I must admit to being quite smitten by this particular lamb 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!
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 lamb 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 sliced lamb shoulder 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.
- Recipe from Elizabeth David’s book ‘French Provincial Cooking’.
I love lamb no matter what time of the year it is. Lovely recipe.
We’re truly lucky to live in a country with great lamb available year round. It’s my favourite meat… well, I thought it was… until I tried that pork belly at A.Baker on Sat night!
Hi Margot, autumn’s creeping in and I’m exploring lamb dishes. This beautiful recipe sure comes in handy. Thank you for sharing. Best, Danny.
Ah, that’s very kind of you Danny, thank you! I love these slow-roasted, comforting dishes for when the weather cools down. Hope you’re well! 🙂
I haven’t eaten lamb since the night before my stomach surgery – so it scared me a little bit! ha ah! But this does in fact look really good!
Thanks Gigi! Hope you manage to find your way back to eating lamb sometime… 🙂
I have the penguin paperback version of Elisabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking too! Love flipping and reading that book though I have to admit that I have not tried out any particular recipe. This lamb boulangere dish looks really delicious! It certainly looks like a very hearty and comforting meal!
That’s interesting to hear Jo… I think part of my problem is that (despite loving the way she writes and enjoying the descriptions) I enjoy seeing photos in cookbooks of how a dish is supposed to look in the eyes of the cook/chef, if made well. Elizabeth David has a few sketches here and there, but nothing to really use as a guide. So like you, I hadn’t really tried many of her recipes out until recently. I can totally recommend this one! 🙂
Great recipe, and very nice picture 🙂
That’s very kind of you… thanks so much Mio!
Oh, I am already tempted! I’m a carnivore, I dream of meat dishes like this. Thanks for sharing the story about Boulangère. Just a few weeks ago, I saw a travel documentary (I forgot the country), people of the neighborhood were bringing their Dutch-ovens/pots with meats in them, for the local bread baker to cook for them in his earth-oven. The baker also baked a whole lamb for a customer for an upcoming wedding.
Thanks Fae! How lovely to hear that this isn’t necessarily a lost custom… I’m obviously just living in the wrong country! 😉
Made this last night, Margot. Just wonderful!
Katie and I also shared a bottle of 2004 Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier. An excellent meal accompanied by an excellent wine!
That’s fantastic to hear Dominic! Thanks so much for letting me know that you both enjoyed it! The Canberra region has some fabulous wines these days… great that you paired one with this dish. I’ve recently stashed away a few bottles of Nick O’Leary’s Riesling, which has become a new favourite! Cheers, Margot
My Elizabeth David book is also a battered paperback. It’s not fancy and as you comment somewhere, her style of writing is very different to what we expect now from cookery writers. However, she really knows her stuff, is passionate about French food and cooking and really changed the way we ate at the time. Love recipes like this!
Thanks Tanya! Yes, she really does know her stuff… I’d be keen to track down a few more of her books to read at some stage… perhaps the one on the Mediterranean or Italy. Love how she manages to transport you to the region of each dish through her background stories and descriptions!
I can just imagine the wonderful flavors In this dish. We had a large community oven in our village in Germany and on Saturdays the woman in the village would bake their sheet cakes and bread.
This sounds like a beautiful way of bringing together the people of a community! How lovely it would be, if society reinstated some of these lost customs. Thanks for this fabulous insight and comment Gerlinde!
Wonderful Margot, I regret I’m not your neighbors so that I can enjoy the cooking smells from your house. Definitely going to try these! 🙂
Ahhh, it really does smell wonderful… particularly after about an hour of being in the oven. Wish you were my neighbour too! Thanks so much Linda. M.xx
I love lamb no matter how it’s cooked. I find Ms David quite brusque and pedantic in the way she wrote but she had every right to be, she knew what she was talking about. I love her books for the social history as well as the recipes. I’ve cooked lamb in a similar fashion, i’ll try it this way next. Thanks Margot
She is definitely rather brusque and authoritative in her writing, which I doubt I’d tolerate quite so well if she were writing in this day and age… however reading it in it’s context… post-WW2 and coming home to a British culinary slump, I commend her for speaking up about all the flavourful food on offer across the Channel and her determination to open up this world to her fellow Brits.
Thanks so much for your kind words Sandra! 🙂
Love the bio…
😀 There was so much more to add, but it was starting to turn into an essay!
