In the cooler days of autumn we are more inclined toward the slow braises. The rich flavours of root vegetables are a match to this local Black Welsh lamb. Mashing the root vegetables together mellows out the rutabaga and adds the sweetness of carrots. Autumn greens such as brussels sprouts, cabbage or kale complete the comforting meals we crave as the weather turns.
Don't feel that you always need the prime cuts for a lovely meal. The racks and legs are beautiful but also more expensive. This less tender but flavourful cut becomes 'melt in your mouth' perfect with low and slow cooking. Unpeeled cloves of garlic scent the dish without overpowering. Squeeze their deliciousness into the smashed vegetables.
This gravy is packed with flavour. I enjoy the contrasting saltiness of the capers and freshness of the mint. If served immediately, the mint is brilliant green and beautiful.
Roasted Shoulder of Lamb adapted from a recipe from Jamie Oliver
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh rosemary
1 bulb garlic, unpeeled, broken into cloves
1 1/2 lb. peeled potatoes, cut into large chunks
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into small chunks
1/2 a large rutabaga, peeled and cut into small chunks
6 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups good-quality hot chicken or vegetable stock
2 heaped tablespoons capers, soaked, drained and chopped
1 large bunch fresh mint, leaves picked
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 lb. winter greens such as white cabbage, savoy cabbage, Brussels sprouts
Preheat oven to 500 F.
Cut the fat side of the lamb in a cross-hatch pattern with a sharp knife. Lay half the sprigs of rosemary and half the garlic cloves on the bottom of a Dutch oven, rub the lamb all over with olive oil and season generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the roast on top of the rosemary and garlic, and put the rest of the rosemary and garlic on top of the lamb. Cover with lid and place in the oven. Turn the oven down immediately to 325 F and cook for 4 hours. It's done if you can pull the meat apart easily with two forks.
When the lamb is nearly cooked, put the potatoes, carrots and rutabaga into a large pot of boiling salted water and boil hard for about 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and allow to steam dry, then smash them up in the pan with most of the butter. If you prefer a smooth texture, add some cooking water. Spoon into a bowl, cover with foil and keep warm over a pan of simmering water.
Remove the lamb from the oven and place it on a chopping board. Cover it with foil, then a kitchen towel, and let it rest. Put a large pan of salted water on to boil for the greens. Pour away most of the fat from the roasting pan, discarding any bits of rosemary. Put the pan on the stovetop over medium heat and mix in the flour. Add the stock, stirring and scraping all the sticky bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the capers, turn the heat down and simmer for a few minutes.
Finely chop the mint and add it to the sauce with the red wine vinegar at the last minute then pour into a pitcher. Add the greens and stalks to the pan of fast-boiling salted water and cook for 4 to 5 minutes to just soften them. Drain and toss with a knob of butter and a pinch of salt and pepper. Place everything in the middle of the table, and shred the lamb in front of your guests.