Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Slow-Roasted Shoulder of Lamb

I've been using the slow-cooker a lot more these days, and with the temperatures dropping have also started using the oven more to slow-roast different meats. It's a handy way of warming the flat when I don't want to have the radiators on as well.

Of course, I am also aware that the tougher cuts of meat that do well with slow-cooking cost a lot less than other more popular roasting joints.

One good example here is the shoulder of lamb. This cut is not just cheaper, it is also more
Cuts of lamb
forgiving for new cooks and easier to cook than the leaner leg. You'd have to really go out of your way to overcook a shoulder, making it an ultimate bung it in the oven and forget about it roast.

You  can buy the shoulder with bone in, or filleted out and rolled. Just ask your butcher to do this if you don't feel comfortable doing it yourself. Personally, I prefer roasting with the bone in as that bone helps to flavour the meat. It is easier to carve however without the shoulder blade and other bones in the way.

Once boned, you can add different herbs or spices and other flavours into the center before rolling it up and roasting. It can also be cut into cubes for slow-cooking in a stew or other dish.

I buy mine with the bone in though, and leave it that way for roasting. True, it is not easily carved, but as it's just my sons and me none of us are all that fussed about perfection on a plate.

Shoulder of lamb

The shoulder is a flattish cut with the scapula, some of the ribs and possibly a part of the forearm. It has a thin layer of fat over the top and more marbled throughout. Slow-roasting allows all of those flavours to permeate through the meat.

A 1.8kg shoulder provided plenty of meat for myself and two teenage sons with a bit leftover.

I have now cooked this particular dish a few times and it is always a hit.

You will need:
  • 1 shoulder of lamb
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • 2 medium onion
  • 4 - 6 cloves garlic
  • fresh rosemary
  • fresh thyme


  1. Preheat the oven as hot as it will go with one rack in the middle of the oven.
  2. Use a sharp knife to score the layer of fat and cut pockets of about 1 cm depth across the top of the shoulder. 
  3. Cut the two onions in half around the equator (don't worry about peeling) and place cut side up in a roasting pan. Add half the fresh rosemary and thyme and half the crushed garlic cloves. 
  4. Cut the remaining garlic cloves into thin pieces and push those into each of the pockets along with 2 - 3 rosemary leaves and a bit of thyme. 
  5. Transfer the lamb into the roasting pan on top of the onions. Cover with any remaining fresh herbs, season generously with salt and pepper and drizzle olive oil over the top. 
  6. Pour about 1 cup water into the pan, cover tightly with foil. 
  7. Turn the oven down to a moderate heat, about 300f/150c/gas mark 2.
  8. Place the roasting pan in the oven and leave it for at least 3 hours, or more. I like to give it about 4 hours myself. 
  9. In the final hour, remove the foil and strain off any excess liquid into a pan. This will be used to make a meat broth gravy. Return the now uncovered roast to the oven to cook another 45 minutes. 
  10. Remove from the oven and carefully transfer the roast onto a serving platter. Cover with foil and leave to rest 10 - 15 minutes. 

Serve this with a seasonal vegetable and roast potatoes or other root vegetables.

You can pour some of the gravy over the top, or drizzle a spoonful or three of mint sauce.

Mint Sauce:
  • 1 handful fresh peppermint
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup malt vinegar

  1. Very finely chop the mint leaves, sprinkle about half the sugar over the leaves once chopped and continue finely chopping as this will help to pull out the oils. 
  2. Transfer to a small glass, add the remaining sugar and pour over the malt vinegar. Give it a quick stir then, and again before spooning out. 

