Put a shoulder into it
Cooking time: 4 hours
SHOULDER OF LAMB seems to be my favourite cut of meat to cook at the moment. As a result, every recipe that I test becomes my new number-one way to cook it because I simply cannot decide which recipe is best – so forgive me for wholeheartedly endorsing this as the best shoulder of lamb recipe. It is, and will remain so, at least until the next one comes along. The other fringe benefits of this recipe are the “ready made gravy” and the “ready to go roast spuds” it produces, which are always a welcome addition.
Slow cooking a tough piece of meat – the shoulder – means the connective tissue such as the collagen (which is mostly made up of gelatine) is able to break down when subjected to slow heat. But it does require liquid to do this. Ideally, the heat will be gentle enough to ensure that it doesn’t all leak out into the roasting tin but remains within the meat, guaranteeing each mouthful remains tender and juicy, rather than dry and stringy. I find the oven at about 140 degrees (gas mark 1) for four hours helps this process, but the meat needs to be well covered in foil.
You chuck in the spuds about one hour before the end of the allotted cooking time. They end up roasting and absorbing some of the delicious brown juices which, in turn, helps them caramelise and turn all meaty. The onions slowly melt away to resemble something you would find swimming around the most delicious French onion soup, and the other great thing about shoulder of lamb is its attractive price. What’s not to like?
The toffee and apple cake was very nice indeed. Much and all as I am useless baker, I quite enjoyed making this cake and the glaze certainly gives it a very attractive sheen. This could very well be served up with some ice cream or whipped cream for a nice Sunday lunch dessert, or simply as something to really enjoy with morning tea.
Golden delicious are a bit bland to eat, but they were quite appropriate here because the star of the show is the light cake and toffee glaze. If you used cooking apples instead of the golden delicious, you would find the hint of apple would be more like a thud of orchard.
But if you need to substitute something sharper and less mediocre, you may want to up the Demerara sugar ever so slightly.
ROAST SHOULDER OF LAMB WITH ONION AND POTATOES
6 large white onions, very thinly sliced
50ml olive oil
1 bottle white wine
Salt and pepper
1 shoulder of lamb
Big knob of butter
15 cloves of garlic
4 big sprigs rosemary
Few bits of sage
Few sprigs thyme
4 large potatoes, diced
Put the onions in a large roasting tray and pour over the olive oil and wine. Season really well and then put the lamb shoulder on top of the onions. Rub with the butter and season. Scatter the garlic and herbs on top of and around the lamb. Cover really well with tin foil and roast for three hours at 140 degrees/gas mark 1. Check every now and then and turn over. Add more water or stock or even some more wine if the pan is drying out.
After three hours, add the spuds and spoon over some of the oils and juices on to them. Roast for another hour without the foil on to let the lamb colour and the spuds caramelise in parts and cook gently. Allow to rest for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving with spoonfuls of delicious melted onions and roast potatoes.
APPLE AND TOFFEE CAKE
3 golden delicious apples
1-2 tbsp Demerara sugar
Pinch all spice or cinnamon
100g soft butter
200g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp baking powder
To prepare, preheat the oven to 180 degrees (gas mark 4) and butter and flour a 24cm spring form cake tin.
Peel, core and cut the apples into chunks and then toss in a bowl with the Demerara sugar and spice. You could even just add some black pepper. Press those into the bottom of the cake tin. Beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamy, then add the vanilla extract and the eggs, one at a time. Keep beating. It will look all curdled and gross. Keep whisking and add the flour and baking powder, which you should sieve. Then whisk in the milk and pour the cake mix over the apples and bake for about 45-50 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.
Heat the butter and sugar together and simmer for a few minutes until it starts to turn a nice caramel colour. Carefully whisk in the cream (it will splutter) and then allow it to cool. When the cake is cooked and has cooled down, poor half the glaze over the cake while still in the tin. Allow it to cool more fully, then loosen the tin slightly and put it on a cake stand on a plate. Drizzle the rest of the toffee sauce down the cake. Serve with cream or ice cream. This cake is also great the day after it has been made.