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How to save the pennies on your Sunday lunch


roast lamb

roast lamb

roast lamb

A roast leg of lamb is the traditional Easter Sunday lunch in Ireland, and a fine meal it is too. But a leg can be expensive and, in my house at any rate, always invites a debate as to how well it should be cooked. My personal preference is for rare, but others like it well-done. Sometimes I win, sometimes not.

A shoulder of lamb is not only substantially cheaper than a leg (my local butcher has fine big shoulders for €12.99), but there's no question of cooking it anything other than slowly, for a long time. It's a method that lends itself well to strong flavours in term of marinade, and produces fantastic pan juices for gravy.

Here, I've used a classic combination of rosemary, lemon and garlic, with the addition of capers and anchovies for extra depth. If you've never tried anchovies with lamb, why not give it a go? They are a match made in heaven. I've also cooked lamb shoulder marinated in yoghurt with harissa, garlic and lemon with great success.

Lamb leftovers are trickier than chicken or beef, in that the meat, being fattier, is not as attractive served cold in sandwiches or salads. But heated up they can make a fine cottage pie or moussaka. Here, I've given a recipe for a pasta sauce, that's pretty good either with or without pasta.

Vegetarians often get a raw deal when it comes to festive meals, but this beetroot tart will please them all.

Cook extra beetroot for a substantial supper with lentils the next day.

The main recipes serve six, but if you are feeding eight or more, why not cook two shoulders of lamb and you'll get a second meal from the leftovers?

The Main Event - Slow roast shoulder of lamb with rosemary, garlic and anchovies

4 sprigs of rosemary, leaves only

4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped

1 tablespoon of capers

4 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped

2 lemons, zested and squeezed

3 - 4 tablespoons olive oil

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1 whole shoulder of lamb, about 1.5kg

4 red onions, cut into wedges

200ml white wine


Pre-heat the oven to 160˚C/fan 140˚C.

Put the rosemary leaves, garlic, capers, anchovy fillets, lemon zest and juice into a food processor or blender, with enough olive oil to make a rough dressing.

Stab the lamb shoulder all over with a sharp knife and rub the rosemary mixture all over the piece of meat. If you have time, leave it to marinate overnight or even just for a couple of hours. If you don't have time, don't worry - it will still taste great.

Put the red onions into a roasting tin and place the lamb shoulder on top. Season with freshly ground black pepper; there's no need for salt if you are using the anchovies.

Put the lamb into the oven and, after an hour, add the white wine to the roasting tin. Roast for another three hours, basting occasionally if you remember, or until the meat is tender and falling off the bone. Leave to rest, covered in foil, for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Don't worry about carving into neat slices, the meat will pull naturally into chunks.

Drain the pan juices into a clear jug or glass, in which it will separate into meat juices and fat. Remove the visible fat with a spoon, return the pan juices to the roasting tin and add a little more white wine and a small amount of boiling water from the kettle.

Place the roasting tin over direct heat and scrape away all the tasty bits stuck to the bottom of the tin.

Let the gravy bubble way for a few minutes to burn off the alcohol, sieve and serve with the meat.

The Sides

Purple Sprouting Broccoli


Olive oil, or duck or goose fat

Peel the potatoes and cut into irregularly shaped pieces; the more angles that your roasties have, the more opportunity for crunchy outsides.

Bring a pan of water to boil, add a good teaspoon of salt and parboil the potatoes for about seven minutes, until the edges are starting to soften. Drain and return to the pan, cover, and shake around vigorously to roughen up the outer surfaces of the potatoes.

Put the olive oil or fat into a roasting tray in the oven to heat up and, about an hour before you want to take the meat out, add the potatoes to the fat. Turn them around so they are nicely covered and sprinkle with sea salt.

Cook in the oven at the same time as the meat, turning from time to time to ensure uniform browning.

When you take the meat out, jack up the heat to your oven's maximum temperature and give the potatoes a final blast for extra crispiness.

Roast Potatoes

500g purple sprouting broccoli


Trim off any woody bits from the broccoli. Bring about 2cm of salted water to boil in a saucepan, add the broccoli, cover and cook for two to four minutes, depending on thickness, until just tender.

Drain and serve immediately.

The veggie option

Roast beetroot tart

750g beetroot, washed and trimmed but not peeled

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 packet all-butter puff pastry (M&S does a great one in the freezer section)

200g feta cheese, crumbled

Bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, chopped

Pre-heat the oven to 190˚C/fan 170˚C.

Cut the beetroot into pieces, trying to ensure that each piece has a curved edge that will look nice on the surface of the tart. Toss with the oil and balsamic vinegar, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and place in a roasting dish in the oven covered with foil. Cook until tender, about 40/50 minutes.

In an ovenproof pan or tin, arrange the beetroot so that they are tightly packed with few gaps. The curved surfaces of the beetroot should be on the bottom. It doesn't matter what shape the tin is, it can be square, round or rectangular, but you need to plan to have a similarly shaped plate or dish onto which you will invert the tart at the end.

Roll out the pastry so that it is a little bigger than the tin, and place it on top, tucking in any excess pastry around the edges. Place the tart back in the oven and cook for about 25 minutes until the pastry is golden and cooked through.

Remove from the oven and leave to rest for a few minutes before carefully turning it upside down onto the serving dish. Top with crumbled feta cheese and chopped parsley.

Served with a green salad and vinaigrette.

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

5 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the mustard in a glass and add the vinegar, combine the two with a small whisk or teaspoon. Gradually add the oil, whisking all the time until it has been emulsified. Taste and adjust the oil or vinegar accordingly. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

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Carmel McCarthy