agnello al forno con patate – roast shoulder of lamb with potatoes

This is an Easter favourite in my house, but is good at any time of year when locally farmed lamb is available. Cooked this way – half steamed, half roasted –, the meat stays moist but not fatty, and has been known to convert even those who don’t like lamb, or at least didn’t think they did, until they tried it this way. It even converted my nine-year old nephew, and an opinionated nine-year-old is as tough as it gets. Vegans stay clear, you have been warned: this dish could cause an existential crisis. A double, almost magical transformation takes place, as the lamb sheds its excess fat, while the potatoes slowly melt in that very same fat and cooking juices. The potatoes are so good they almost beat the meat into second place. But not quite; not even lamb-infused potatoes can pull that off.

This dish is wonderfully low maintenance. After the initial blast it just sits in a low oven and doesn’t need any further checking for hours. Just forget about it (as far as this is possible – the house will be filled with a wonderful aroma) and enjoy a glass of wine as you soak up the first sun of the year.

If you want to exploit every ounce of flavour (and why shouldn’t you?), the bones and any leftover meat can also be used the next day as the basis for a lamb stock. Add the bones, an onion studded with five cloves, a couple of carrots, a stick of celery and parsley to a couple of litres of water, and cook over a low heat for a few hours, then strain into a clean pan and season to taste. This delicious broth is perfect for fresh tortellini in brodo. Cook the tortellini in the stock and add shreds of the leftover roast lamb, presuming you have any, of course…

Serves 4:

  • 1 shoulder of lamb (mine was about 1.3 kg)
  • 1 kg potatoes, sliced into rounds no more than 1 cm thick
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • Leaves from one sprig of rosemary
  • Leaves from one sprig of mint
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 220° C.
  2. Mix the potatoes, tomatoes, onion, garlic and rosemary with salt, pepper and a little oil, and arrange in a baking tin just big enough for the lamb.
  3. Make small incisions all over the skin of the lamb and push mint leaves into them. Rub the skin of the lamb with salt and place on top of the potatoes.
  4. Roast in the oven until the skin starts to brown (about 25 minutes).
  5. Remove the tin from the oven and turn the temperature down to 150°C. Cover the tin tightly with aluminium foil and return to the oven. Leave to cook for 3 hours, or until the meat is meltingly tender.

 

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