A few years ago, we watched Shane Delia’s Spice Journey on SBS and we were very taken with him. I bought his book, Maha, and when I was in Melbourne last year with Colette, we had the degustation lunch at his restaurant by the same name. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience but the main course, this dish, was underwhelming. As I remember it, I got a small bowl of stringy (much like pulled pork) lamb. Since then, each time I browse through his cookbook, I pause at the recipe and wonder whether what I had at the restaurant was as good as it gets. I have doubted it because, it is his signature dish. So I decided to try it.
Yesterday was the day. I set the alarm for 7:30am to preheat the oven. The meat went into the oven at 8:00am in anticipation of an 8:00pm dinner. Really, if you want to try this, it is a perfect dinner party meal. There is nothing to do after 8:00am.
- 2 heads of garlic
- 2 tbs* of flaked sea salt (I found the lamb to be a bit salty. I don’t usually use the full amount of salt a recipe calls for but, dammit, in this instance I can’t remember whether I used the full amount or not.)
- 1½ tbs* cumin seeds, toasted and ground
- 2 tbs* ground sumac
- 2 kg lamb shoulder, bone in.**
*These are 20 mil tablespoons.
** I ordered a 2 kilo shoulder from the local butcher and he sold me about 2.8kg. Lucky that he did. There were six of us and we ate, virtually, all of it. There was a fair amount of bone and, clearly, the meat cooks down 🙂 so … go big.
- Crush the garlic with a pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle until a paste forms. Mix in the cumin, sumac and remaining salt.
- Score the lamb with a sharp knife and generously rub the garlic mixture over the lamb.
- Place in an airtight container and marinate in the fridge for 2-3 days.
- Preheat the oven to 110°C (fan-forced)
- Place the lamb in a roasting tin and roast for 12 hours, basking with the cooking juices when possible (I did it every 2 hours).
- Turn the oven up to 200°C (fan-forced) for the last 45 minutes to brown the skin.
I honestly can’t tell you whether it was successful or not. It was very tasty, that is for sure. And it was definitely better than what I had at Shane’s restaurant but I don’t know if it was as good as it could be. I felt the meat was, possibly, overcooked but I just don’t know. I would love it if someone else tried the recipe and told me what they thought.
Maus, the critical one, really liked it and gave it the thumbs up. Everyone at the table said it was great but, people do tend to be polite.
The above photo is what the meat looked like at 3:30 in the afternoon (after 7½ hours – it looks cooked to me).
This is what it looked like at 5:30 in the afternoon (after 9½ hours) – it looks really cooked to me. Notice how the meat is already coming away from the scapula bone. I wonder what it would have been like at this point. I have a feeling this is as good as it gets.
The top photo was what it looked like at 8:00pm after the leg and scapula bones were removed and it had been cut into pieces. Looking at the photo, it still looks good. The meat easily came away from the bones and we were then able to cut it into bits. It didn’t fall apart but still held its shape and it tasted great. Maybe it was perfect. Maybe it was overcooked. I have no idea.
If you have Shane’s book, we served it with the pistachio and green olive tabouleh recipe on the same page; roast kipfler potatoes with aleppo pepper on page 150; and fatoush from Palestine on a Plate by Joudie Kalla.