Shoulder of lamb braised with vinegar, garlic and anchovies

This is a variation on the great Roma dish, abbacchio alla cacciatora, which is usually made with milk-fed lamb and is served at Easter. I think it works really well with shoulder of lamb, particularly very young lamb. It gives  that cut real oomph. The vinegar may seem a bit extreme, but the acidity softens as the dish cooks. It’s not much of a looker. Even so, I’m not sure the photograph quite does justice to the excellence of the dish.Still, it’s proof that I have actually cooked it.

Serves 6-8

1 shoulder of lamb on the bone
2 cloves garlic
2 sprigs rosemary
2 sprigs sage
1 tbspn flour
125ml red or white wine vinegar
125ml water
4 anchovy fillets preserved in salt or oil
black pepper

Turn on the oven to 175C/350F/Gas 4.  Finely slice the garlic and fling it all over the bottom of the casserole. (You can use a roasting pan, but you will have to cover the shoulder with a double thickness of foil). Put the sprigs of  rosemary and sage on top and the shoulder of lamb on top of them. Sprinkle with the flour. There’s no need to brown the lamb, as will become clear.  Grind plenty of black pepper over the shoulder. Pour in the vinegar and water. Bring to a gentle simmer on the hob, and then transfer to the oven for a couple of hours at least. Of course, you can just simmer it on the hob, but I prefer to pop it into the oven. I’m not sure why. That’s the way I do it. Either way, you need to cook it until you can lift the meat easily off the bone. Pour off the juices into a saucepan. At this point the lamb shoulder will look pretty pallid. To give it that nice, easy-eating tan, you can either pop it under a grill, or turn up the oven to full blast and brown it that way.  Add the anchovy fillets to the cooking juices in the sauce pan and stir until they have dissolved. Serve with plain boiled new potatoes, peas, carrots and broad beans. Fabulous.

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