Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Romney Lamb from Montague Farm

Slow Roast Lamb Shoulder - Adapted from 
a recipe in "today's special" by Anthony Demetre

I’m particularly fond of slow-cooked meat dishes.  You know, the ones that are easy to prepare, you can put them in the oven, get on with your life, take the dish out several hours later and voila!  No stress, foolproof and delicious – or that’s how it should work.   A shoulder of lamb is a perfect candidate for this treatment and I have the easy recipe of your dreams. 
First, the lamb.  Romney is one of the most ancient breeds of lamb in Britain.  They have long wool, a large frame, are hardy and docile, and good foragers.  This is the breed raised on Montague Farm at Hankham, a 300 acre organic farm and nature reserve on the western edge of the Pevensey levels in East Sussex.  Three quarters of this wetland is designated an area of Special Scientific Interest.  The rest is permanent grazing marshes, running southwards from Pevensey Castle.  The ewes live outside all year round grazing the grass pastures and leys, alternating with cattle.  In winter they are fed hay and during lambing the diet of the ewes is supplemented with rolled oats.  A policy of minimum intervention is practiced.  The emphasis is on good quality feed and rotational grazing.  Lambing takes place in April (the natural time for ewes to give birth), and the farm uses an abattoir just twenty minutes away, thus reducing stress on the animals.  I can’t think of a better lamb to recommend.
Given the quality of the meat, Montague Farm’s prices are competitive.  The Romney Lamb Box looks particularly good value at £89.00 for approximately 7kg – 1 whole shoulder, 1 leg, 8 loin chops and 1 rack (6/7 bones).  At £7.00/kg I picked up a whole shoulder of lamb for £13.50 (easily fed 6 people) for this recipe.  So good was the lamb that I decided to cook the recipe again a couple of weeks later, this time using a half shoulder and reducing the other ingredients in my list by half, to make sure of the quality of the lamb before posting this piece.  It cooked every bit as well as the first. 

A note about my inspiration for this recipe: Anthony Demetre is chef (and co-owner with Will Smith) of Wild Honey and Arbutus restaurants in Mayfair and Soho respectively .  His book "today's special - a new take on bistro food"  is full of recipes using the less glamorous, and less expensive, ingredients showing you just how tasty they can be.  It's an excellent book with staightforward recipes which will inspire you to think differently about what you buy and how you cook.
Slow Cooked Shoulder of Lamb (Adapted from a recipe in  "today's special" by Anthony Demetre)
1 lamb shoulder (2-2.5kg or 4-5lb)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper
40g (1½ oz) butter 
1 tbsp olive oil
2 large or 4 medium onions, thinly sliced
12 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Few sprigs of savory or lemon thyme
2 bay leaves
300ml (10fl oz) white wine                                                                   
A deep cast-iron pot which has a tight fitting lid is ideal for this recipe but a roasting pan tightly covered with foil will do.  Preheat the oven to 120oC/gas ½

Heat the butter and oil in your pot.  Season the lamb shoulder well with salt and pepper and brown in the pot on all sides.  Remove the lamb and keep warm.  Add the sliced onion, garlic and herbs to the pot and soften slightly.  Add the wine and bring to the boil.  Return the lamb to the pot. Cover tightly and transfer to the oven.  Cook for 4-5 hours.  When the flesh is meltingly soft, raise the heat to  120oC/gas 6 and cook, uncovered, for a further 20 minutes. 

Leave to rest for a further 20 minutes out of the oven.  I usually accompany this with potatoes, scrubbed, rolled in olive oil and sea salt, and baked in a dish popped in the oven 60 minutes before I plan to serve up.
Montague Farm supplies butchers shops in London and the south-east.  
Also on Saturdays at 104 Druid Street, Bermondsey (see my posting 'The Bermondsey Trail').