This is a spectacular centrepiece. And at a family gathering it’s fun to have stuff that makes everyone jockey for position. The seasoning has brightness and depth, with lots of acid and tannins from the pomegranate. I just love that profile: cumin, coriander, a little bit of spice. You can be taken aback by its brightness, but lamb shoulder is rich, so the seasoning really cuts into it. You can use shank or neck, but it’s easiest to do with a shoulder because it’s one big joint with lots of meat. The recipe is straightforward: you braise it, blast it hard in the oven and away you go. You’ll have the best shawarma the next day.
- 1 bone-in lamb shoulder, about 2 kg (4½ lb)
- 10 cloves garlic
- Olive oil
- Salt, pepper
- 3 medium onions, minced
- 100 g (4 oz) ginger, minced
- 2 bird’s eye chilies, minced
- 250 g (1¼ cups) brown sugar
- 1 tbsp salt
- 75 g (about ½ cup) sumac powder
- 20 g (about ¼ cup) coriander seeds, toasted, coarsely ground
- 15 g (about 2 tbsp) fennel seeds, toasted, coarsely ground
- 10 g (about 1½ tbsp) cumin seeds, toasted, coarsely ground
- 5 g (about 1½ tbsp) dried fenugreek leaves, crushed
- 1 L (4 cups) tomato sauce
- 750 ml (3 cups) dark chicken (or lamb or veal) stock
- 200 ml (7 fl oz) pomegranate (or other top-quality) molasses
The day before cooking make small, regular incisions in the lamb, peel and slice half the garlic and insert into the meat. Then rub the meat with olive oil and season generously on all sides. Transfer to the refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 225°C (450°F).
Arrange lamb in a roasting pan and let rest for an hour. Transfer to oven and roast until golden—about 20 minutes—rotating the pan at the halfway point. Transfer lamb and its juices to a large Dutch oven, and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan sweat the onions, ginger, the remaining garlic, minced, and chilis until they soften—about 10 minutes. Add sugar, salt, ground sumac, coriander, fennel, cumin and the fenugreek leaves. Raise heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar begins to caramelize—about 5 minutes. Add the stock, tomato sauce and molasses, and bring to a simmer. Lower heat and cook for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Lower oven to 150°C (275°F).
Pour braising liquid over the lamb and bring to a simmer on the stovetop. Cover snugly with foil, then the pot lid, and transfer to the oven for 4-5 hours, periodically basting any exposed meat. When lamb is tender and yields easily to a fork, transfer to a roasting pan, tent with foil, and let rest 20 minutes. Taste liquid and salt if needed (this is your sauce).
Meanwhile, raise oven to 225°C (450°F).
Just before serving, transfer lamb to oven to caramelize—about 5 minutes. Serve lamb on a platter accompanied with its braising liquid.
Ideal sides: soft polenta, glazed turnips and spicy Brussels sprouts.
The fruit from the wine contrasts with the savoury notes of this dish, while the smoke and tobacco help to enhance the darker aspects.
For more info on these and other fine wines, go to Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits.