Not many weeks go by when we don’t cook my bestselling dish of Braised Lamb with Aubergine and Apricot. Last week was no different and I duly collected 4kg of diced shoulder of lamb from our local butcher Steve [http://coxbutchers.co.uk] not thinking it would of course be new season lamb. Steve sources his lamb from local village Sandford where we used to live so you can’t really get more local! The lamb was so succulent, lean and tender that I was afraid it would fall apart with too much stirring! The resulting dish was even more gorgeous than usual.
Oddly enough, I never liked lamb when I was growing up. I think it was the mint sauce that put me off as it would normally be chops or roast lamb that was on offer. The smell of the mint sauce made me feel queasy but the rest of the family loved it – I remember my grandmother chopping fresh but even homemade, the smell put me off.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, when I met Martin, he invited me round for dinner which was quite something for a young man to do in the early 1980s. My heart sank when he said he’d cooked lamb chops! How was I going to get through the dinner without appearing rude or feeling icky? But, he astounded me by serving beautifully cooked lamb chops in a wine, cream and mushroom sauce, sautéed potatoes and green beans. And, no mint sauce in sight. I was a convert.
So with such lovely lamb available from Cox’s, I decided to treat the family to some Slow Roasted Shoulder of Lamb with a Mediterranean style Butter Bean Stew. One of my one pot wonders which is incredibly easy to prepare and healthy and satisfying to eat.
Here’s my recipe:
Slice 1 large onion, dice 1 carrot and 2 sticks of celery and put in the base of a deep-ish oven proof dish which has a tight fitting lid. Add some roughly chopped garlic, a glass (or 2) of white wine and some fresh or dried thyme and sit your lamb on top skin side up. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on the lamb, not too much, and zest and juice a lemon onto the lamb skin, adding the squeezed lemon pieces to the pan. Add a generous grind or three of black pepper, put the lid on and cook in a preheated oven at 170c for 3 – 4 hours depending on the size of the lamb. You can’t overcook it so timings are very relaxed. Check a couple of times during cooking to ensure it doesn’t dry out. Add more wine or a little stock or water if necessary.
Before the final 30-40 minutes lift out the lamb, discard the lemon pieces and stir a tin of chopped tomatoes and two drained tins of butter beans. Put the lamb back and finish cooking. Finally, add some chopped fresh parsley to the butter bean stew and serve. Absolutely delicious with the meat juices soaking into the butter beans.
So it wasn’t the lamb I didn’t like, it was what you cooked with it that put me off for years! I still never cook a traditional British roast lamb and, if mint sauce has anything to do with it, I never will.