From a very young age, one of Neven's favourite pastimes was to shadow his mother in the kitchen, watching her cook; his pastime soon became ...
2 tblsp sunflower oil
1.8 kg lamb shoulder (well trimmed, boned and tied -the joint should be about 5cm/2in thick)
200 g carrots (peeled and cut into wedges)
12 baby onions (peeled)
4 garlic cloves (peeled and left whole)
1 sprig of thyme
2 sprigs of rosemary (plus extra to garnish)
50 g pearl barley (washed)
2 l beef stock
600 ml red wine
1 tsp light muscovado sugar (optional)
1 kg floury potatoes (such as maris piper, peeled and cut into chunks)
75 g butter
6 spring onions (trimmed and finely sliced)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, to garnish
steamed tenderstem broccoli, to serve
Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F/Gas 3). Heat half of the sunflower oil in a large, flameproof casserole, with a lid, over a high heat. Add the lamb and fry for 3–4 minutes until lightly browned on all sides, turning regularly with tongs. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
Put the carrots, baby onions and garlic in the casserole and sauté for 5 minutes until lightly golden. Tip into a bowl and set aside. Return the lamb to the casserole along with the herbs and barley.
Pour in the stock and wine and bring to the boil. Season with salt and pepper, cover tightly with foil and then the lid. Cook in the oven for 1½ hours, then remove from the oven, add the reserved vegetables and cook for another hour or until the lamb is very tender and almost falling apart.
Carefully lift the lamb out of the dish and allow to cool. Then remove the string, wrap the lamb tightly in foil and place in the fridge for 3–4 hours, or overnight if possible, to help the lamb keep its shape.
Allow the cooking juices to cool completely, then cover and chill until needed. When cool, skim off the solidified fat and strain the liquid from the vegetables through a colander or sieve over a saucepan, setting the vegetables aside.
Bring the liquid to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 40–45 minutes until thickened and reduced by half, skimming off any impurities that rise to the surface. Return the vegetables to the sauce and simmer for 5–10 minutes until warmed through.
Season with salt and pepper to taste and if the sauce is bitter add the muscovado sugar. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in a saucepan of boiling salted water for 15–20 minutes or until completely tender. Drain and mash until smooth. Melt the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat Sauté the spring onions for 2–3 minutes until tender but not browned. Beat the spring onions and butter into the mashed potatoes and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Remove the foil from the cooked lamb and trim off the ends to neaten, then slice the joint into eight pieces, each about 2.5cm (1in) thick. Heat the remaining sunflower oil in a large, non-stick frying pan and very gently sear the lamb slices for 3–4 minutes on each side until golden brown and warmed through. Drain on kitchen paper.
Spoon the champ into warmed, wide-rimmed bowls and arrange two slices of lamb on top of each. Spoon over the vegetables and sauce and serve at once, with the broccoli in a separate serving dish.