I grew up in a family that valued good food, good wine and most imporantly, time together. Celebrations as a family always centred around food and wine. Always. There was no exception.
The food shared was always delicious and wine would always be enjoyed as an element to be savoured and discussed between stories, laughter and inevitable food-related moans and groans.
I didn't realise how lucky I was in those moments. Don't get me wrong - I loved every bit of it - but looking back now I am so greatful to have all of those memories of our family with mum in her absolute element. Of dad matching and talking about wines... and most of all the little moments and things that turned out to be part of the development of a life-long love of food, wine, family, travel and life in each and every one of us.
Visiting dad in Far Northern NSW for his birthday this year was no exception to this unsaid 'rule'. We had to have good food and knowing his collection... we would definitely be having good wine. The company... well, it was always going to be great. I'm surrounded by wonderful people.
The inspiration for this particular meal, besides the birthday celebration, was the beautiful local butcher (Alstonville Quality Meats) and the meat they had available. A fresh lamb shoulder was boned in front of us... this was the start of a great meal.... and so the produce hunting began.
Slow-roasting was a must, but a run of the mill roast with gravy and vegetables just wasn't going to cut it. I needed something with a bit more personality... I have a thing for salsa verde, so it was the catalyst of the food created for this little family feast!
This is a wonderfully tasty meal to share and would work just as well in a BBQ during summer, served with a green salad.
Now... THAT has given me some ideas already...
Slow Roasted Spanish Lamb Shoulder
2.5-3kg boned lamb shoulder
2 onions halved
Extra rosemary sprigs
2L chicken stock
Red wine vinegar
2-3 large sprigs fresh rosemary, remove leaves
1 cup basil
4 cloves garlic, peeled
4-6 anchovies fillets
2 tsp anchovy oil
Sea salt and pepper to season
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley (optional extras - some fresh mint and basil)
4 anchovy fillets
1-2 tbsp capers, drained
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled
1-2 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
Red wine vinegar
1 lemon, for a squeeze of fresh juice
Sea salt and black pepper to season
Lemon Fennel Potatoes
1kg roasted potatoes, peeled and halved
Lemon Fennel Salt
Zest of 2 lemons
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tbsp sea salt
In this recipe you'll need to have a pestle and mortar and also a food processor.
Preheat your oven to 150-160 degrees celcius before you begin preparing the lamb.
1. Lemon Fennel Potatoes (STEP 1 and 6-7) - In the pestle and mortar put the fennel, salt and lemon zest. Smash and grind until it is well combined. It should look like a yellow tinted salt or sand. Put this aside in a separate bowl for later and clean the mortar bowl.
2. Slow Roasted Spanish Lamb Shoulder (STEPS 2-4 and 8) - Line a large/deep baking tray with baking paper. Place the halved onion in the middle (the lamb will rest on this to act as a buffer between the lamb and the tray) and sprinkle with the extra rosemary sprigs around the tray. Score the lamb shoulder, as shown, and place it on the onions.
3. Herb Rub (STEP 3) - Place all of the herb rub ingredients into a food processor. Add a dash of the olive oil and a light crack of salt and pepper. Process everything, adding more olive oil if necessary so the misture becomes the consistency of a thick paste. Once it is at this point, remove the blades to wash (you're going to need the processor again for the salsa verde), and spoon the paste onto the lamb. Massage the paste into the entire top and sides of the lamb shoulder, including the incisions made earlier.
4. Slow Roasted Spanish Lamb Shoulder - Pour the chicken stock into the base of the baking tray, from the side so you don't wet the lamb, and add a little swig of red wine vinegar. Place the lamb into the preheated oven for 2.5-3hrs, basting every hour-half hour. In the last 30 minutes of cooking time, baste the lamb again and crank your oven to 200-220 degrees celcius to form a crisp caramelised top. Take out of the oven and baste before resting for 15-20 minutes prior to slicing or 'pulling'/shredding.
Keep an eye on your lamb from 2 hours onwards. Some ovens are better at retaining heat than others. If your lamb isn't looking as though it's cooking much/at all, raise the temperature by 20 degrees until the last 30 minutes.
You can use the juices to create a gravy or jus if you like.
5. Salsa Verde (STEPS 5) - Once the lamb begins cooking, place the first 4 ingredients from the salsa verde into the pestle and mortar with a small dash of olive oil and 2-3 cracks of salt. Smash and grind these ingredients until they resemble a rough wet paste. Transfer the mix to the food processor and add the dijon mustard and 1/4 cup of olive oil. Process for a short time until the mixture becomes a sauce-like consistency. Remove the blades. Taste the sauce and then add small dashes of the red wine vinegar and a light squeeze of lemon juice to suit your taste. These will lift the original flavour and keep the salsa verde from discolouring. Season to taste. Set aside in a serving bowl.
6. Lemon Fennel Potatoes - Approximately 2 hours before the lamb if due to be removed from the oven (about 30-60 minutes after cooking begins), par-boil the potatoes. This should take 15-20 minutes (from cold water to par-boil). Prepare another baking tray with baking paper while waiting, making sure it's big enough to spread the potatoes out into one layer. Once they're ALMOST cooked, drain the potatoes and return them to the saucepan, placing it on a low heat. This assists in drying out the excess fluid from the bottom of the potatoes. Shake the pan as you do this to 'rough' up the exterior of the potatoes. Only do this for about a minute, then turn the heat off and don't worry if a few break apart - this will lead to better crispy bits later!
7. Add a good drizzle of olive oil to the saucepan and toss again to coat the potatoes. Spread the potatoes over the baking tray and sprinkle the Lemon Fennel Salt over the top of them - be generous, but not too generous. Place them in the over with the lamb, which should have about an hour of cooking time remaining (half of which will be at 200-220 degrees celcius). Remove, toss and sprinkle with more Lemon Fennel Salt after 30 minutes - before cranking the heat of your oven for the final 30 minutes of the lamb. After removing the lamn for resting time, remove and toss the potatoes again. Sprinkle with the Lemon Fennel Salt again and check whether the potatoes are getting crispy. If they ARE: return them to the oven at the same temperature while the lamb is resting. If they ARE NOT, either turn you oven to FULL HEAT, or switch to a MEDIUM grill, and return the potatoes. Watch to ensure they don't burn in this final 15-30 minutes (shorter if you've chosen to use the grill). If using the grill ensure your oven door is open. Once the potatoes have coloured and have a slight crisp crust, they're ready and can be placed in a serving dish.
8. Slow Roasted Spanish Lamb Shoulder - While waiting for the potatoes to finish, the lamb should finish resting (15-20mins). Once ready, carve slices or tear the lamb into chunks, place on a serving dish and drizzle with some juices. Top with some of the Salsa Verde and leave the rest for the table.
Place the lamb and potatoes in their serving dishes, accompany with fresh greens, some crusty bread and take it all to the table to devour with your loved ones... AND don't forget the good wine.
Make sure you take the time to soak up the love and good times around you when you're enjoying this meal. You never know how much those 'little things' will mean to you one day!
On the night we enjoyed this meal we were spoiled and had a Rockford Basket Press Shiraz... it was amazing. Of course. We're lucky enough to have a Stone Wall-er (Stone Wall Society Member) amongst us! Obviously not everyone has that luxury, so I would suggest a:
- Barbera, Tempranillo or Shiraz during the cooler months, or
- Rose as the weather warms up.
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