This recipe is inspired by the Jordanian national dish Lamb Mansaf. Traditionally; Lamb boiled with Jameed (a fermented dried goat yoghurt) and served with saffron rice, toasted nuts and flatbreads.
My version is a cinch to make and perfect for celebrations and large family meals. The most important aspect being time, something often avoided in cooking these days. Time lets the marinade penetrate the meat properly, tenderising and melding the flavours. It lets you cook it long enough, at such a low heat, that the lamb becomes wonderfully tender and juicy. Lastly the time to rest, allowing the juices to fully reabsorb after cooking and for you to relax with a drink in hand before sitting down to eat.
This recipe is for a 2-2.5kg Lamb shoulder. Make more marinade if using a larger piece and allow a little extra cooking time. Lamb shanks also work well, as does goat.
• 324g Borough Broth Co Lamb broth
• Toasted pine nuts and almonds to scatter on top
• A handful of chopped parsley or coriander
• 500g Labneh (or Greek yoghurt alternatively)
• 7g each of coriander and cumin seeds. Lightly toasted in a pan to release their oilsand ground in a pestle and mortar with the salt.
• 3 teaspoons of smoked paprika
• A large pinch of saffron threads. About half a gram.
• 7 Bay leaves (fresh if possible and roughly torn to release the flavour)
• 1-2 teaspoons of dried chilli flakes. You determine the heat you want.
• 4 large cloves of grated garlic
• 15 g of flaky sea salt
• A hefty few grinds of pepper
1. Pour 85ml of boiling water into a small cup, add the saffron and leave to infuse for 15 minutes. Then combine all ingredients for the marinade, including the saffron with its water and mix well. Put the lamb into a dish and massage in the marinade. Cover with a tea towel or plate and leave in the fridge for at least 8hrs, preferably overnight. Any less and you’re cheating yourself of flavour.
2. When ready, preheat the oven to 250 fan. Remove the lamb from the fridge and take it out of the marinade, letting any excess drip off back into the bowl. Place the lamb, on a rack with a tray underneath and put into the oven. Keeping a careful eye, brown and caramelise the skin of the lamb. When you have a lovely colour, remove from the oven and turn the temperature down to 150.
3. Now the important bit. Which is difficult to explain in writing… but a doddle to do in person.The aim is to make a pouch that will hold the lamb, its marinade and the broth. Trapping in all the steam and juices while it cooks. Imagine a pillowcase or envelope. So take a large sheet of tinfoil big enough to easily fold over and envelop the lamb. Lay this sheet on a flat surface and top with a piece of baking parchment the same size. Place the lamb on one half of the two sheets and fold the other half over to cover the lamb. Then crimp and fold the two long sides to make a seal leaving the top side open. Put the pouch in a baking tray and pour in the marinade and broth. Try and spread the marinade over the lamb as best you can and then seal the last side. Take care that each side is completely sealed. Neatness is not important at all… you just don’t want a leak.
4. Put this into the oven for roughly 4-5 hrs it might take 6hrs for a larger 4kg piece. Just keep going until the meat is tender, juicy and falling off the bone. Mine took 4hrs on the dot. But every shoulder is different, as is every oven. Take it out after 4hrs and if you think it needs longer give it a baste and put it back. There should be a river of juice, the wonderfully curdled marinade forming a sauce and pink juicy meat with caramelised skin. When ready turn off your oven but leave the lamb in its pouch, in the oven with the door open for 20-30 mins. This is a hot rest and keeps your food warm while the meat reabsorbs all those juices.
5. To serve put the lamb in a deep dish at the centre of the table with all its juices. Top with toasted pine nuts and almonds. Chopped coriander or parsley and a sprinkling of chilli. I love to eat this with saffron rice and warm pita or flat breads. But I leave that to you. It won’t need carving… just some big spoons.