Welsh lamb shoulder, with chickpeas, leeks and chimichurri

In partnership with PGI Welsh Lamb

Very pleased to formally be moving into Weekend Roast Season.

I mean, summer was pretty rubbish weather-wise this year, so perhaps the roasts have been present for you throughout 2021. But, still, there’s something about windy and wet days in autumn, and the nights drawing-in ever sooner, that calls for long, convivial, mid-afternoon meals with friends and family.

To my mind, a slow-roast lamb shoulder is the best roast. There, I’ve said it. It’s almost totally hands-free, always yields perfectly succulent results, and is always packed with flavour.

If you’re not a frequent lamb eater, than I’d urge you to tweak your routine a little, aiming in particular to up your lamb quotient, as here is a ruminant that is rarely if ever farmed at a level as intense as other meats, with the animals free to wander while sequestering carbon back into the soil as they roam.

I say ‘rarely if ever’ because I guess you can never be one hundred per cent sure. That said, one mark to look out for is PGI Welsh Lamb — a sure sign that the lamb you’re buying, cooking and eating is of dependably high quality, and from a region that’s ideal for rearing lamb: steeped in tradition and expertise; with plentiful, lush grass on rolling hills (and sometimes steeper), where lamb is free to graze naturally. You can taste all that, I think.

Back to the meal. Suggesting lamb shoulder is the best roast might provoke debate. My next claim could well lead to war: because this is a roasting joint that works best when the sides do not include roast potatoes. “Heresy!” I hear you scream. Perhaps. But I have thought a great deal about this.

Boulangere or Dauphinoise potatoes are my normal go-to carb, alongside hearty, garlicky, sautéed greens and then some carrots with a little twist (see my book On the Side for various options…). Beans and pulses put up a good fight, though, and if you come over to mine at the weekend, you’ll often see me pairing succulent lamb with butter beans and sage, borlottii and rosemary, or some other brothy pulse or legume.

On which note, here’s one idea and a recipe for you that ticks both the legume and hands-free boxes: Chickpeas and leeks that braise in the juices of the lamb while it cooks. That’s it. No more effort than that. Other than five minutes to knock up a chimichurri sauce at some point within the five and a bit hours of cooking.

For more about PGI Welsh Lamb, visit eatwelshlamb.com

For the Lamb, Leeks and Chickpeas

  • 300g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
  • 500g trimmed leeks cut into 3xm batons
  • 2 bulbs garlic, halved
  • 1/2 15g pack of oregano
  • 250ml dry white wine
  • 850ml water
  • 1.8-2kg PGI Welsh Lamb shoulder
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Sea salt and extra virgin olive oil to serve

For the Chimichurri

  • Leaves picked from 1/2 15g pack of oregano, finely chopped
  • Leaves picked from 50g bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 1 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon flaky salt dissolved into 75ml water

Heat the oven to 150C fan.

Drain the soaked chickpeas and transfer them to a large roasting tin. Pop the leek batons, garlic halves and oregano sprigs among the chickpeas, add the wine and water and place the lamb shoulder on top, seasoned with a load of ground black pepper but not salt (as this would toughen the chickpeas).

Line up two large pieces of foil, pleated in the middle so they can expand a little without ripping. Then seal the roasting tin tightly and cook for five hours.

Meanwhile, make the chimichurri by finely chopping those herbs and combining with the other ingredients. The earlier you do this the better as the flavours mingle and mellow over time (in fact, if you could plan to do this the night before as a prompt to remember to soak your chickpeas).

After five hours check in on the lamb – it should be soft and succulent and if you tug at the bones they should feel like they’re about to slip out. If not, reseal and give it 30 minutes more. If it’s good, then crank the oven up to 180C fan, remove the foil and, if the chickpeas look dry, pour in 200ml or so of water, give the tin a shake and roast for 15-20 minutes to brown the top of the lamb.

When the time is up, carefully remove the lamb from the tin and set on a plate. Squidge the garlic halves so their soft bulbs plop out and stir that flavour into the chickpeas along with some salt and a little more water if needed to loosen things up.

Decant those chickpeas, the leeks and all juices onto a platter, Place the lamb on top, pull out the bones, push the meat into big chunks using two spoons, season generously with salt and serve with loads of chimichurri over the top.