Lamb is such a delicious meat, and as we endure the colder days of Winter, a slow cooked shoulder just seems like the perfect food to come home to. For this recipe I’ve taken inspiration from the Greek dish Lamb Kleftico, which is essentially wrapping the shoulder in parchment with seasonings, vegetables and some cooking liquor, and setting the whole thing on a low ‘n’ slow cook for about 5 hours.
Lamb shoulder is one of those cuts I class as a working muscle, and this means the cooking method has to be low temperature, over more time, and in a moist atmosphere. Cooking this shoulder unwrapped would not give us the mouth-watering and succulent result we’re after, but by wrapping in parchment, there are still ways for that smoke to permeate the parcel and scent the meat. If cooking outside in the current damp conditions isn’t enough, I also placed an enamel dish of cold water on the grill next to the roasting tray, which over the 5 or so hours this cook took, lost about 300ml in volume.
You’ll see I cooked this on the Traeger Pro 22 pellet grill for it’s ease of temperature regulation, but the recipe can just as easily be cooked on a classic charcoal grill, a gas barbecue or a ceramic charcoal cooker. Heck I’d even put this one in a wood-fired oven once the heat has died down slightly!!
One of the great things about this dish is that the lamb needs to marinade overnight. While I was prepping the lamb, I took the chance to prep the entire dish so that it was just a case of lighting the barbecue, taking the tray from the fridge to the grill and closing the lid. What could be easier?!
- Whole shoulder of lamb, bone-in (approx. 2.25kg)
- 2 tbsp cold-pressed rapeseed oil
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp sea salt flakes
- 2 bulbs of garlic
- 2 lemons
- 1kg waxy potatoes, quartered
- 1 red onions, peeled and quartered
- 1 red peppers, de-seeded and cut into thick strips
- 3 bay leaves
- 250g cherry tomatoes
- 200ml water
The Night Before
- In a small bowl combine the oil, cinnamon, dried oregano, salt and zest from 1 lemon, and peel and roughly crush one head of garlic. Score both sides of the lamb shoulder in a diamond pattern using a sharp knife, and rub the marinade all over the lamb. Leave to one side.
- Take 2 long sheets of parchment. They should be long enough so that when you fold them in half, they can still wrap completely around the vegetable bed and lamb shoulder. Lay the 2 folded pieces of parchment in the oven tray so they make a cross. Tumble in the quartered potatoes, onions, pepper strips and cherry tomatoes. Cut the lemons in half and push them down into the carpet of colour, tuck in the bay leaves and sit the marinade covered shoulder of lamb on top. Squash the remaining bulb of garlic on the chopping board with the palm of your hand and tuck the cloves around the lamb. Pour in 200ml of water and wrap the parcel. Fold one strip of parchment over the lamb and secure around the edges, before doing the same with the second. Place in the fridge overnight.
The Next day
- Remove the Kleftico tray from the fridge an hour before it will go on the BBQ, just to take the chill off the meat.
- Preheat your barbecue for 130-140c indirect heat, with the lid down and vents open as appropriate.
- With the barbecue up to temperature, place the Kleftico tray in the area of indirect heat, and place a small metal tray of cold water beside it. Insert the probe of the built-in thermometer on the Traeger, or you can use an after market product on other grills such as the ETI Therma Q temperature probe.
*If using a charcoal or gas grill add a handful of water soaked wood chips at the start of cooking for a 15-20 minute burst of light smoke – if you want that extra layer of flavour to the finished dish.
- Close the lid and cook for 5 hours, maintaining the temperature in that 130-140c range, until the core temperature of the lamb reaches 95c. If you don’t have a thermometer designed to stay in the meat during the cook, use a pocket thermometer to check the core temperature after the 4.5hr mark to gauge how far along the shoulder is.
*The usual temperature for cooked food is 75c, but when cooking meats that are all the better when they just fall off the bone, continue the cook until the core temperature reaches 95c. You won’t be disappointed!
- Remove the tray from the grill, keep everything wrapped up to preserve heat and moisture, and allow to rest for a good hour at least.
- The beauty of the dish is the vegetables are slow cooked under the lamb and are almost confit style in the juices that render off the lamb shoulder. You don’t have to but I like to steam up some greens to serve on the side. When you’re ready to serve just take 2 large forks and begin pulling the meat into juicy, succulent morsels of lamb, serve with some of the vegetables from the tray and enjoy!
Perfect for when you want a dish that can be prepared ahead and that doesn’t require any real kitchen time on the day, or if you want something warm and comforting to come home to, and lock the door on the cold bitter weather outside!