This recipe takes little effort but is utterly delicious when made with quality ingredients. In this case, a good hunk of lamb, marinated with aromatic flavourings and slow-cooked to the point of melting. It benefits from overnight marinating, but is the kind of dish that you can pop in the oven and go for a long walk without worrying about it coming to any harm. There’s no need to make gravy either – the onions and oranges produce a delicious pan juice that is perfect served with a pile of crunchy fennel seed potatoes or fluffy herby couscous.
1 heaped teaspoon cumin seeds
1 heaped teaspoon fennel seeds
2 small dried red chillies
1 teaspoon ancho chilli powder or smoked paprika
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons clear honey
2kg lamb shoulder on the bone
4–5 small red onions, quartered
2 Seville or bitter oranges, scrubbed in hot, soapy water and dried, then quartered
2 heads of garlic, halved horizontally
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
Spoon the cumin and fennel seeds and dried chillies into a small, dry frying pan and place over a low–medium heat for a minute or so until they start to smell aromatic, shaking the pan so that they toast evenly. Lightly grind the toasted spices using a pestle and mortar – don’t reduce them to a powder. Add the chilli powder or smoked paprika, olive oil, honey and a seasoning of sea salt and black pepper.
Using a sharp knife, cut 5–6 slashes into the lamb shoulder, to allow the aromatic flavours to really penetrate the meat. Place the lamb in a large freezer bag (or roasting tin if you find this easier) and rub the spice mixture into the meat. Then add the onions, oranges, garlic and cinnamon stick. Massage everything together so that the meat is really well basted, seal the bag (or cover the meat well if it’s in a roasting tin) and chill overnight. The next day, bring the lamb back to room temperature and preheat the oven to 190ºC/gas mark 5.
Tip everything into a large roasting tin, making sure the lamb is skin-side uppermost and that there is an even distribution of onions, oranges and garlic around the meat. Cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes, then cover the roasting tin tightly with foil, reduce the heat to 150ºC/gas mark 2 and cook for a further 2½ hours until the lamb is tender. Remove the foil and return the heat to 190ºC/gas mark 5. Spoon the pomegranate molasses over the meat, baste with the pan juices and cook for another 20 minutes until the lamb is nicely browned and sticky.
Leave the lamb to rest in the tin, covered with foil, for a good 20 minutes before pulling the meat from the bone using forks and serving with the pan juices poured over.