Spring has sprung once more, and while at the time of writing it’s unlikely you’re going to be spendin time at any family gatherings, there’s still no reason you and your household can’t get together and enjoy the beautiful, rich flavour of a slow cooked lamb. It is of course the time of year where lamb explodes onto the scene at supermarkets and butchers shops, often at a reduced price. It’s sort of the unofficial meat of Easter, and always feels like a bit of a special occasion – that rich, almost game-like quality to the meat lingering in the memory long after the final bite. I always think to myself afterwards “why don’t I cook lamb more often?” It’s so distinctively pleasant – but then, a bit like parma violet gin I wouldn’t want to spoil its special feeling.
The advantages of slow cooking are many; it tenderises the meat through its gentle heating of the muscle fibres; it ensures all the flavours within a dish are well distributed throughout; and for a larger cut of meat, you can feel confident that the inside is thoroughly cooked without the exterior becoming dry and scorched. Furthermore, if you have a tabletop slow cooker it frees you up for the day without having to worry (and usually uses less power than a conventional oven.) If you don’t have a tabletop slowcooker, do not fret! You can do this in a large pot/tin in the oven with a lid. Cooking temperatures are offered below.
- 1 Leg of lamb approx 2kg – other cuts, such as a shank or shoulder could be used. You may need to adjust final roasting times to account for weight/size.
- A few sprigs of rosemary
- 1 glass of red wine
- Approx 1 pint stock – lamb is ideal, but vegetable or beef would work just fine.
- 1-2 onions
- Several large cloves of garlic
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- Drizzle of balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp sugar – preferably brown
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Red Cabbage
- 2 tbsp oil
- Slice the onions into thin strips and peel 3/4 of your garlic cloves. Add these to the base of your slow cooker/pot, along with all but 2 or 3 of the rosemary sprigs (the rest will be used for garnishing).
- Season the lamb all over with salt and pepper and rub into the meat with your hands – you want it nicely adhered before the next step.
- Add the oil to a large frying pan and heat until shimmering. Gently place in the lamb and cook each side for 3-4 minutes to develop a nice brown crust. This can be a bit awkward and require you to hold up the lamb with tongs and a wooden spoon – wear an apron in case the oil splutters slightly. If you cant quite get at every inch of the exterior don’t worry, just do what you can.
- Remove the lamb and put it into the slow cooker pot on top of the onions, garlic and rosemary.
- Add the butter to the frying pan you just used and reduce the heat to medium-low. Once the butter has melted, add the flour and stir through for a few minutes until it has taken on a lovely brown colour and smells like well-cooked pastry.
- Whisk in the red wine and stock and heat until beginning to thicken – it shouldn’t necessarily be as thick as gravy yet, there’s still plenty of time for that! Pour it into the slow cooker, trying not to pour it onto the lamb, as it can wash away the seasoning.
- Put on the lid and turn on the slow cooker: 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low. If using an oven, 4 hours at 150C or 8 hours at 90C. Low and slow is better, but not so much better that it’s unreasonable to do 4 hours at high.
- Shortly before the time is up, heat the oven to 190C (if using an oven for the whole thing, wait until the time is up, remove the pot with the lid still on, increase the heat and when it has reached 190C proceed with the rest of this step). Gently remove the lamb and place in a roasting dish – a nice tip here is to add some root vegetables around the outside so that they roast in the lamb juices. Roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes until it has taken on a lovely brown colour.
- While doing this, leave the slow cooker on and add some sliced red cabbage – you add it at this stage since overdone cabbage can be rather unappealing. Allow the cabbage to cook for 10 minutes or so, then strain the liquid through a sieve into a saucepan, leaving the onion, garlic, rosemary and cabbage in the slow cooker pot.
- Simmer the cooking liquid at a medium-high temperature for the remaining 20 minutes in which the lamb is cooking – it should reduce by at least half. Add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar for fruity acidity and a tbsp sugar for sweetness, otherwise it can be quite tart.
- Put the slow-cooked vegetables onto your serving dish as a bed, then the lamb (allowing it to rest for at least 10 minutes before you serve it), then gently pour over some of the gravy, reserving the rest for guests at the table to add themselves.