I was recently cycling through the Wicklow countryside with a couple of friends. As happens, conversations get started on the flat, dropped on the ascent, ignored in the excitement of a downhill and restarted when we all have our breath back. Often, we get strung out (not in a doping sort of way, we aren’t that type of cyclists). Conversations, started between three, can carry on for a time between two as the laggard joins up with the group. This can lead to some confusion as two will complete a conversation started by three. The third will join back up with the group and carry on from where things had been left off.
My friend G had been struggling a bit and had fallen behind. The conversation on the theme of the beautiful landscape had been completed and R and I had moved on to discussing his recent stomach disorder (we do cover a wide range of topics). G rejoined us as we rounded a bend and came upon a particularly pastoral scene of rolling fields populated by sheep, as if posing for an oil painting. “Now that’s as bucolic as it gets.” he said as he came wheel to wheel. R replied “It must be the silage, my stomach has been fine for a week.”
I got the conversation back on track, we fell to discussing dishes that are “countrified”. This is a natural lead on from bucolic and a good diversion from R’s digestive tract. One of my favourite, simple, ‘country’ dishes is Roast Shoulder of Lamb with Garlic and Potatoes. It’s also great post-cycling fare.
Ingredients To will feed six to eight (or more if any are suffering from a bucolic stomach).
- 2 lamb shoulders
- 6 potatoes
- 4 large onions
- 1 or 2 bulbs of garlic (depending on how much you like garlic)
- 500 ml (1 pint) of good chicken or vegetable stock
- A few branches of rosemary
- 2 bay leaves
- Salt and pepper to season
Being a ‘City Slicker’, part of me views this dish as being almost too simple to detail here. However, being an Irishman and only a couple of generations away from a mud hut, the rest of me recognises the simple virtue of the dish. I hope you will too.
First, get to chopping the garlic, the onions into rings and peeling and slicing the potatoes.
Layer a casserole dish with garlic, onions and then potatoes. Season and repeat.
Keep at it until there is only room left for the two lamb shoulders.
Pour over the stock. Put the lid on the casserole and pop the lot into a 140ºC (275º F) oven for three and a half hours. Remove the casserole and increase the oven temperature to 180º C (360º F). Place the shoulders in a roasting tray and put them into the oven for 15 minutes to brown them.
Let them rest for ten minutes. Then carve, in as rustic a fashion as you can and serve with the onions, potato, garlic and some beans.
This combines the very best of some simple ingredients, lamb, garlic, onions, rosemary and potatoes. The slow roasting produces very tender meat, infused with garlic, rosemary and onion flavours. Very tasty after a visit to the Wicklow countryside.