What’s cooking today: Eight-hour shoulder of lamb

What’s cooking today: Eight-hour shoulder of lamb
Tony Jackman’s shoulder of Karoo lamb, garnished with lavender because it looks pretty. But Karoo lamb is often best cooked without additional herbs or spices, so that we can taste the intrinsic flavour of the karoobossies it has feasted on. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

This is simplicity personified in one dish, yet the result is meat so tender it might walk off the plate and into your mouth. The flavours, thanks to the long, slow cook, are deeply intense and wonderful.

For many people, the usual choice is either shank or leg when you’re talking about a lamb slow roast. But if you haven’t yet discovered the charms of a shoulder of lamb, you have been sorely deprived. The shoulder will enchant you in the way that an elegant woman in an A-line dress with one shoulder bared will distract you from small talk at a drinks party. It is no less beguiling to discover the meat of a lamb at the pinnacle of what it can be in both flavour and texture.

I went all out with garlic and rosemary, a classic and wise pairing for lamb at any time. Neither ingredient changes the innate flavour profile of lamb meat; both only enhance it so that the delicious appreciation is glorified rather than masked.

This is one for the books.


1 shoulder of lamb, 1.2 kg or more

4 Tbsp olive oil

Rosemary branches or plenty of sprigs

1 whole head of garlic

Salt and black pepper


Make sure the lamb is at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 190℃.

Heat olive oil in the bottom part of a double roaster or similar casserole big enough to hold the lamb shoulder.

Brown the joint on all sides. Season it all over with salt and pepper.

Place a pile of rosemary sprigs in the pan. Break up the garlic into separate cloves and dot them around on the herbs. Place the lamb shoulder on top, fat side up. Drizzle more olive oil on the meat.

Put the lid on the roaster and put it in the oven at 190℃ for 10 minutes, then turn the heat right down almost as far as it will go. I cooked it at around 140℃.

Twice during a cook of about eight hours, take it out, take the lid off and give it a baste with the pan juices.

Make your vegetables in the meantime (I used aubergine, which I cut into strips and simmered in vegetable stock until the liquid had cooked away).

Remove it from the oven, hoick the meat out into a dish, scoop out the garlic cloves and set them aside.

Add water to the pan, squeeze the garlic pulp into it, and scrape up the bits at the bottom of the pan. Reduce it furiously to serve as pan juices with the meat. (Read more about Karoo slow cooking and living here.) DM168

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.

This dish is photographed on a platter by Mervyn Gers Ceramics.


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