slow roast shoulder of lamb with middle eastern spices

slow roasted lamb shoulder with middle eastern spices
Have you ever brought a meal to the table, expecting a few happy exclamations and maybe a small rapturous reception, only to be sadly disappointed?

I learned this the hard way when it turned out that my lunch guests did not like roasted lamb tender and slightly pink the way that I do. Their cries of horror and revulsion were definitely not music to my ears. I was forced to shove the "underdone" meat back into the oven to cremate it just they way they liked it. The spuds were rock hard, the vegetables soggy. but my guests were happy. I managed to salvage a pink piece of meat about the size of a postage stamp and nearly wept.

These guests were coming for lunch again and lamb is in season. So to keep everyone happy, I decided that a compromise could be reached by going for a 6 or 7 hour slow roasted lamb.

I loved the idea of an exotic middle eastern spice paste, using the merguez spice mix typically used in spicy Tunisian sausages. Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's recipe in Every Day Food was the inspiration, although I altered his spice mix a little. Although the spices are stirred into oil, the meat is not overly fatty. The oil that collects at the bottom of the pan is also used to baste the roast.

The smell as the lamb began to roast was irresistible, a fabulous combination of warm basey notes of cinnamon and cumin and the tart citrus of coriander filled the house with enticing aromas.

We ate this with roast potatoes, herb and tomato salsa, gravy, Yorkshire pudding, the first of this season's English asparagus (hurrah!) and fresh broad beans.

The spice mix will be more than you need, but can be used in a variety of ways, from flavouring couscous to adding to tagines and kofte.

To read HFW's slow roasted lamb with merguez spices recipe, go here and to buy his book, Every Day Food, please go here

merguez spice mix
2 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp pink peppercorns
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper or chilli flakes

slow roasted shoulder of lamb
(adapted from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's Every Day Food)

Serves 5-6
Skill level: Easy

1 x lamb shoulder on the bone (about 1.8 kg)
2 tbsp merguez spice paste
1 tbsp lavender flowers
1 tsp sumac
1 tsp dried thyme
a pinch of saffron
2 x garlic cloves, finely crushed to a paste
2 tsp sea salt
2-3 tbsp olive oil

  1. Begin by making the merguez spice mix. Gently heat a small frying pan and toast the coriander, cumin and fennel seeds, together with the black peppercorns and the caraway seeds.
  2. Grind them up with the rest of the spice mix. It doesn't have to be too fine.
  3. Take about 2 tablespoons of the spice mix and add to the olive oil, together with the salt, lavender, sumac, thyme and saffron, to make a paste.
  4. Score the lamb with a very sharp knife, (I use a Stanley knife).
  5. Massage the paste over the entire joint. Then wrap well in foil and put in the fridge to marinate overnight.
  6. Preheat the oven to 200C / Gas Mark 6.
  7. Bring the meat back to room temperature and place in a large roasting tin. Roast for 30 minutes.
  8. Reduce the oven temperature to 120C / Gas Mark ½. 
  9. Add about 200 millilitres of water to the roasting tin (not over the lamb) and roast for 5½ to 6 hours. Check that the roast isn't burning. Cover with foil if necessary and baste with the juices every hour or so.
  10. The roast is ready when the meat is beginning to fall off the bone.This is not a roast that will need proper carving, since you will be able to tear it off the bone.


The KitchenMaid said...

I've made this - or something very like it - and I ALSO have guests/friends/inlaws who like cremated meat, sigh. I think sometimes it's not worth the battle to reprogramme them, just pour yourself another glass of wine and go with it!

Patricia (La Chatte Gitane) said...

Slow roast is just as good as pink, it depends on the cut of meat, really, doesn't it.
Luckily I don't get too many fussy dinner guests. Fussy eaters only get to eat at my table ONCE. Hahaha !

Anyway, you can invite me any time you want, Rachel, coz I really like the look and sound of your

o cozinheiro este algarve said...

Vile heathens who cant eat wont eat pink lamb.The same thing happened to me when I was a guest in Wales.i bought a lovely joint of welsh lamb and cooked it for my hosts but they turned their nose up at on the grounds it was not cremated.Pah!!!!

Working london mummy said...

oooh so glad I found this post. I LOVE merguez. Also love lamb not to be pink. I am bookmarking this post. Delicious!

Francesca said...

Your recipe sounds absolutely yum. Just what I like to eat. Thank you!

DK said...

Hi - I’ve got this all ready to go. Very much looking forward to eating this tonight. Quick question, when you roast the shoulder, do you put it on a rack in the roasting pan? Or just put it directly in?
Thanks! DK

Marmaduke Scarlet said...


You can do either! But what I usually do is to halve or thickly slice several medium-sized onions and then use these onion slices as support for the meat joint. They stop the meat from getting stuck to the bottom of the roasting tin and they also absorb some of the roasting juices. Which means that you then get a side dish of spicy roasted onions! Hope this helps and you enjoy your meal!