I must admit to being quite smitten by this particular dish… only quite recently plucked from the pages of Elizabeth David’s fabulous book, ‘French Provincial Cooking’. My copy is a fairly cheap Penguin-published paperback, which I’ve flicked through occasionally over the years, but in fact, have never really made anything substantial from. Happy to say that this was put to rights about a month ago. While enduring the lengthy wait for the boys to finish their soccer training, quite naughtily, I went through and dog-eared all the pages containing recipes that piqued my interest. Take it as a sign of exactly how good this dish tastes, by the fact that I’ve yet to make either the ‘Courgette Soufflé’ or the ‘Tarte à l’Oignon’ that were duly marked for testing, but have made this ‘Épaule d’Agneau Boulangère’ at least 4 or 5 times!
Boulangère is a term used in French cooking for a dish that comprises both potatoes and onion. Strangely enough… literally, it is also the word for a female Baker (of bread, rather than patisserie) and word has it, that many years before ovens made their way into household kitchens, it was quite the norm for people to prepare their Sunday Roast and then take it to be baked by the local baker of the village, in his very large oven.
This slow-cooked, tender and flavourful, one pot legend of a dish is something I hope you will all be tempted to try very soon… you won’t regret it!
Elizabeth David's Lamb Boulangère | Gather and Graze
- 1.5kg (about 3-3½lbs) Boned Lamb Shoulder
- 2 Garlic Cloves (crushed)
- 6 Sprigs Fresh Thyme (leaves removed and chopped)
- Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 30g (2 Tablespoons) Butter
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
- 1 Onion (thinly sliced)
- 6 Medium Waxy Potatoes (peeled and quartered)
- 500mls (2 Cups) Good Quality Beef Stock
- Small amount of extra Thyme leaves (for scattering over the finished dish)
Remove the lamb from the fridge about an hour before you wish to start cooking, to allow it time to come to room temperature.
Pre-heat the oven to 170°C/330°F/Gas Mark 3 and arrange an oven rack to be sitting on the second lowest shelf.
Press the garlic and thyme leaves, along with some salt and pepper into the inside of the lamb shoulder. Roll up and tie into shape with kitchen string. To learn a good method of tying up a roast, click through to see this video by Le Cordon Bleu.
Melt the butter and olive oil in a large (Le Creuset or similar) cast iron casserole pot over medium heat. Brown the rolled lamb shoulder, turning every now and then, until golden all over. Remove to a plate temporarily, while you add the sliced onion to the pot and sauté until translucent. Return the lamb and surround it with the potatoes. Pour over the beef stock (which should almost cover the potatoes) and allow to come to a gentle boil. Simmer for a minute or two, then place the lid on and transfer to the pre-heated oven to cook for about 2½ hours (removing the lid for the final half hour of cooking).
Transfer the meat and potatoes to a warm place to rest (before carving) and reduce the liquid remaining in the pot to form a beautiful, flavourful sauce. Be sure to check for seasoning, before adding any extra salt or pepper – this will vary depending on the type of beef stock you use.
Serve the lamb and potatoes (with perhaps some lightly steamed green beans or broccoli) on a large platter/plate in the middle of the table, with the sauce poured over the top and sprinkled with a few more fresh thyme leaves.