An ideal roasting joint, Lamb shoulder is typically less expensive than cuts such as leg, rack or fillet, but is by no means inferior.
With a generous amount of fat both on top of the joint but also marbled throughout, lamb shoulder has tremendous depth of flavour. Given the fact that shoulder is fairly fatty and is cut from a hard working part of the animal, it takes a little longer to cook and become tender, yet the final result is well worth the extra time spent in the oven.
When buying lamb shoulder, boned and rolled options are fairly popular in supermarkets, but for the best results cooking the lamb on the bone is absolutely crucial. If looking to cook a smaller joint, half shoulders are readily available. When cut, half shoulders have two different joints: blade and knuckle, both of which have their advantages and disadvantages. The more regular looking blade has a little more meat, with less bone. The knuckle, on the other hand (see photo) is a slightly bonier cut so yields less meat, but the marrow imparts a great deal of flavour. They’re both easy enough to carve once cooked.
While the meat is already very flavoursome without much preparation, this lamb shoulder recipe calls for the meat to be rubbed with a mixture of butter, anchovies and rosemary. Rather than lending intense saltiness, the anchovies just lend plenty of richness to the dish – if you don’t like anchovies, it’s unlikely you’ll even be able to distinguish them.
The lamb shoulder is then cooked in the oven at a low heat for around three-to-four hours, dependent on size, until the skin is crispy and the meat falls apart with texture similar to pulled pork or shredded duck. It’s delicious on its own, but even better with boulangère potatoes – especially when cooked placed directly on top of the potatoes, which catch the lamb’s fat and roasting juices during the long, slow cooking process.
- 2 kg lamb shoulder or half shoulder
- 200 g butter
- 8 anchovy fillets drained and chopped
- 4 sprigs rosemary leaves chopped
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3.
- Combined the butter, chopped anchovies and rosemary.
- Score the lamb all over with a sharp knife, then rub over the anchovy and rosemary butter.
- Transfer the lamb to a roasting tin, ideally over a rack, then season with freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of salt.
- Place in the oven and cook for 3-4 hours, until the outside is crispy and the flesh can easily be pulled apart, like pulled pork or shredded duck.