On a rainy, gloomy Sunday in London, I love to slow-cook a joint of meat. It’s by far my favourite way to cook meat; I don’t know if it’s because you get such intense flavour and soft juicy flesh, or if it’s just because it’s so damn easy. I tend to think it’s the former and the latter is just a big bonus.
This recipe is the holy grail of slow-cooked meat dishes for me. The first time I made it, I nearly cried into my plate it was so tasty and so comforting. It recalled so many things I hold dear- roasting a whole lamb on a spit at Easter time in Greece; my mother’s lemon potatoes; a favourite taverna we go to which is just called Ladokolla -literally, it means wax paper, and they do amazing things with it.
I am an impatient cook, and am always tempted to be opening the lid or the oven door to check on progress. Wrapping your meal in wax paper means you can’t do that unless you really need to. You just have to have faith in the magic happening inside, give it enough time, and then you get to unwrap this beautifully transformed creation. Each time I make it, it is the same but a bit different- experiment with the dish you use to roast it in, the brand of wax paper you use, how many potatoes you put in, but don’t try to rush it.
You won’t need a lot of side dishes to go with this, because the lamb is so flavourful. A crisp, sharp salad, or some steamed greens and a bit of bread to mop up all those juices is all you need. A chilled, light red wine is the perfect pairing- although you might as well finish off that bottle of white you’d opened to cook with.
Slow-roast shoulder of lamb in wax paper with potatoes
In this recipe, I use a half-shoulder which is enough for two people with plenty of leftovers. You could use a whole shoulder too though- you’ll just need a bigger dish (and probably a bigger oven) and another hour or so in the oven.
- Preheat the oven to 220C. Lay a very large piece of wax paper in a large baking dish (ceramic or stoneware is best, but metal is fine too). Place another piece on top if it to make a criss-cross of wax paper.
- Peel the potatoes and nestle them in the bottom of the dish on the wax paper. Gently crush half the garlic cloves with the back of a knife and chuck them in with the potatoes. Generously drizzle olive oil on top, add a bit of salt and pepper and squeeze half the lemon on top, then tuck the lemon in with the potatoes too.
- Cut a few slits into the skin of the lamb and feed in some peeled cloves of garlic (you may need to cut them into pieces). Push a few sprigs of rosemary in with them.
- Rub the lamb all over with olive oil, salt and pepper, then place it on top of the potatoes. Squeeze the other lemon half on the lamb then tuck it underneath. Pour the glass of wine into the pan.
- Carefully fold over the wax paper and either use butcher’s string or some other creative thinking to create a parcel of wax paper. A stapler can come in handy to close off any loose parts or gaps.
- Put the dish in the oven for 30-40 minutes, then turn the heat down to 165C and cook for 4 hours or until the lamb is tender and golden. Try not to open up the parcel to check it too often as you’ll lose some of the moisture.
- Serve it straight from the wax paper, or transfer to a serving dish. You can either carve it like a traditional roast, or my preference is to just pull apart the meat which should be falling off the bone.