Mum always cooked us beautiful well-balanced, well-seasoned food, which is where I began to develop my palate. She did a wonderful slow-cooked lamb neck, and I’ll never forget her ratatouille, which is roasted in the oven to really bring out the flavour of the vegetables and which also helps them retain their shape and identity. This recipe is a little bit of me and a little bit of Mum combined. Hopefully if you cook it in your Mum’s kitchen you wont get told off for making too much mess like I used to!
– Simon Wright
Slow-Cooked Lamb with Mum’s Ratatouille and Almond Polenta
For the lamb:
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Handful of rosemary leaves, finely chopped
- Handful of thyme leaves, finely chopped
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 30ml olive oil
- 1 lamb shoulder, bone in, around 2.4 kg total weight
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 750ml chicken stock
- 250ml red wine
- 2 carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces
- 1 onion, peeled and quartered
- 1 bulb of garlic, cut in half along the equator
- Handful of freshly picked soft herbs and edible flowers, to garnish
For the ratatouille:
- 3 small courgettes, cut into large chunks
- 1 eggplant, cut into large wedges
- 1 red capsicum, cut into large pieces
- 1 yellow capsicum, cut into large pieces
- 6 pickling onions, peeled and halved
- 12 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 5 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp thyme leaves
- Sea salt
- 18 cherry tomatoes
- Handful of fresh basil leaves
For the polenta:
- 400ml unsweetened almond milk
- Large pinch of sea salt
- 50g instant polenta
- 25g grated Parmesan
- 25g butter, cold, chopped into small pieces
- 2 tbsp toasted ground almonds
Marinate the lamb:
Mix minced garlic, half of the rosemary and thyme, fennel, and oil in a small bowl. Use a sharp knife to slash all the way across the top of the lamb shoulder, making four cuts 2mm deep. Rub the oil and herb mixture all over the lamb shoulder and into the cuts, and season lamb generously with salt and pepper. Place lamb onto a tray cut side up, cover with plastic wrap, and leave at room temperature for 2 hours to marinate.
Prepare the ratatouille:
While the lamb is marinating, prepare the ratatouille.
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Bring a pot of water to the boil. Add courgettes and cook for 30 seconds, then immediately drain and rinse under cold water (this will preserve their green colour after roasting).
Place courgettes, eggplant, capsicums, onions, garlic, tomato paste, olive oil, and thyme into a large bowl, season with sea salt, and mix thoroughly with your hands. Transfer to a large ovenproof dish and roast for 40 minutes. Gently stir in tomatoes and roast a further 15 minutes or until tomatoes have softened. Remove from the oven, stir in basil, and set aside until needed.
Roast the lamb:
Preheat oven to 170°C.
Stir stock and wine together in a large ovenproof dish. Add carrots, onion, garlic, and remaining rosemary and thyme and place marinated lamb shoulder on top (discard the plastic wrap). Cover with a tight fitting lid (or two layers of aluminium foil tightly wrapped onto the dish) and place in the oven for 4 hours. To check if the lamb is ready, pierce the meat with the tip of a sharp knife. If you feel some resistance cook for a further 30 minutes.
Increase oven temperature to 200°C. Remove the lid from the dish. Baste lamb with some of the cooking juices and return to the oven uncovered for 40 minutes, basting every 10 minutes or so with the cooking juices, until browned.
Remove lamb from the tray and rest for 15 minutes before serving. Reduce oven temperature to 180°C and return ratatouille to the oven to reheat while lamb rests. Pour the lamb cooking juices through a fine sieve into a small saucepan. Set aside for 10 minutes until some of the fat rises to the top.
Prepare the polenta:
While the lamb is resting, place almond milk and salt into a medium-sized heavy-based saucepan and bring to the boil. Whisk in polenta and continue to whisk while boiling for around 2 minutes until the polenta is cooked and thickened. Whisk in Parmesan until fully incorporated, then stir in butter until melted and combined. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with toasted almonds. Keep warm.
Remove excess fat from lamb cooking juices with a spoon. Place saucepan on a medium heat and bring to a simmer, then transfer to a sauce jug. Transfer reheated ratatouille to a large serving bowl.
To serve, place the warm lamb shoulder onto a large chopping board, sprinkle with herbs and flowers, and place in the centre of the table with a fork and spoon. Add ratatouille bowl, polenta bowl, and sauce jug to the table, and let guests help themselves.
- Ratatouille can be prepared 1-2 days in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container. Gently reheat in the oven or on the stovetop before serving