Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Recipe: Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder in Tomato Sauce

Growing up, lamb was something we ate two or three times a year at most. Christmas, Easter, and perhaps for a birthday or anniversary dinner were about the only times lamb made it onto the dinner table. Mostly it was because lamb was, and still is, expensive. It was also because my dad was really the only person who absolutely adored lamb. I typically refused on the grounds that lambs are cute, and my mom and sister would usually have a little bit but not nearly enough to justify the high cost.

As I got older, I started to appreciate lamb more and more. The flavour is definitely distinct from beef, and pairs well with spices and dried fruits. Unfortunately, the high cost remained a deterrent for me when I started purchasing my own groceries. Lamb is still not the cheapest meat around, but there are more cuts available now than ever before, and it does go on sale from time to time. While a nice rack of lamb is still prohibitively expensive for a week night meal, cheaper cuts are available in most grocery stores, and frozen lamb is becoming more readily available. I particularly like to use ground lamb as a substitute for beef in pasta sauce, for making meatballs or burgers, or for using to stuff eggplants. 

The other cut I use quite a bit is lamb shoulder. When it's on sale it is comparable to beef or chicken in price, and it's a great cut for slow cooking. I ask for it to either to be cut in thick chops or to be cut into smaller chunks. I don't bother to get it deboned, as slow cooking it will make the meat fall right off the bones and melt in your mouth. The cut has a bit more fat than some other cuts, but the fat melts away during slow cooking, so you aren't biting into chunks of gristle when done. 

I like to make my meals in one pot whenever possible, and this dish fits the bill. The recipe could be made in a slow cooker, but I made it on the stove because I wanted to brown the meat first and I didn't see the point in getting both a frying pan and the slow cooker dirty! I simmered my dish for about two hours to help the flavours combine and to soften the meat, but it can be eaten as soon as the meat is cooked, about 30 minutes or so. 

Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder in Tomato Sauce


1 1/2 -2 lbs of lamb shoulder, cut into large chunks
Olive oil or other oil for frying
2 cups tomato puree (not tomato paste)
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup red wine
2 carrots chopped in rounds
1 onion, peeled and cut into quarters
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups greens of choice, chopped into small pieces
1 tsp. herbes de Provence (otherwise, some thyme & rosemary will do)
1/2 tsp. paprika (or more to taste)
1/2 tsp. cumin
Salt & Pepper to taste


1- Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Once the oil is heated, add the lamb and toss to coat. Allow the lamb to brown a bit on all sides, about 5 minutes or so. Then add the balsamic vinegar and cook for another 5 minutes.

2- Add the remaining ingredients to the pot all at once and mix well. Allow the sauce to begin to bubble, then cover and turn down to simmer.

3- Cook at a simmer, stirring occasionally, until meat is cooked through. It can stay on the stove over low heat for up to two hours or more. The longer the dish cooks, the more the sauce will reduce. For a thicker sauce, allow to cook for longer. Taste and correct seasoning.

4- Remove from heat. Since I have small children, I remove the meat from the bones before serving. I served mine over rice with a salad, but it would be lovely over pasta, or served with a gluten free bun for mopping up the sauce.

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