There's nothing better than spring lamb, says WanderSups' Hannah Gregory
It’s official. The sun is appearing more, the daffs are out, the days are getting longer – spring has sprung and with it we start to think of long weekends, supermarket aisles lined with chocolate eggs and my favourite element of the season, spring lamb.
We are all familiar with roast legs of lamb, studded with cloves of garlic, sprigs of rosemary and perhaps the odd anchovy or two, but we shouldn’t stop at the humble roast. Lamb is such a diverse meat and lends itself well to a multitude of dishes.
I will always be a woman of tradition and slap a roast on the table on Easter Sunday, but I like to think of other ways to include the meat into the weekly meal plan, especially at this time of year. This dish is simple enough to make ahead of time and serve up as a weeknight dinner, but by slow cooking the shoulder and packing it with flavour, it will also steal the show at any dinner party.
I have written the recipe as if cooking from scratch but it is also a fantastic way of using up any leftover meat that may be surplus from your roast – not really ever a thing casa de WanderSups but the sentiment is there.
Moussaka is most commonly associated with Greece, but it also has its roots firmly rooted in Levant cooking and is a dish found across the Balkans and the middle east. Typically consisting of layers of minced meat, aubergines and bechamel and then baked, I like to think this dish is a lighter dish within the comfort food spectrum – I serve mine with a fresh lemony green salad, the perfect transition from heavier winter meals into lighter summer dishes.
As with so many dishes that arc back to yesteryear, there have been developments and additions over the course of time and every family has their own version. As standard with most of my dishes, this edition includes wine, a layer of potatoes for that carby hit and more cheese than you can shake a stick at. I also like to use an abundance of fresh oregano to keep things, well, fresh, and lamb glacé, which is a speciality ingredient available online (or from Infusions for any Buryites) and gives a real flavour punch to the dish, but you could sub this for a lamb stock pot.
LAMB SHOULDER MOUSSAKA
Tipple of choice: Tempranillo works well here.
3kg lamb shoulder boned and cut into large chunks
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
125g tomato purée
1 bunch oregano
½ bunch thyme
1 stick of cinnamon
1 tablespoon lamb glacé (or one lamb stock pot)
150ml red wine (life hack – if you are planning on drinking with the meal, use the same wine to cook with to pair everything perfectly)
250g waxy potatoes
500ml whole milk
60g plain flour
50g feta, plus extra to crumble on top
50g pecorino, grated
2 eggs, beaten
Fresh nutmeg to finish
Salt & peps
Preheat your oven to 160.
Heat a large glug of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed casserole-type dish over a high heat and brown the lamb. Do this in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan. You are looking for a golden caramel colour all over the surface of the meat. Once browned, transfer the lamb to a bowl.
In the same saucepan, fry the onion for around two minutes until soft. Add in the garlic and cook for a further minute. Add the tomato purée and stir through.
Strip the thyme leaves from the woody stalk and add to the pan.
Strip the oregano leaves and finely chop half of them – reserving the other half, – add these to the pan.
Pour in the wine and lamb glacé with 250ml of water or enough to cover the meat. Add the cinnamon stick.
Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer and cover.
Transfer the dish to the oven and cook for 2 hours or until the meat is fork tender and falls apart.
Season with salt and pepper and allow to cool to room temperature before shredding the meat and stirring through all its cooking juice.
Increase the oven temperature to 180.
Cut the aubergines lengthways around 0.5cm thick and brush with olive oil.
Heat a griddle pan and cook the aubs till golden brown and floppy.
Peel and slice the potatoes to the same width as the aubs.
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and throw the potatoes in for 3 minutes, we’re just par boiling here as they will continue to cook in the oven.
To make the bechamel, bring the milk to just below boiling point in a saucepan.
In another saucepan, melt the butter and gradually stir in the flour – cook out for a couple of minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk until all is incorporated and you have a silky white sauce.
Stir in the pecorino and half of the feta, season with pepper – the cheese is very salty, so you do not need to over season here. Allow to cool slightly and then stir in the beaten eggs.
To assemble the moussaka, arrange a third of the aubergine slices in the bottom of an ovenproof dish, top with half the lamb mixture and a layer of potatoes. Repeat until everything is used, making sure you finish with a layer of aubergine.
Pour over the bechamel and crumble over the remaining feta.
Bake for 45 minutes until golden.
Remove from the oven and leave to stand for at least 30 minutes – this is important as not only does this dish resemble molten lava when removed from the oven but it allows the layers to set, ensuring you get a perfect slice when it comes to serving. Scatter with fresh oregano leaves before serving.
Find out about Hannah’s upcoming Supper Clubs and what she is currently cooking via Instagram: @WanderSups and www.wandersups.com