side by side with shredded kale, barbecued corn or roast pumpkin, on a plate for lunch and in a roll for dinner. It’s a perfect entertaining staple. And I hope that it serves you well.
The best roast lamb ever
For this recipe, which is more anecdotal than a precise list of steps, you will need three things.
- A whole leg or shoulder of lamb, bone in.
- A deep baking tray
- Aluminium foil
Preheat your oven to it’s hottest setting, so somewhere around 250 C. My oven is like a furnace, which for some things is actually fantastic, like caramelising the outside of a joint of meat before leaving it to braise in a few inches of water for the day or overnight.
While the oven is preheating, place the meat in the baking tray and when the oven’s little light goes out to indicate the right temperature has been reached, pop your joint of meat in for 20 minutes.
When 20 minutes has elapsed, remove the meat from the oven and turn the temperature down to about 100 C. The first time you do this you may need to use an oven thermometer to calibrate the point where your oven cooks at the is temperature, because for me this heat is not actually any temperature indicated on my oven’s dial, but rather marked with a Sharpie from having worked it out many times before.
Before putting your meat back into the oven, fill the baking tray with about two inches of water and cover it tightly with foil. Now put it back into the oven and you can leave the lamb to cook anywhere from six to 12 hours.
Before serving the lamb, and I believe this detail to be just as important as the initial 20 minute heat blast, remove it from the oven and its baking tray, place it on a deep platter, wrap it in foil and cover it with a towel. I have even placed the lamb in a suitable plastic container and popped it in an esky to rest and keep warm. It will sit quite happily for a few hours and still be piping hot, but succulently moist when you come to serve it.
And to serve, simply use two forks or a pair of tongs and help yourself.