How does a substantial Middle Eastern-inspired banquet sound? Start with this lamb dish and add a fennel and orange salad, some garlic-flavoured yoghurt and either couscous or rice and you’ll have a very delicious meal indeed for a group of eight. When planning, remember that you’ll need to start it the day before and then factor in a full day’s cooking.
10 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp sea salt
2 pinches saffron threads
1½ tbsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground turmeric
pinch cayenne pepper
3 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 small bone-in shoulders of lamb (about 1kg each), or 1 larger shoulder (2kg)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
extra virgin olive oil, to serve
½ cup of toasted slivered almonds
½ cup flat-leaf parsley (leaves only)
1. Using a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic cloves, cumin seeds, sea salt, saffron, paprika, ginger, turmeric and cayenne, then add the butter to make a thick, creamy marinade. Rub the marinade into the lamb and refrigerate overnight.
2. Remove the lamb from the refrigerator 2 hours before cooking.
3. Preheat oven to 130˚C. Place lamb shoulders in a roasting tin large enough to fit both and drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil. Add 125ml water. Fold the edges of two sheets of foil together to make a tent over the lamb, seal tightly then cook for 2½-3 hours.
4. Reduce the heat to 110˚C and cook for 4 hours more (if using a single large shoulder, keep oven at 130˚C for a similar cooking time). When the meat is ready, you will be able to tease it from the bone with a fork. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 20 minutes, opening up the foil a fraction, then shred the meat off the bone.
5. Place meat on a platter, or divide among plates, and serve with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil with the slivered almonds and parsley scattered over the top, as well as a really good grind of fresh pepper. Serve with orange and fennel salad.
Also: If you'd like an extra course for a banquet-style meal for 8 people, try Neil's chicken with olives dish.