Danielle Alvarez's slow-roasted lamb shoulder with white beans and harissa
Prep 30 mins (plus soaking, resting, seasoning)
Cook 9 hrs
“A whole slow-roasted lamb shoulder is a beautiful way to prepare lamb for a few people. Cooked over a few hours in a low oven, the meat becomes meltingly tender and can easily be pulled apart with two forks,” says Danielle Alvarez. “The romesco is a purée of charred red peppers, crushed nuts, breadcrumbs and roasted and raw garlic. It’s a delicious, smoky, sweet and savoury accompaniment to lamb, but it also works very well with grilled ﬁsh, squid or even chicken. Soak your beans overnight and cook them gently so that they remain intact and don’t burst open while cooking. If they do burst open, do not despair; they will still be delicious. But under no circumstances should you drain the beans until you are ready to serve them. Instead, allow them to cool in their cooking liquid. Don’t worry; they won’t overcook.” You’ll need to begin this recipe a day ahead to soak the beans and season the lamb.
1 x 2.25–2.5kg lamb shoulder, on the bone
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to serve
Juice of 1 lemon
½ bunch thyme, leaves picked
300g dried white beans, such as cannellini or ﬂageolet
1 onion, peeled and halved
2 carrots, peeled and halved
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp salt
2 fresh bay leaves
½ bunch thyme
900g–1kg red bullhorn peppers (or any sweet red capsicum variety)
1 garlic bulb plus 1 garlic clove
3 tbsp olive oil
60g roasted peeled hazelnuts
60g roasted almonds
1 tsp mild smoked paprika
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
2 tsp red-wine vinegar
60 g breadcrumbs, toasted (see note)
1. The beans can be made a day or two ahead. Soak them in cold water overnight and cover the beans with more water than you think they need. They will double in size during the soaking process, and if some stick out of the water, they will not soak evenly and will therefore cook unevenly. The following day, drain them and place them in a large saucepan with 1.5 litres cold water and the remaining ingredients (tie the herbs together so they are easy to remove later on). Bring the water up to a simmer and skim off any brown foam that ﬂoats to the top. Simmer until they are completely creamy and tender. This could take anywhere between 1 and 2 hours depending on the size of the beans. Add a bit more water during the cooking process if it seems like it is evaporating too quickly. Allow to cool in the liquid, then reheat, still in the liquid, to serve.
2. Preheat the oven to 180°C. To make your romesco, char the peppers completely over a stovetop ﬂame or outside on a grill. It’s important that they are blackened so that the skins come off easily. Place them in a bowl and cover with a lid so they steam and cool. Once cooled, peel them, removing any seeds or stem that is still attached. Add to a blender and blitz to a paste. You don’t want a super-ﬁne paste, but, something with a bit of texture to it.
3. To roast your garlic, cut the top quarter off, place it on a piece of aluminium foil and pour over 1 tablespoon oil and a sprinkle of salt. Wrap it up tightly in the foil then bake in the oven for 45 minutes until it is soft and beginning to turn golden. Set aside to cool. Crush your toasted nuts in a mortar and pestle until ﬁnely crushed but not yet a paste. In a bowl, combine the crushed nuts with the pepper purée, squeeze the soft garlic out of its skin and add it along with any of its roasting oil, the smoked paprika, remaining olive oil and vinegars, and grate in the raw clove of garlic. Add the breadcrumbs just before serving so that they don’t go soggy.
4. The night before you want to cook your lamb, season it liberally with salt and pepper and refrigerate, uncovered, overnight.
5. The next day, remove it from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Pour the olive oil and lemon juice over the lamb and rub it with the thyme leaves. Place it on a tray and roast for 6–7 hours until very tender. The meat should fall off the bone. If the shoulder needs extra caramelisation, increase the heat to 220°C for the last 20 minutes of cooking to brown the outside. Rest the meat for 20 minutes on a serving platter so that its juices will mingle with the beans.
6. Spoon the hot beans around the lamb and drizzle with some good olive oil and a ﬁnal seasoning of salt and pepper. Serve with the romesco.
N O T E
To make breadcrumbs, the bread you select is important; you want a day-old loaf with some integrity and a good amount of crumb compared to crust, like a sourdough or miche, or Italian loaf. Remove crusts, process in a food processor, then toss in olive oil (for 60g use 1 tbsp oil). Bake at 180°C and bake, stirring and checking every 5 minutes until golden.
Extracted with permission from the book Always Add Lemon by Danielle Alvarez, published by Hardie Grant Books, $50. Photography © Benito Martin and Jess Johnson.