Friday, 29 March 2013

Honey-Roasted Lamb

Not two weeks ago I was preparing to share my take on a traditional Sunday roast with my parents, who had flown over from the US for a visit.  After living abroad for nearly seven years now I continue to marvel there are still new and interesting pieces of the culture to experience and share.  This particular spring lamb roast seemed to cover several of those categories and was really a treat to share with my family.

Firstly the lamb.  Lamb is so commonplace in the UK that I had forgotten it's nearly 'exotic meat' status in the US.  Growing up in the Midwest of the US whenever my friends and I would take a road trip we loved to keep ourselves entertained by playing our favourite (made up) car game "Cows on Your Side, Cows on My Side".  No seriously.  There was a point system and everything.  Cows are like pigeons in corn country- they are EVERYWHERE!  Nowadays on road trips outside of London this game has had to change it's face slightly to "Sheeps on Your Side, Sheeps on My Side" in order to ever have a shot at winning a point (two if you shout 'hey sheep' and it looks at you).   These little clouds of wool are more commonplace than cows here, so much so that no one bats an eye when they end up on the dinner table.  

The second reason for my efforts was to acknowledge the mainstay of the Sunday Roast in the UK.  Originating possibly from long Sunday mornings spent in church families would put their joint of meat or bird in the oven before they went off to Sunday services, and find it cooked and ready to be eaten upon their return.  This idea has since evolved over time.  Sunday roasts now represent a nod to British tradition, time devoted to family and friends, letting go of work and relaxing.  Leftovers from this hearty meal often make their appearance in various other forms during the busy work week as an economic and easy way to make the indulgent lunch affordable.

Lastly this meal served as a wonderful multicultural/anthropological tie in to parts of varied backgrounds which make up my family.  Lamb is a traditional Easter and springtime dish.  This week we've indulged in both chocolate bunnies and matzoh ball soup as we attempt to show our daughter all the wonderful traditions she's a part of.  Yes, we are cherry picking the best of our backgrounds.  Frankly who in our unique position wouldn't?  And if you notice in the photo the lamb was enjoyed with a side dish of noodle kugel.   That's right, cherry picking.

Roast Lamb Shoulder with Herbs and Honey
Adapted slightly from Valentine Warner
Serves 4-6

1.5kg/3lb shoulder of lamb, fat trimmed (slightly less is required if joint is boneless)
Contents of 4 bags of camomile tea
1 bunch fresh thyme, leaves only
4 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves only
12 sage leaves, roughly chopped
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 lemon
1-2 tbsp runny honey
125ml/4fl oz water to start
olive oil
sea salt
fresh pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
With the tip of a sharp knife, make shallow scores through the outer layer of skin and fat of the lamb shoulder, but not into the meat, cross-hatching the entire surface.
Mix the dried camomile, the thyme, rosemary, sage and oregano together in a bowl. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Press a handful of the herb mixture into the skin of the lamb, massaging it in well all over the flesh of the lamb.
Sprinkle some of the herb mixture across the bottom of a casserole with a lid. Place the lamb into the casserole, then squeeze the lemon juice over the top, before sprinkling with any remaining herb mix.
Drizzle the honey over the top of the lamb and pour over a little olive oil.
Pour the water into the casserole, then put the lid on. Transfer to the oven and cook for 3 hours. Check the dish after one hour - the lamb should be taking on a little colour. If the water has evaporated, add a little more to maintain the dish's moisture.
After the 3 hours cooking the lamb meat should pull away easily from the bone.
Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 4-5 minutes.
To serve, using a knife and fork, pull large pieces of meat away from the bone and arrange on a large serving plate. I served mine with honey-glazed roasted carrots and beets, mustard and mint sauce on the side.  Drizzle the meat with any pan juices and allow guests to help themselves.