Sheep trick

[Recipe 1] SLOW-ROASTED LAMB SHOULDER with ROASTED GARLIC and POTATOES transforms into
[Recipe 2] 20-MINUTE LAMB GYROS with ROASTED GARLIC SAUCE

I’ve been the quintessential Melbourne chick lately, with the last two Saturdays spent rummaging through markets and pop-ups. The run-down: Gorman home pop-up, Latin American Festival, Design Files Open House and Maribyrnong Makers Market. Living in Melbourne is exhausting!
A chock-a-block Saturday preceded by five days of work is invariably followed by bedlam, with our house looking positively ransacked. So… with the washing machine on high rotation, and mountains of detritus to sort on a recent Sunday, I decided to slow-cook a chunk of lamb, a process I love as the meat can be ignored for the day while it does its thing. The result is an impressive-looking feast, with tender and juicy meat that literally falls away from the bone after a light prod with a fork. A most excellent reward after a day of hard yakka!
There is minimal prepping required for this dish. I make a quick spice mix (as used for my pork belly, although I swap the smoked paprika for oregano), rub it over the lamb and bung it in the oven. I find it unnecessary to pre-marinate lamb shoulder, or bring it to room temperature for an hour or more, as many recipes exhort – 5 hours in the oven equals meat cooked to perfection with spices well and truly impregnated. Yum!
My friend Ed alerted me to her go-to lamb shoulder recipe recently, by Kate Gibbs, with beautiful halved full garlic heads. I threw a couple in with my lamb and oh my goodness, I don’t think I can eat roast meat without them ever again. I’ve often tossed single unpeeled cloves into a pan of potatoes, but the halved full heads are just so darn pretty, and absolutely delicious.
I saved a few cloves of the roasted garlic and used them in a creamy garlic yogurt sauce which we drizzled over lamb gyros the following night, made with reserved slow-cooked lamb. May I be so bold as to say the gyros were spectacular, and they took only 20 minutes to whip up! I made the exact same meal the following Sunday, to a background chorus of woohoos from my boys; and agitated grunting from the washing machine.
PS. The key to a perfect gyro is the right bread and pocketless pitas are the way to go, if you can find them. My lovely spongy pitas are hand-made by Kalimera in Oakleigh, a takeaway restaurant that is absolutely worth the drive. If you’re unable to find pocketless pita bread in your ‘hood, naan is a good replacement; ideally from an Indian grocer as supermarket naans can be a tad cardboard-like.

Slow roasted lamb shoulder and roasted garlicSlow roasted lamb shoulder[Recipe 1] Slow-roasted lamb shoulder with roasted garlic and potatoes

Ingredients (serves 4 for two meals):
2½ kilo (5 lb) lamb shoulder, bone in (have your butcher cut through the bone here and there)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons oregano (fresh, chopped, if you have it)
2 whole heads garlic, halved crossways
4 large potatoes, cut into chunks
Salad to serve (eg. apple slawgreen beans with toasted pine nuts or tomato, fetta and mint salad)
Lemon wedges, to serve

Preheat oven to 220°C (425ºF).
Pop the lamb into a heavy baking pan, fat side up. Score the fat all over with a very sharp knife. Mix the oil, salt, cumin, cinnamon and oregano together; and rub all over the lamb. Tuck the garlic heads around the lamb. Add a splash of water (about 4 tablespoons). Place a sheet of baking paper on top, then cover very tightly with two layers of foil.
Roast the lamb and garlic heads, covered, for 15 minutes.
Turn the oven down to 150°C (300°F) and roast, covered, for a further 4¾ hours (see tips below if your lamb shoulder is a lighter weight than stipulated).
Carefully add the chopped potatoes to the roasting pan for the last 2 hours, covered.
Remove the lamb from the oven, place onto a board and rest, covered with foil, for 20 minutes.
Remove the potato chunks and garlic heads from the pan and place them on a tray lined with baking paper. Turn the oven up as high at will go, and return them to the oven for 20–30 minutes for extra crisping, while you rest and prepare the lamb. Potatoes and garlic can be kept warm in a low oven.
When ready to serve, pull the lamb meat apart with two forks.
♦ Reserve 2 cups cooked lamb, and a few tablespoons of the pan juices, for the lamb gyros.
♦ Reserve 4 single cloves (8 halves) of roasted garlic for the roasted garlic yogurt sauce.
Place the remaining lamb on a serving platter with the lemon wedges. Serve immediately with roasted garlic heads, roasted spuds and salad.

  • Reserved slow-cooked lamb and roasted garlic cloves can be stored in the fridge, well-covered, for up to 3 days.
  • Lamb shoulder cooking time summary: Cooking time for lamb shoulder is pretty standard, no matter where you look. Start with a burst at high temperature, then turn down the oven for a long slow cook!
    For a 2½ kilo (5 lb) lamb shoulder, the total cooking time is 5 hours (1 hour per 500g/1 lb; including an initial ¼ hour at a higher temperature – see recipe). Allow an extra 20 minutes resting time.
    For a 2 kilo (4 lb) lamb shoulder, the total cooking time is 4 hours (1 hour per 500g/1 lb; including an initial ¼ hour at a higher temperature). Allow an extra 20 minutes resting time.

Home made lamb gyro with garlic sauce

[Recipe 2] 20-minute lamb gyros with roasted garlic sauce

Ingredients (serves 4):
4 pita breads, preferably without pockets (see notes in my introduction)
♦ 2 cups reserved slow-cooked lamb, shredded, warmed
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
1 red (purple/Spanish) onion, thinly sliced
1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
Roasted garlic sauce (make 2 hours ahead if time permits):
1 cup (250g) Greek yogurt
♦ 4 reserved roasted garlic cloves
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Sea salt

Make the garlic sauce by processing ½ cup yogurt, reserved roasted garlic cloves and lemon juice until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl, add the remaining ½ cup yogurt and stir to combine. Season. Refrigerate for at least two hours, if possible, to allow the flavour to develop.
Warm pita breads on a chargrill or in a dry frying pan.
Pile reserved lamb, tomato, onion and cucumber onto each warmed pita bread.
Drizzle with garlic sauce and roll up to enclose. Serve immediately.

  • Garlic sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
  • Gyros are also lovely served with cucumber raita or tahini sauce, in place of the garlic sauce.
  • Lamb can be gently warmed in the microwave, covered with cling film.
  • Kid tip: My 9-year old gobbles up the gyros as is, but my 6 year old prefers plain Greek yogurt (stirred to thin it slightly), grated carrot and sliced avocado in his.