slow cooked lamb shoulder

Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder

slow cooked lamb shoulder

Comfort food – but still contemporary – this lamb shoulder is full of zesty intricate flavours that give balance and interest and will make you want to eat it again and again.

Inspired by a photo, but less inspired by the recipe that went with it, I created my own recipe to fit the image, and my lamb shoulder turned into a meal that was everything I hoped for and more.  It has fed two of us for two dinners and one lunch, so there is definitely enough for four to six people and it was definitely delicious enough to keep and record as a recipe.

This slow cooked lamb recipe is one that I will look forward to making again and sharing with my  family and friends when we are able to meet again soon.

The recipe does take time – a day to marinate and another for long slow cooking, but this gives you time to get on with life, soak some beans or search out some rice or grains –  your choice of what you have – and know that dinner for tomorrow is sorted.

Maybe take some time to think about a really simple, fresh, zingy salad to go with this.  I had been given a beautiful red radicchio which I made into a salad with orange slices, pine-nuts, chardonnay vinegar, salt, pepper and olive oil – this seemed on the day to be the perfect bitter and textural contrast to the slow cooked sticky lamb shoulder meat.  Interestingly the radicchio is such a strong vegetable that the second night when we ate this I put the leftover salad between the grain and the lamb to reheat and it was just as delicious, but much more mellow in flavour (thank heavens – Ed says!)  I will definitely try and grow these next year and will be looking for them in the chiller at the Market.

The list of spices is quite long but I think they are all important – whether you use  pre ground spices or toast them and grind them yourself is up to you – I am always looking for the edge in my cooking, so when I can, I will toast and grind my own – but the differences in a slow cooked dish like this are probably subtle and it is going to be delicious either way.

For us in New Zealand, this is also a great time to be using the local citrus fruits that are starting to come on to the market.  I have used one each of an orange a lemon and  a lime (and added a red onion) to form a trivet to rest my spiced shoulder of lamb on, but you can use which ever citrus you have for your isolation special.  As the shoulder cooks slowly over five or six hours, these almost melt away and when you eat the lamb the pieces of citrus give bursts of rich but somehow mellowed out sharp flavours which in turn balance out the rich melting lamb.

To serve under the shoulder soaking up some of the juices and adding texture, I used some pre cooked grains (brown rice and quinoa),  think of this as a great opportunity to check your pantry and use whatever grains or beans or pulses that you either need to use or feel like on the day.  As I talked about a few weeks ago, I often like to cook a batch of grains or beans to have on hand for quickly made salads etc.  This week I had cooked some brown rice and quinoa as part of a pantry clearing exercise – using what I had available and  what needed to be used.


Smallish lamb shoulder to feed four people approximately 2kg


  • 1 tablespoon  coriander seeds (or ground)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds (or Ground)
  • 1 tablespoon sumac
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cardamon (or ground)
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 lime
  • 1 red onion
  • Approximately 1/2 cup of the pre cooked starch of choice for each person



  • 1  cup natural yoghurt
  • 1 tablespoon of mint (you could use basil instead or leave it out if you have none)
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • Juice of one lemon

slow cooked lamb shoulderDAY ONE

Prepare and combine all your spices in a bowl or pestle and mortar.

Add garlic minced or grind with your spices in a pestle and mortar.

Add salt and olive oil and mix to a paste.

Spread this all over your shoulder of lamb and leave to marinate over night.

Soak your beans overnight as well if you are using beans.


Early afternoon

Preheat oven to 170’C

Halve and slice your chosen citrus fruit

Cut re onion into thin-ish  wedges and put all together in a roasting dish.

Place spiced lamb on top of this

Add two cups of water to the bottom of the roasting dish and cover either with a lid or foil

Cook for approximately four – five hours turning once during cooking.

At some stage during this process will need to make your yoghurt topping by simply mixing all these ingredients together and set aside ready to pour over just before you serve the lamb.

Also prepare you pulses, beans or rice you would like to have under the lamb.

Around the four to five hour mark remove foil and leave the lamb to cook for a further hour to reduce  juices and form a crust on the lamb.

Remove the lamb from the dish and put on a plate to one side.  Using a spoon remove the fat from the top of the  meat juices.

You want to have between one and two cups of meat juices in the bottom of the roasting dish so if too much has evaporated make up the amount with some tap water and mix up with all the bits in the bottom of the dish.  This will mostly be absorbed into your starch of choice but there should be enough to keep it all juicy.

Now add your pulses, grain or cooked beans to the juices and return the lamb shoulder to the top of that and return to the oven to heat through for half -three quarters of an hour.

This is now ready to serve or will hold in a warm oven until you are ready to serve.

I poured the yoghurt I had put together earlier over the lamb just before I took it to the table.  I garnished it with some chopped green( I used spring onion but could have been parsley mint or coriander)  and some citrus slices and  chilli flakes  to reflect what was I had used in the cooking process. Then I served it with a simple tangy salad.

As always with meals like this it is meltingly delicious to eat now but will be equally delicious tomorrow or the next day.

If it is really too much to eat – you could shred the meat off the bone with the pan juices and bits and pieces and freeze some for another time.

I hope you will try this and enjoy it as much as I did.



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