Low and slow, it’s a wonderful way to cook lamb, particularly at this time of year, when we all need something rich, tender and warming to brighten things up.
In this recipe I’m pairing the lamb up with salty, sour preserved lemons, fudgy dates, a good pinch of saffron and plenty of Rowse Organic Honey. This honey has got such a natural affinity with all the other flavours in this dish, rounding them off and bringing them together.
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Heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6. Place the cinnamon, cumin, coriander, and cardamom pods in a small pan over a medium heat. Toast for 1–2 minutes, until fragrant, then tip them into a mortar and use the pestle to coarsely crush. Pick out and discard the cardamom husks, which are tricky to grind well.
Combine the crushed spices with the turmeric and plenty of salt and pepper. Rub the lamb shoulder with half the olive oil, then work the dry spice mix into the meat, making sure you get it in all the nooks and crannies. Place the lamb on a suitable roasting tray and place in the hot oven for 25–30 minutes, until browned.
Meanwhile, set a large cast-iron pot (with a lid) over a medium heat. Add the remaining olive oil and, when it’s hot, add the onions, garlic, chilli and ginger and cook, stirring regularly, for 10–12 minutes. Add the tomato purée, prunes, honey, saffron, preserved lemon, bay leaves and 1 glass of water and stir well. Bring to a gentle simmer.
When the lamb shoulder is nice and brown, lift it out of the oven and carefully place it in the pot. Scatter around the thyme, place on the lid and put the pot in the oven. Lower the heat to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2 and cook for 21⁄2 hours, until the meat is tender and giving. (Check the pot from time to time, and if it’s looking dry, top it up with a splash more water.) Remove from the oven and allow the lamb to rest for 15–20 minutes before serving.
To serve, sprinkle with chopped mint and a pinch of paprika, and finish with a generous squeeze of honey. Bring the pot to the table and enjoy with flat breads and a salad.