Sunday lunch on the farm with gran meant only one thing – leg of lamb. She roasted it low and slow and did very little to it, other than add salt. Fast-forward a few decades and my approach to roasting a cut of anything is still pretty basic. I strongly believe in paying a bit extra for seriously good meat and giving it a chance to shine. Whatever I do to it, the idea is to enhance the meat, not mask it with all sorts of exotic add-ons. Gran really didn’t have much time for any other part of a sheep – whatever was not a leg became a chop or mince.
But lamb shoulder roasted low and slow is such a joy. It’s a hard-working part of the sheep, so low and slow is pretty much the only way to go with it. Lamb shoulder has a decent layer of fat. You could trim it off, but I absolutely won’t. I want that fat. After three hours in the oven, most of the fat is cooked out and the thin layer that remains is golden crisp and insanely delicious. You’ll be fighting over it. I don’t discard the fat that cooked out though. I do what grandma did and scoop it off for later because eggs, boerewors or potatoes fried in lamb fat… Oy, so good.
The pan juices that remain after I scoop off the fat form the base for a red wine gravy. And not just any red wine, but De Krans’ sublime Touriga Nacional. Read more about this wine at the end of this recipe, then visit my Facebook page for your chance to win a box of De Krans wines!
All you need is…
For the lamb shoulder
2,5 kg lamb shoulder, on the bone
5 sprigs thyme
6 sprigs rosemary (about 7cm long)
4 fat cloves garlic, unpeeled
3 large carrots, washed and cut into quarters
2 large onions, peeled and quartered
salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the red wine gravy
2 Tbs reserved lamb fat
2 Tbs plain flour
1 mutton stock cube, dissolved in one cup of boiling water
1 cup De Krans Touriga Nacional (or any other good quality dry red wine)
salt and pepper to taste
Peel one clove of garlic and slice into batons as thick as a matchstick. Use a thin, sharp knife to cut deep but narrow pockets into the lamb shoulder and stuff the slivers of garlic into the pockets along with a the leaves of one sprig of rosemary. Heat a bit of oil in a large frying pan and brown the lamb shoulder. Remove and set aside.
Place the other three garlic cloves (unpeeled) in the bottom of a large roasting dish (with a tight-fitting lid) along with the carrots and onions. Give the veggies a few grinds of salt and black pepper. Place the lamb shoulder on top of the veggies and tuck the rosemary and thyme sprigs around and under the lamb. Give the lamb a few grinds of salt and pepper, pop the roaster lid on and place it in a 150 degree Celsius oven for 3-4 hours until the lamb is fall-off-the-bone soft. (NB: there is more than enough moisture in the lamb and veggies to form the basis for a good gravy without having to add liquid at this stage. The secret is a very low roasting temperature and a lid that fits well.)
As soon as the lamb is soft, remove and cover with foil to keep warm. Use a large flat spoon to spoon off as much of the fat as you can. This takes a while, be patient and take care not to scoop any of those delicious cooking juices in the process, only the fat! Add two tablespoons of the fat to a small bowl and stir in two tablespoons of flour. (Don’t throw away the rest of the fat, it is utterly brilliant for making roast potatoes. Simply freeze it and use as needed.)
Remove the herb twigs and veggies from the cooking liquid and squeeze the garlic paste out of their casings into the liquid. If your casserole dish is safe for the hob, place it on your stove, If not, transfer the cooking liquid to a saucepan. Stir in the fat and flour mixture, stir in the wine and let it bubble away on high heat for a minute. Now add the stock, turn the heat right down and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed. That’s it, you’ve just made a lip-smackingly delicious lamb and red wine gravy!
For serving: You could go traditional and serve this lamb shoulder with potatoes and veggies of your choice. My favourite is to flake the meat using two forks and plonk it in the middle of the table along with a pile of soft warm pita breads, a simple salsa of finely diced red onion and tomato, shredded lettuce and full cream plain yoghurt. Pour a glass of Touriga Nacional and let everyone build their ideal shredded lamb shoulder bite.
For freezing: This dish is ideal for freezing. I simply freeze portion-sized scoops of shredded lamb smothered in gravy. When things get hectic midweek, I pop it in the micro, heat up pita and put a stunning dinner on the table in just ten minutes! The shredded lamb shoulder and red wine gravy is also a knockout served with fresh tagliatelle or fettuccine. This lamb shoulder recipe is a keeper. I promise you’ll want to make it again and again.
About De Krans’ Touriga Nacional:
De Krans, from the Calitzdorp appellation, is a bit of a trailblazer when it comes to ports and wines made from Portuguese varieties. With a hot and dry Klein Karoo climate that is similar to that of the Douro valley in Portugal, it’s no wonder that these grapes would thrive in this region. The Nels of De Krans have been steadily increasing their Portuguese variety plantings since the mid ’80s. Their first Touriga Nacional vines were planted in 1994 and in 2000 they made the first single varietal dry red Touriga Nacional wine in SA.
I love all their wines, but their Touriga Nacional in particular is a standout example of what can be achieved with Portuguese varieties in South Africa. It’s been a regular at wine awards over the years and Platter gave their ’14, ’15, ’16 and ’19 four stars. The most gorgeous deep plum in colour, this wine delivers a nose of dark berries, violets and cacao along with some white pepper and toasted oak notes. Take a sip and you’ll discover complex flavours of cherry, cigar and violets with a dark chocolate aftertaste. It’s a full-bodied wine with fabulously smooth tannins and a wonderful pairing partner with red meat, especially venison and lamb. Available at R115 online at the time of publication, it’s just brilliant value considering what’s in the bottle.
WIN A BOX OF DE KRANS WINES!
De Krans is giving away a box containing their Touriga Nacional and Cape Ruby port-style wine to one lucky M&M reader. To enter, simply visit our Facebook page and like the post!