12 Pro Tips For Making Slow-Cooked Lamb At Home

12 Pro Tips For Making Slow-Cooked Lamb At Home

Lamb season has officially begun, and one of the best ways to enjoy this sweet, tender meat and delicate flavour is by cooking it low and slow. Only at its best from now until June, we asked 12 top chefs to show us how they make the most of this seasonal ingredient at home.

James Donnelly, Donnelly’s

The arrival of spring lamb is a sure sign of the chef’s favourite season. All the new season veg is also light and crisp but packed full of flavour and when served alongside delicate lamb, it’s a match made in heaven. Favourites include braised spring lamb neck in a mint and spring vegetable broth, served with straw potatoes; or roast spring lamb rump with garlic sauce and an English asparagus pancake – a thin pancake made with béchamel sauce, chives and asparagus, all rolled up and baked.

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Peter Joseph, Kahani

One of the best dishes is oven-roasted lamb shanks with whole cinnamon and cardamom, browned onions and garlic and puréed tomato – which you can slow-cook for two hours. Spring lamb is also delicious in the much-loved biryani: simply simmer diced lamb with tomato, yoghurt, fresh mint and coriander and serve with basmati rice.

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Matin Miah, Rudie’s

When people hear jerk, they instantly think chicken – but jerk is just as good with lamb. Spring lamb neck is often underrated: an old-school stew is a winner, especially when it’s slow cooked with scotch bonnet chilli, pimento and thyme. Most people have the essentials of a jerk rub in their kitchen pantry already (garlic, onion, thyme, allspice, nutmeg, sugar, salt and pepper) – just make sure to let it marinade for as long as possible before cooking to get the full flavour.

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Justin Maule, Wild Fig 

Choose a good cut of lamb, either leg or shoulder and always cook on the bone. When preparing the joint for cooking, cut slashes across the meat, as this ensures that your spice mix and paste is evenly distributed. Make sure to add flaked sea salt to your roast before it goes in the oven, too – it adds to the crust. Put it into a hot oven for the first 25 minutes then add a bit of water, cover the lamb with foil and reduce the temperature, cooking long and slow for another three hours. Keep the skin on the lamb to protect the meat and baste every half an hour. It keeps it nice and succulent.

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Tara Smyth, The Duke’s Head

A shoulder makes for a delicious and cheaper alternative to a leg of lamb. It is also far more forgiving in the cooking process. If you are looking for more depth of flavour, opt for hogget (a lamb is a sheep under a year old, a hogget is between 1-2 years old). Speak with your butcher or local farm shop to source the best possible product. A shoulder makes for the perfect centre piece for a Sunday lunch, while the options for alternative dinners and leftovers are limitless: make some flatbreads and serve with yoghurt and a crunchy slaw or give a shepherd’s pie, ragu or curry a go.

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William Deal, Archie’s Food

Preheat your oven to 200°C. Place the lamb into a deep oven tray and pour some olive oil all over, rub it in with your hands and sprinkle liberally with salt and ground black pepper. Then throw in some garlic. Place your lamb in a baking tray on top of a few sprigs of rosemary and roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the lamb from the oven, before pouring the tin of chopped tomatoes and a bottle of red wine all over the meat. Pour 200ml of water into the baking tray as this helps to stop the wine from reducing too much and the juice from burning. Wrap tin foil over the oven tray and place back in the oven. Turn the oven down to 150°C and let it cook for at least 4 or 5 hours. It does not need much attention; it will quite happily cook away to a deliciously soft state. Perfect with some watercress and aioli.

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Jamie Polito, The Cricketers On The Green

Like most things, a little time spent sourcing your ingredients is always worthwhile. Most supermarket lamb lends itself to long slow cooking, but often, while the meat is succulent, the flavour can be lacking unless it is heavily marinated and masked by strong robust spicing. So speak to your local butcher and spend a bit more money, it is definitely worth it. A favourite cut is shoulder, spiked with rosemary, anchovies and garlic, first roasted for caramelisation, then with stock and covered tightly with foil. Gently cook for 4 hours or so until tender. Serve with gratin dauphinoise, some wild garlic salsa, seasonal greens and roasting gravy, a combination that is hard pressed to beaten.

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Ioannis Grammenos, Heliot Steak House

Whether you have a leg or a shoulder cut, the cooking process is the same – although the shoulder will take a little less time. For either joint, place a non-stick pan on a high heat, then sear the meat on all sides until you have browned it all over. Place into a casserole dish. Using the oil in the non-stick pan from the searing, add sliced onions, crushed garlic cloves and sauté until they are golden brown. Add fresh thyme and rosemary, stir for few minutes until the aroma of the herbs are released, then add white or red wine and a tbsp of cognac. Let it boil for few minutes until the alcohol evaporates, then add salt and pepper. Pour into the casserole dish with the lamb. Cook it on a medium heat for a minimum of 3 hours. 

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Cesar Fernandez, Miele

Slow cooking is a great way to eat lamb, as low and slow braising helps to produce a tender and succulent result and a deep, rich flavour. Always choose a tougher cut with lots of connective tissue: a leg of lamb is great for roasting, but might not be the best for slow cooking. Always season your lamb well with salt and pepper a good 30 minutes before you want to start cooking, as this will help the salt distribute much better throughout the meat and will give you a far better flavour. Have fun with herbs and spices as lamb is a great vehicle for Middle Eastern or south-east Asian flavours. Always check the meat after a couple of hours and if needed, cover with foil or a lid for the last hour. The lower the temperature, the longer you can slow cook the lamb. A shoulder is always best slow-cooked overnight at 85°C.

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Paul Bough, Staub

Before cooking, remove the lamb from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature for around an hour. This means your oven temperature will not drop when the lamb is put in which helps to shorten the cooking time and save energy. Allow the cooked joint to rest while loosely covered with foil. This allows the meat to relax after cooking, making it tender and juicy. Always carve with a straight-edged blade, never a serrated blade. A straight-edge will carve fine, smooth slices whereas as a serrated blade can tear and rip the meat.

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Theo Randall, Theo Randall at the InterContinental

Lamb is a great choice when you have lots of people over, for the very reason it is so easy to prepare and serve. Put it in the oven an hour before your guests arrive and it will be ready in good time – so tender you can serve it with a spoon. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Trim excess fat from the lamb shoulder. Heat a flameproof casserole and add the oil, then put in the shoulder and sear to brown it on all sides. Take it out of the pan and pour off excess fat. Add 6 garlic cloves, 8 anchovies, a sprig of rosemary, 50g of olives and 250ml of white wine to the casserole and set the shoulder on top. Cover tightly with a lid or foil and place in the oven to cook for 1-1.5 hours until the meat is very tender, basting occasionally. Cook uncovered for the last 10 minutes or so to lightly reduce the cooking juices by about half. Serve the shoulder of lamb with its cooking juices and purple sprouting broccoli, just blanched in boiling salted water and dressed with good olive oil.

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Ben Tish, The Stafford London

Always use lamb shoulder, ideally with the bone in to keep it moist and tender throughout the cooking process. Marinate it in smoked paprika, cumin, red wine vinegar and olive oil for a delicious Moorish version on a classic Sunday roast.

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