T’is the Season of the Slow Cooker!
As the nights begin to draw in again, as the Autumn leaves whirl around our ankles and as we scrabble desperately in the bottom of cupboards for hats, gloves and scarves once again – we welcome Autumn! Along with Autumn comes nippy winds, drizzle drenched skies and cravings for comfort food. I’m happy to indulge the latter.
Healthy Supplies have a theme this month which is Autumnal food with a twist, and in line with that I’ve decided to have a go at ‘Rolled Shoulder of Lamb with Cumin & Harissa‘. I love my slow cooker and thought it would work well on a joint of meat that can sometimes turn out a little tough done in the oven. I know the title sounds maybe a tad posh, but it’s actually a very straightforward recipe. Definitely give it a go, especially if you like your house adrift with mouthwatering cooking smells; I always think a house feels truly homely if it smells of dinner!
What you’ll need:
800g (1lb 12 oz) boneless lamb shoulder joint
1 – 2 tsp harissa paste, to taste
1tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp olive oil
500g (llb 2oz) new potatoes, washed.
150g (5oz) Greek yoghurt
A large pinch of ground cumin
I like to support my local market as much as I can, apart from anything else I can’t reach a supermarket on foot very easily – so this joint of meat was bought from a ‘proper’ butcher. I sound ever so middle-class now don’t I! The butcher was very helpful and gave me some cooking string and something that looked like a sports support sock to help keep the meat together once it was cooking. I felt very silly asking him about ‘cooking string’ having never really heard of it before, and not knowing where to get it or what it was. He was ever so helpful though, and bit by bit I’m feeling more confident about asking for things that are a little more unusual than ‘4 pork chops please!’ which is my standard line. Apparently it is string that has no nylon in it, so it won’t melt whilst cooking.
So here we go! First, if the lamb is tied with string, cut it with scissors, unroll it and lie it flat on a surface, fat side down. (My piece of meat was too much of a lump of lamb to lie flat, but it did have a lot of fat one one side so I just lay it down as best I could)
I liberally smeared Harissa paste and cumin seeds all over the top side of the lamb; the paste is basically Harissa spices with a little added water and olive oil. Next came the difficult bit. It sounds so straightforward in the recipe book ‘roll the meat back up tightly and, using cooking string, tie the meat 3 – 4 times along the joint to stop it from springing open’. Let me tell you ‘rolling’ this was no mean feat. Rolling pancakes = easy! Rolling pastry = easy! Rolling a huge, slippery, rubbery piece of meat that is most definitely not flat = almost impossible. Could I fit it in the meat sports socking thing? Nooo!
I did my best though, which involved getting very slimy hands and ragging it about a lot. It looked like a very badly wrapped raw lamb birthday present by the time I’d finished.
After fighting with it for a while, and eventually ‘rolling it’ I put it in the olive oil which was heated to a high temperature in the frying pan. The lamb was browned for 5 – 10 minutes, something that is very important if you like your food to have a bit of colour.
All you have to do now is put the lamb in the slow cooker and surround it with the potatoes and the carrots for company. I cut the carrots into chunky matchsticks so they’d cook properly without losing their shape and pre-boiled them for 5 minutes or so. Not everyone pre-boils veg before putting it in their slow cooker but I find it makes for softer veg which suits the kid’s tastes a little more than ‘Al dente!’ (or whatever the term is).
Last but not least, I sprinkled the cumin into the Greek yoghurt, tasting it as I went – just to make sure it wasn’t too hot for my two little fuss-pots. This is the very last part of the recipe, and something that you only add when you are actually serving up the meal. The yoghurt & cumin is surprisingly mild and yet boasts a very slightly spicy, almost gingery tang that mixes with the lamb juices like a rich gravy.
The day was a busy one, filled with school runs, nursery runs, swimming lessons and running around in circles, so it was lovely to come home to a beautiful, melt -in-the-mouth lamb supper. To be precise, the recipe does say that this should be cooked on low for 4 hours. I left it for more like 5 hours if not a tiny bit longer and it was perfectly cooked. Obviously this does depend on your slow cooker settings though, mine is a Morphy Richards.
So there you have it! Monday’s dinner. ‘Rolled Shoulder of Lamb with Cumin & Harissa!’ It was a complete success, everyone had seconds and I was told that I had to make it again. Sometimes using spices can be a bit worrying, it usually involves just a little more effort and from my experience, it can be a make or break thing for my children and their appetites. This time, it paid off!
I thought it would be nice to do a couple of sensible recipes a month as well as the occasional quirky ones. This sort of thing stretches my culinary muscles a little so it’s no bad thing, I’m normally a fairly bodge-it kind of Domestic Disasteress rather than a Domestic Goddess. This is all a learning experience for me to be honest. Please feel free to advise me on cooking methods, how to ‘roll’ a frigging awkward piece of meat, or hints & tips generally. All comments very gratefully recieved! Many thanks to Healthy Supplies for the heavenly Harissa spices, and their blog sponsorship. I’d highly recommend a wander around their site for further recipes, unusual stuff (dehydrated watermelon!!), nutritious stuff and because they’re fab!”