A few years ago, butchers had some difficulty selling the shoulder of lamb as it was considered inferior to the leg and loin. Now all that has changed and the cooking world realises that the shoulder is every bit as good as the more 'prime' cuts and in some ways actually better.

Ingredients

Rory added: "The hardworking and muscular shoulder has marvellous flavour but needs long and slow cooking to gently tenderize it so that the flesh becomes sweetly succulent. The cooked lamb in this dish should be soft and melting and will be gently pulled apart for serving rather than being carved.

This recipe needs time. You can’t rush the cooking of a shoulder of lamb, but once it is in the oven, there is plenty of time to prepare sauces and vegetables to accompany it. 

"I suggest two sauces here, the first a garlicky mayonnaise that is thinned with some of the lamb cooking juices and a fresh tasting and piquant herb salsa. The two combine really well with the soft flavoursome meat."

  • Shoulder of lamb is easily available and here the shoulder is cooked whole with just a sprinkle of sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. If the shoulder is excessively fatty, as may be the case later on in the lamb season, trim some of it off, or ask your butcher to do it for you.
  • The aioli to serve with the lamb is based on mayonnaise. I urge you to make your own mayonnaise either by hand or in a food mixer or processor. Good mayonnaise is one of the cornerstones in any good cook’s repertoire.
  • Salsa verde has become something of a cliché in the last few years and as a result the quality has suffered. That doesn’t mean that when made with fresh herbs and good ingredients, it can’t be as exciting as the first time any of us tasted it. It is a wonderful refreshing foil for the sweet lamb and rich aioli.
  • Search out best quality anchovies and capers for the salsa, they vary enormously in quality, so what seems like a bargain when you are buying them, may disappoint at a later stage. Salted anchovies and capers are best and they will need plenty of rinsing in cold water to remove the excess salt.
  • The herbs for the salsa should be chopped just before being added to the other ingredients
  • 1 whole shoulder of lamb on the bone, weighing 3.6kg
  • Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Aioli 

  • 6 large tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed to a paste
  • 4-6 tablespoons lamb cooking juices

Salsa Verde

  • 1 bunch of rocket, about 100g
  • 1 bunch of flat parsley, about 100g
  • 6 large sprigs of mint 
  • 6 sprigs of tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon of capers, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed to a smooth paste
  • 8 anchovies, very finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
  • 8 floz olive oil
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon and a little juice
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • Maldon sea salt to taste

Method

Homemade aioli

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c / 350f / gas4.
  2. Place the lamb shoulder in a wide roasting tin or oven tray with the skin side up. Score the skin several times to encourage the fat to run out during the cooking and to crisp up the skin. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Place in the oven and roast for 30 minutes before turning the temperature down to 160c/ 325f / gas 3 for a further 3 ½  hours.
  4. While the lamb is cooking make the salsa verde. Remove all of the stalks from the herbs and chop to a texture half way between coarse and fine so as the individual flavours of the herbs stand out in the finished sauce. Immediately add the rest of the ingredients and mix. It is unlikely that the salsa will need salt, but very occasionally a pinch might be needed. In any event, taste and correct seasoning adding a little lemon juice if the salsa needs sharpening up. Chill until ready to serve.
  5. The crushed garlic can be mixed into the mayonnaise for the aioli but this sauce cannot be finished until we have the juices from the cooked lamb.
  6. To test if the lamb is cooked to a melting tenderness, pull the shank bone and it and some of the meat should come away easily from the bone. 
  7. When the lamb is cooked, remove from the oven. There will be plenty of fatty cooking juices. Strain these off the roasting tin through a sieve into a bowl. Keep the lamb warm in the oven with the temperature reduced to 100c / 200f / gas ¼.
  8. When the fat has risen to the surface of the lamb cooking juices, skim off the fat carefully and thoroughly with a large spoon.
  9. Thin out the garlic mayonnaise with 4-6 tablespoons of the degreased juice to achieve a consistency similar to softly whipped cream  or in other words the mayonnaise should now just lightly coat the back of a spoon. Taste and correct the seasoning. Bring the remaining juices to a simmer and taste and correct seasoning.
  10. To serve the lamb, a tongs or serving fork and spoon is the best way to remove the meat from the bones. Prise largish pieces off the bones and serve on hot plates with some of the hot cooking juices, the salsa and aioli.