I look forward to learning more..
Ah ha. And would you go back to roasting lamb the more traditional way? I mean, how it would be roasted here. Without liquid! I just don’t get it. This I very definitely do get. And would gladly devour. Do you reckon it has to be beef stock? Not that I’m going back to eating meat. How come you get lamb in winter anyway? Oops, so many questions. Actually, here’s another: did you learn much about French cooking whilst there?
Ohhh, there’s no going back Johnny… not after you’ve tasted lamb cooked this way! I think the stock is definitely interchangeable with other types of stock or even water (though would need more seasoning in this case, I’m sure). I cooked potatoes in this Boulangère fashion just recently and opted to use chicken stock – they turned out beautifully too! Ahh and as for lamb all year round? I live in Australia! Sooo many sheep in this big country of ours, so never a shortage… and always a full array of cuts available – chops and legs being the most popular, I would think.
Yes, thinking back… I did learn quite a lot about French cooking while I was there (in the early 90’s), though nowhere near as much as I would learn if I could have my time again now. With age comes a little wisdom and the benefit of hindsight. My first month in France was living in the home of a wonderful French family who spoke very little English… so I learned a lot about their customs, food and etiquette through this experience. My adopted French Mum cooked some beautiful dishes… so I was really rather spoiled! They taught me to love olives too, for which I’ll forever be indebted to them. When I was working and living in the school, I had to start learning how to cook – béchamel sauce was one of the first things I learnt (actually from the other English Assistant who lived with me!) Though the highlight of each week was going down to the centre of town to order ‘Escargots a la Bourguignonne’, followed by either a delicious savoury crepe (topped with an egg usually) or a wood fired pizza (yes, that one’s more Italian than French, I know…) It was also the period where I learnt to drink and enjoy beer, as it was so much cheaper than most other beverages on the menu! It took me a while, but I got there eventually and still enjoy a cold beer these days, now and then throughout the warmer months.
Your making my mouth water. Perfect treat! The photography is also absolutely remarkable:)
Thank you Lina, that’s very kind of you to say! 🙂
I’ve just downloaded that book to my Kindle–I’ll be looking at this recipe very soon–I love lamb and this looks like I can downsize it a bit for one. So glad you posted this.
Ohh, how lovely… that’s made my day Safifer! Her books are so beautifully written… full of passion for both food and travel… and the recipes so authentic and traditional from the food and meals she came across while travelling through France in the middle of last century. I love it as much for the prose as the recipes!
The Elizabeth David I would love to have in hard copy, but better digital than not at all. I also enjoy M.F.K. Fisher and Roy Andries de Groot writing on their food adventures.
Sounds like a great winter (or cool summer) dish. I will be trying it out soon.
It is indeed Joan… and well worthing trying whenever you get the chance. Cheers, Margot
Looks so delicious and your photos are beautiful too… yum! 🙂
Ahh, that’s so very kind of you Lili, thanks!
This is gorgeous Margot, I love roasted lamb and can’t wait to try this when the weather cools. This is the perfet fall winter meal. Love it.
Thanks so much Suzanne! It’s the best roast lamb I’ve tasted… succulent, tender and so full of flavour! Oh and the potatoes were absolutely amazing cooked like this. I tried sweet potato in this dish one night and it was wonderful too, though next time I would wait about an hour before adding them, as they cook much faster than regular potatoes.
I have to try this recipe
Wow, this is a beauty! I’m so glad you picked up the book and skimmed through. I just started thinking about roasts and stews, must be the change in the season upon us. Can you imagine taking your Sunday roast to town to bake?! I’m really interested in the ‘Tarte à l’Oignon’. Hope you post that one too!
Thanks Seana, there must have been a wonderful sense of community back in those days… just needed to be careful to not get on the wrong side of the baker! 😉
I’m really looking forward to trying the ‘Tarte à l’Oignon’ sometime soon. Friends of ours who live just outside of Paris make a ‘Flamiche’ (which I think is very similar) whenever we have the good fortune to visit them… as they know how much I love it!
The pictures are beautiful, I’ll definitely need to make this before the end of summer!
Thanks so much Mary! It’s winter here right now, but I could certainly eat this year round… a dish for all seasons! It think it would go really well with a classic green salad and vinaigrette for the warmer months.