I’ve mixed up some influences here for a fragrant, easy-to-cook leg or shoulder joint, infused with spices and herbs from across the Mediterranean and roasted low and slow to succulent tenderness over five hours. The spice rub is all about aromatics rather than heat, and won’t overpower, I promise. Jersey Royals, lovely spring greens, perhaps tossed with some foraged wild garlic and wilted leeks will complete a feast that owes everything to our home turf at this time of the year. But roasted Mediterranean vegetables, ratatouille or caponata are good too.
- 2kg leg or shoulder of lamb
- 2 large onions peeled and cut into rough chunks
- 2 large carrots, scrubbed and similarly chunked
- 3 bay leaves
- 250ml dry, fruity rosé wine
- 250ml lamb or beef stock (plus a little extra in reserve)
- 1 heaped tsp cornflour
- Salt and pepper
For the spice rub
- 1 tsp each paprika (smoked if you like), ground sumac, coriander, cumin and cinnamon, garlic powder, onion granules, and orange powder (see below)
- ½ tsp each mixed spice and celery salt
For the orange powder
Use a vegetable peeler to remove the thin zest from an orange. Lay it on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Let it dry, rather than cook, in a very low oven for an hour or two. Once crumbly, grind to a powder in a pestle and mortar. It brings a lovely fragrance to all sorts of dishes, and here intensifies the Mediterranean touch.
- Combine all the spices in a bowl and mix well.
- Trim any excess fat from the lamb and rub all over with the spice mix. Wrap in clingfilm or put into a plastic bag and leave to marinate in the fridge for a few hours, or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 160°C/140°C fan/gas mark 3. Pile the onions and carrots into a deep roasting tin big enough to take the lamb joint. Lay the lamb on the vegetables, tuck in the bay leaves and pour in the wine and stock. Cover with foil, put in the oven and set a timer for four hours.
- Increase the temperature to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6. Remove the foil from the roasting tin and allow the joint to brown, topping up with stock if necessary. This is the basis of your gravy.
- Once the lamb has browned, remove it from the oven. Lift it onto a serving plate, cover with more foil and allow to rest for 30 to 40 minutes.
- Meanwhile, remove the carrots and onions with a slotted spoon, discard the bay leaves and transfer the tin to the hob. Bring the liquid to a simmer.
- Add the cornflour to a small bowl, mix well with a tablespoon or so of the pan juices and add to the bubbling stock mixture. Stir until it begins to thicken, check the seasoning, then strain into a warmed gravy boat, adding any resting juices from the lamb.
- Carve, or if it’s a shoulder, pull the lamb from the bone and serve with the gravy.
It’s the saturated fat that makes lamb so tasty, so choose suitably rich but structured reds, tempered by acidity. Claret and Rioja are classics, but be guided by your accompaniments, bearing in mind that what grows together also often goes together. The ripe black-cherry flavours of Argentine malbec work well with the lively flavours of the rub and complement the sweetness of the meat. Lamb and Greek red wines make an ambrosial match and the masterly xinomavro grape with its slightly herby quality would be perfect. Super-elegant Italian red wines (particularly from Tuscany) have something of the spice jar about them and their succulent fruit make them ideal in this context.