So it's Easter weekend, and whether that's your thing or not it's a proper holiday in England. Most people are off for 4 days, churches are busy, chocolate Easter eggs are rampant, and lamb is the flavour of the week at the butcher shops.
I had hoped to be open in time for this year, but sadly it wasn't to be. However, things are starting to move now after a laborious permit process, and I'll be ramping up promotion and confirming our opening date very soon. On that, thank you so much for the interest already shown in Featherblade, we're very excited to get going.
So, if it is your thing, Happy Easter, and if not, just have a good and safe weekend!
An English egg
Lamb seems to be way more popular on the English side of the pond, but I really can’t recommend it enough to my new American friends. It’s tender texture and uniquely rich and robust flavour transports me back to beautiful Sunday roast dinners or simple, juicy rump chops, peas and potatoes with my Nan, lamb was her favourite.
If you think the flavour is a bit strong but want to try something new, ask for a recommendation on a milder cut, like a lamb noisette or rack, these bad boys are soft and subtle and hard to mess up, so can be a good introduction to the lamb cooking universe. If you’re into it, ask us about a leg roast, stuffed breast or (my personal favourite) a slow-roast shoulder of lamb. We are always there for advice on any stage of the cooking process.
In this post I’m going to go through roasting the two most common cuts, the leg and the shoulder, which require different methods to bring out the best in them. The shoulder lends itself to slow cooking, due to the higher fat content and firmer texture of the meat. The leg carries less fat, is softer and needs less cooking, and the regular (stick it in at 350°F) strategy normally does the trick. You can low-and-slow the leg too but due to that lack of fat, it’ll have a higher chance of drying out.
Slow roasted shoulder of lamb
To start, preheat your oven to its highest setting and then lightly score the fat side of the shoulder (or get us to do that) and place this side up in your roasting tray. Throw in 3-4 whole cloves of garlic, no need to peel, along with a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary. This is the quintessential lamb recipe, the sweetness of the garlic and rosemary flavour compliments the lamb beautifully, but you can swap it out for a quartered lemon and sprigs of thyme, or a split orange and fresh mint, all good in their own right, all delicious.
Season well with salt and pepper and cover with foil. Pop this in your oven and turn down to 330°F. You can leave it now and check after 3 hours, it will be done when it easily falls away from the bone or when the core temperature reaches about 205°F. You can monitor the process with an oven-safe thermometer probe to avoid over doing it. I like it a little crispy on the outside so I remove the foil for the last half hour or when the centre is at about 180°F, and crank the oven to 400°F until the lamb reaches temperature. In total it shouldn’t take more than 3 and a half hours. Allow it to rest for about 10-15 minutes lightly covered with the foil, then get at it with a couple of forks, it should pull beautifully. Have a taste and season with salt and pepper if you feel it needs more. So good! Lamb shoulder will go with any classic roast dinner elements, roast potatoes, mash, roast veggies but also with a hearty Mediterranean salad, or on rice, especially with Moroccan flavours (sub the rosemary for a teaspoon of cumin and paprika).
Roasted leg of lamb
There’s no need to cover a leg in my opinion, so this can be roasted at 330°F for about 15 minutes per lb for pink in the middle, or 20 minutes per lb for medium. This means a regular sized leg should take somewhere between 1 hour 20 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes, depending on how you like it.
The easiest and safest way to get this right is to remove the guessing and use a thermometer probe. You want a core temperature of about 140°F for pink and 165°F for medium. If you want to be extra naughty you can cook the leg on seasoned parboiled potatoes, along with carrot or other root vegetables, so that they get the juices running through them; decadent!
You can add the herbs or spices to suit your sides, as above, rosemary and garlic are standard, mint, orange, lemon and thyme also work well. If you want a suggestion on a different style ask your friendly neighbourhood butcher for some more tips, there are a lot of possibilities with this great meat.
You can also transfer these methods to your gas or charcoal grill too, as long as you can keep the temperature in a range of 200-350°F and use a probe to check when done. As per oven cooking, you’re looking for a core temperature of 205°F for a pulled joint, and for quicker-cook leg joints 140°F for pink, 165°F for medium.
If you’re going for the smoke you’re in for a treat, in that case I’d only add salt and pepper, put the joint in on indirect heat and try throwing a sprig or two of rosemary on the coals halfway through.
As always, feel free to ask us for more information or advice on any aspect or your cooking adventures.