recipe

Credit: Earl Carter

Parcel slow-roasted lamb shoulder

Karen Martini is a chef, restaurateur, author and television presenter. She is a food editor of The Saturday Paper. @karen_martini

Credit: Earl Carter

I cook lamb a lot. I obviously have a love affair going on. This recipe is from my husband’s family. They are Greek and no matter the occasion, they eat lamb. This recipe uses a combination of steaming and roasting at the same time that really intensifies the flavour and imparts a silky, lemony quality to the potatoes.

The lamb shoulder is extra delicious because it’s the part of the lamb that does the work. It’s full of connective tissue and collagen, which is why it benefits from slow-cooking. If you don’t cook it long enough, you will have no joy.

There are lamb shoulders available everywhere, but if you talk directly to your butcher, you will get exactly the right cut. This one is a banjo cut, which means the bone is still there in the shoulder but you haven’t got any rib cage and the shank has been trimmed. If the ribs are still in, don’t worry – you will just need to cook it for another hour and a half, and wrapping the parcel will be a little harder.

I make baharat myself. It’s based on something my grandmother made, although I didn’t know it was called baharat then. It brings a subtle warmth to the dish, a perfume and another undertone to the lambiness. To make it, I blend black peppercorns, cardamom, coriander seeds, cumin, allspice berries, star anise, sweet paprika, nutmeg and a little bit of cinnamon.

Don’t be put off by the wrapping. It’s not tricky – wrap it however you like, string it up any way that works and chuck it in the oven. We took this into the garden when it was done and were swarmed by wasps, which has never happened before, and I think this is evidence of how good it is.

I could happily eat this every two weeks. I say that because I basically do.

Ingredients

Serves 8

Time: 30 minutes preparation + 5½ hours cooking

  • ½ tbsp black peppercorns
  • 2 garlic bulbs, skin on
  • 3 tbsp salt flakes
  • zest and juice of 3 lemons (150ml juice)
  • 1½ tbsp baharat
  • 2 to 2.5kg lamb shoulder (rib cage removed and shank trimmed)
  • 1 large onion, skin on, cut into 8 wedges
  • 1 stick fresh bay leaves (four or five leaves)
  • 4 large waxy, yellow-fleshed potatoes, peeled and cut in half
  • 4 tbsp dried Greek oregano
  • 100ml extra-virgin olive oil
Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 165°C fan-forced.
  2. Using a mortar and pestle, crush the peppercorns, then add the cloves from one bulb of garlic and bruise, skin and all. Add salt and lemon zest and baharat. Combine well but not to a paste.
  3. Add the garlic mix to a large bowl and then add the lamb and rub the mixture all over the joint.
  4. Lay out two 80-centimetre lengths of baking paper so they overlap lengthways. At one end, lay the sliced onion, bay leaves and the potatoes to make a bed for the lamb. Place the lamb on top and add the rest of the garlic. Add the oil, lemon juice, oregano and salt flakes over the lamb.
  5. Fold the paper over to wrap tightly, rolling the ends to seal well. Repeat so it’s wrapped twice in paper. Secure with kitchen twine at both the top and the bottom.
  6. Lay out two lengths of foil and wrap the parcel tightly, and then place the lamb in a baking tray and slow-cook it for five-and-a-half hours.
  7. Once cooked, remove the foil, cut open the top of the parcel and expose the lamb. Increase the temperature to 230°C. Sprinkle with extra salt flakes and put the lamb back in the oven to brown the top slightly.
  8. Serve it up as is, straight from the paper parcel. Offer a bitter leaf salad, some firm Greek feta and lots of bread to mop up the juices.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 6, 2023 as "On the lamb".

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