This weekend, I had the time to slow-roast a shoulder of lamb. After scoring a series of shallow cuts into the meat, I covered it with a merguez-style spice mixture that included cumin, coriander, fennel, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, paprika, garlic, rosemary, salt, peppercorns and olive oil. Following an initial period (30 minutes) in a hot oven, it spent another six hours cooking very slowly at a low temperature (120°C / 250°F). The smell whilst it was cooking was incredible.
It didn’t need carving, and the meat – tender, moist, succulent – simply fell from the bone as I attempted to remove it from the tray, which was full of cooking juices that were perfect for making a gravy or sauce. It also didn’t need much in the way of an accompaniment, and went perfectly with some small roast potatoes and a light Greek salad. You can find the full recipe here.
Now, although I could dedicate a post entirely to this – fabulous – slow-roast shoulder of lamb, I also think it’s interesting to say something about what I did with the leftovers. I definitely wanted to do justice to the meat, but I was also looking to make something that was relatively simple. And I’m happy to say that this recipe did just that – making the most both of the lamb, and the store-cupboard ingredients (as well as a few fresh items) that make-up the bulk of the recipe. Although I’ve decided to call it a ‘ragoût’, I’m pretty sure that – strictly speaking – it isn’t one at all, given that ragoût is cooked more like a stew, simmering over a low heat for a long time. But I’m willing to argue that the original slow cooking process of the lamb itself does point this dish in that sort of direction. Perhaps ‘cheats ragoût’ would be an appropriate compromise?
Of course, it’s also possible to make this with fresh, uncooked lamb that’s been cut into large chunks (and I also think that it would be absolutely wonderful with rabbit). Before starting the ragout, just heat some olive oil in a large saucepan and add half the lamb – or other meat – frying until it’s evenly browned. Remove from the saucepan and put on a plate. Repeat with the other half. You can then follow the recipe as below, adding the meat back to the pan when instructed, and extending the cooking time to an hour, or until it’s really soft and tender.
Lamb Ragoût with Olives and Flageolet Beans
4 ½ oz dried flageolet beans, soaked overnight and cooked until tender (45-90 minutes)
If you don’t have time to soak and cook dried beans then use a can instead, but if possible choose a can with no added salt. This doesn’t mean that your final dish should have no salt, but it does mean that you can control the amount that’s added.
Enough left-over roast lamb for 2 people
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato pureé
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes (no salt added)
1 small glass red wine
300ml lamb or chicken stock
I had plenty of pan juices reserved from when I roasted the lamb and used those (skimmed of fat) along with a little water
A couple of thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to season
A handful of black olives
A small handful of parsley and mint, roughly chopped
Remove the cooked lamb from the bone. I like to ‘shred’ it into strips, which encourages it to melt into the ragoût when it’s cooking, but small chunks would be fine if that’s what you’d prefer.
You can then start making the ragoût by adding some olive oil to a large saucepan and frying the onions and garlic until softened and lightly golden. Add the tomato puree and fry for another two minutes. Add the lamb to the pan, pour over the wine and simmer rapidly for another couple of minutes. Pour in the canned tomatoes and stock, add the herbs, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Part cover the pan and simmer gently for 30 minutes, letting the sauce reduce and thicken.
Add the olives and the cooked (or canned) flageolet beans and simmer uncovered for a further 5-10 minutes until the beans have heated through.
Sprinkle the parsley and mint over the ragout and serve with some pasta and a simple vegetable (I found that shredded and steamed kale went really well), or a crisp green salad.