Lamb shoulder is generally acknowledged to be sweeter and tastier than leg. The downside is that it is a bit fattier and more tricky to carve. Because of the fat, it needs to be well cooked – but not necessarily to the ‘pulled’ stage. The same applies to shoulder steaks.
As a steak, the meat comes away from the bone so they’re good for all manner of casseroles and braising – whole, rather than diced, to give the extra flavour of meat cooked on the bone. Also, the bone stops the meat from ‘tensing up’ when it’s cooked so it keeps an open, looser texture. I tend to use them rather than mutton which despite many attempts, I still find a little too strong for my taste. Sorry His Royal Highnesses Charles and Hugh.
In general, once you get away from roast lamb, medium bodied reds tend to work best in the Cotes du Rhone mode (such as Chateau Rochecolombe or our great value Coteaux du Pont du Gard). Alternatively, a young Rioja such as the Navardia Joven or, as we’re talking about older, hogget type lamb, the Dominio Basconcillos Ribera del Duero but, as you might have noticed, I’ll drink that with anything.
Irish Stew for St Patrick’s Day
Chef Richard Corrigan, came up with the idea of using two sorts of potatoes and it works a treat. The floury ones disintegrate while the waxy remain just that. As a stew, it’s fairly wet but the flavour is in the juice so have some good bread handy. Using shoulder steaks, rather than neck fillets or best ends, make it far cheaper but it will take a bit longer to cook. See the original version here.
4 generous shoulder steaks—as much fat as possible removed.
450g floury potatoes, such as King Edward, peeled
450g waxy potatoes, such as Pentland Javelin or Maris Peer, peeled
700g carrots, peeled
1 large onion, peeled and thickly sliced
good pinch of fresh thyme leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
900ml lamb stock
chopped fresh chives and parsley to garnish
Don’t worry if you can’t buy, or be bothered to make the lamb stock. It will be better with but you’ll get plenty of flavour from the bones in the steaks.
Put the lamb steaks in a heavy-based saucepan. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil, skimming off all the impurities. Remove the lamb with a draining spoon and reserve. Strain the stock through a fine sieve into a clean pan. Add the lamb and bring back to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut the carrots into medium-sized pieces, and the potatoes a little bigger. Add the carrots, onion and floury potatoes to the pan and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add the waxy potatoes and the thyme, and simmer for a further 15-20 minutes or until the lamb is very tender. The floury potatoes will have broken down to thicken the sauce, while the waxy potatoes will keep their shape.
Remove from the heat, cover, and leave without stirring for 15 minutes. Skim off any fat and froth. Check the seasoning, then serve, sprinkled generously with chopped chives and parsley.
There is some controversy about whether carrots should be included in this dish. Escoffier says no, but what would a Frenchman know about Irish stew? I like them. Cold pickled red cabbage is a traditional accompaniment in Ireland.
Navarin of lamb
Often made with new season lamb and spring, primavera, vegetables but equally good with older hogget and more wintery winter fare. The peas and beans add a certain freshness and colour, and hopefully you’ve still got some left in the freezer from last summer – or the shops might have some. Seasonal greens, leeks and cauliflower are also an option. They’ll need to go in at the turnip stage.
1kg (4/5) lamb shoulder steaks
1 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp tomato purée
About 1 litre chicken or lamb stock
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp sugar
1 bouquet garni (a sprig of rosemary, a sprig of thyme & a bay leaf, tied together)
8 small waxy potatoes, scrubbed & halved
8 carrots, scrubbed, halved if large
5 turnips, peeled & cut into quarters (or left whole if they are very small)
8 small onions or shallots, or 2 large onions cut into quarters
200g peas (frozen are acceptable)
200g broad beans (optional)
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
Salt & pepper
Sprinkle the lamb with salt and pepper and leave for 1 hour.
Heat the butter in a large, heavy-based pan, add the lamb (in batches if necessary) and cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, until browned all over. Add the flour and cook, stirring, over a low heat for about 4 minutes.
Add the tomato purée and then gradually stir in half the stock until you have a smooth sauce. Add the garlic, sugar and bouquet garni, plus enough of the remaining stock just to cover the lamb. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 1 hour.
Add the root vegetables and onions and cook, uncovered, for an hour, until tender. Skim off any surface fat, season to taste and add the peas, and the broad beans, if using. Simmer for 5 minutes, then scatter with the parsley and serve.
Lamb braised in milk with garlic & fennel
This recipe is rather rich and luxurious, hailing as it does from New York’s, Italian super chef, Mario Batali—again adjusted to use shoulder steaks.
The Florentine fennel is a BFS addition. For some reason wild fennel seed and Florentine fennel bulbs are rarely used together but I can’t think why. It seemed to work.
3 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste
2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
1 heaped tsp fennel seeds
2 tbsp olive oil
4 lamb shoulder steaks
2 large fennel bulbs—each cut into six wedges
150ml double cream or crème fraîche
2 rosemary sprigs
Mix the garlic with the flat leaf parsley and fennel seeds to form a coarse paste.
In a large, heavy casserole, heat half the olive oil and brown the fennel wedges all over. Remove the fennel and add the rest of the oil. Add the garlic paste and cook over moderate heat for about 1 minute.
Increase the heat and add the lamb steaks. Cook, turning, until lightly browned all over. Transfer the lamb to a bowl, scraping the herb mix back into the pan.
Add 150ml of the milk to the casserole and cook over a high heat for 2 minutes, stirring to scrape up any browned bits. Add the remaining 450ml of milk, the cream, and rosemary. Season the lamb with salt and pepper and return to the pan with the fennel. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the lamb is tender; about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the lamb and rosemary to a bowl; again scraping any gunk back into the pan. Discard the rosemary. Boil the milk mixture over high heat until reduced by nearly half. Purée the hot milk mixture in a blender. Return the sauce to the casserole, add the lamb and simmer over low heat until warmed through. Season with salt and pepper and serve.