Za'atar Lamb Shoulder

Cook time 4 hours + setting time
Servings 4

There are no tricks when it comes to cooking meltingly tender, pull-apart lamb shoulder. Once it’s in the oven or slow cooker, the lamb requires very little attention and simply needs low-temperature cooking for a lengthy period of time. When I’m organised, I love to slow cook the shoulder a day or two ahead and chill it. The next day, I scrape off the film of fat, bring the lamb to room temperature, then reheat it at 200°C for 30 minutes. This tip is great for a dinner party. You’ll have more control in the kitchen as the main job is done and dusted, and the lamb will taste even better as the aromatic za’atar has had more time to mingle with the meat.

Ingredients

1 × (1.5 kg) lamb shoulder, bone-in and shank detached

1 onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges

800 ml chicken stock

2 very ripe tomatoes

Salt flakes


Labne

500 g Greek yoghurt


Za’atar spice mix

2 tablespoons dried oregano

2 tablespoons thyme leaves

1 teaspoon dried mint

3 tablespoons sumac

3 tablespoons sesame seeds

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

Salt & pepper


To serve

flat-leaf parsley leaves

mint leaves

finely sliced red onion flatbreads

lemon wedges

Za'atar Lamb Shoulder

There are no tricks when it comes to cooking meltingly tender, pull-apart lamb shoulder. Once it’s in the oven or slow cooker, the lamb requires very little attention and simply needs low-temperature cooking for a lengthy period of time. When I’m organised, I love to slow cook the shoulder a day or two ahead and chill it. The next day, I scrape off the film of fat, bring the lamb to room temperature, then reheat it at 200°C for 30 minutes. This tip is great for a dinner party. You’ll have more control in the kitchen as the main job is done and dusted, and the lamb will taste even better as the aromatic za’atar has had more time to mingle with the meat.

Method

For the labne, place a sieve lined with two clean Chux cloths or a piece of muslin over a bowl and add the yoghurt. Bring the sides of the cloth together and twist, then tie with a rubber band to secure. Refrigerate for 5 hours or, even better, overnight to drain and release as much liquid (whey) as possible. Discard the whey.

Take the lamb out of the fridge at least 1 hour before cooking.

Place all the za’atar spice mix ingredients in a small food processor (or use a mortar and pestle) and process or pound to a crumb-like consistency. Taste and season generously with more salt and pepper if needed. Set 2 tablespoons aside.

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Rub the za’atar spice mix all over the lamb, adding most to the top.

Place the onion wedges in a large, deep baking dish and rest the lamb and shank on top. Pour the stock around the lamb. Cover the dish tightly with two layers of foil and roast for 3–3 1/2 hours until the meat pulls easily away from the bone.

Increase the oven temperature to 200°C. Remove the foil and return the lamb to the oven.

Roast the lamb for a further 30 minutes to crisp up the skin and toast the spice crust.

Cut the tomatoes in half, then squeeze out and discard the seeds. Using a box grater, grate the tomato flesh, discarding the skins. Place the tomato in a bowl and add a pinch of salt.

Spread the labne over a platter, spoon over the tomato and drizzle with extra oil. Place the lamb on top and spoon around some of the cooking juices. Scatter over the fresh herbs and red onion, then sprinkle on the reserved za’atar spice mix. Serve with flatbreads of your choice and lemon wedges on the side.

Slow Cooker Method:

Follow steps 1, 2 and 3.

Rub a crust of za’atar spice mix all over the lamb, adding most to the top. Place the onion wedges and stock in the slow cooker and rest the lamb shoulder and shank on top. Cover and cook on low for 9–9 1/2 hours until the meat pulls easily away from the bone.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Carefully remove the lamb from the slow cooker and place on a baking tray. Follow steps 7, 8 and 9.