Monday, 9 November 2015

Slow-Cooked Beef Stew

I love the flavour of slow cooked beef, and I love eating stews this time of year when it starts getting cooler. But I hate overcooked, mushy vegetables. This recipe takes a bit more work in the kitchen, but in the end gives me the best of both, tender, fall apart beef and cubed root veggies which still have their shape and texture.
slow-cooked beef stew

You will need:
  • 2 pounds beef - I get a mixture of oxtail and stewing beef or skirt cut into cubes. 
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups water
  • salt and pepper

  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 small, or 1/2 large swede, peeled and chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • any other veggies you want to add
  • water
  • Worcestershire sauce
    Assorted veg and herbs for an Autumn stew

  • 2 tablespoons corn flour/corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon cool water

1. Place the beef into a slow-cooker along with the onion, garlic, bay leaves, and water. Set on low and leave to cook for at least 6 hours, but let it go for as long as you can. I will usually put it all in the pot the night before and leave it to slow cook overnight and through the day. Otherwise, put it all in the pot in the morning and let it cook through the day.

2. About 45 minutes before you're ready to eat, remove the beef from the slow cooker to a tray and strain the stock into a large pot. Add in all the chopped vegetables, topping with water if needed. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 15 - 20 minutes or until the vegetables are all cooked.
Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Add a splash of Worcestershire sauce. 

3. Make a thin paste using the corn flour and water and add to the pot, stir until it begins to thicken. Remove the ox-tail bones from the meat, shred, and add it all to the pot.

4. Let simmer a few more minutes until it is all piping hot.

Serve in a bowl with thick slices of bread.

Alternately, leave the potatoes out of the mix of root vegetables and make a separate pan of mashed potatoes. Serve the stew over the mash.

 The beef: I like using cheaper cuts of beef as they will be cooked for a long while. Skirt steak has very long muscle fibres that can become very, very tough if not cooked properly. Make sure to cut against the grain of the muscle when cubing. It should be either slow-cooked for several hours, or cut into strips against the grain and flash fried for a few seconds.

Ox tail provides a depth and richness to a stew. It can be quite fatty, and that can overwhelm a dish, which is why I use a combination of both skirt/stewing steak and ox-tail.

My son who does not eat stews, gravies, or any root veg besides carrots and potatoes gets a deconstructed stew with a serving of beef, a serving of mashed potatoes, some of the cooked carrots and peas.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Cheater's Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

I may have mentioned before, but I love cooking traditional foods from many cultures. And the reason why I like cooking these foods is because I know that every village, every family, every region had their own variations. Despite what we may think today what with standardised cookery books, there was no hard and fast "rules" about what had to go into that dish, or what proportions were needed.

I love foods I can cook without having to follow rules. I especially like dishes that I can cook up without a lot of fuss, while using up leftovers at the same time.

One dish that works very well here is a Jambalaya. This traditional Cajun food dish was made using core ingredients of onion, bell pepper, and celery plus rice and Cajun spices, and then whatever meat was available after a day's hunting and fishing - rabbit, chicken, fish, seafood, alligator - you get the idea.

Traditional recipes today tend to have chicken, andouille sausage, and prawns. But they can be made using any meat, or none at all. Likewise, you can add any vegetables you want - corn, peas, beans, or anything else.

I had some leftover sausages and chicken from our dinner the other night I wanted to use up, so I decided to turn them into a tasty jambalaya. This quick and easy recipe can be cooked and on the table in under 45 minutes.

Chicken and sausage jambalaya

Serves: 3

Cooking time: 30 minutes


  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper (any colour), seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup uncooked wholegrain basmati rice
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tsp Cajun spice mix
  • 2 cups water 
  • 2 cooked chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 4 cooked Cumberland sausages, cut into bite-size pieces
  • salt and pepper to taste

  1. Sweat off the onions, pepper, and celery with a bit of the water in a large pan until softened. 
  2. Add in the rice and Cajun spice mix and stir until coated.
  3. Pour in the water, bring up to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer, covered, about 25 minutes. 
  4. After 10 minutes, add the cooked chicken and sausage and continue simmering. 
  5. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.
  6. If necessary, remove the lid and boil off any excess liquid before serving.