Slow roast shoulder of lamb with cocoa gravy
There is something comforting about slow roast shoulder of lamb.
The fat and marbling in the meat slowly melts through the meat as it cooks to give a soft, delicate texture and a sweet flavour. The balsamic gives a little sharpness to cut that sweetness. The nibs offer a little nutty bitter flavour of pure cocoa to round this dish off.
- 1 shoulder of lamb boned and rolled
- 8 sprigs of thyme
- 4 sprigs of rosemary
- 4 medium onions peeled and cut in half through the root
- 125ml balsamic vinegar
- 4 tbsp cocoa nibs
- 2 whole bulbs garlic cut in half
- salt and pepper
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
- Season the lamb all over. With a small sharp knife stab the lamb a few times the push the herbs into the cuts.
- Toss the onions in a little sunflower oil to coat then place in a roasting pan big enough to hold the lamb. Place the tray and onions in the oven and roast until the onions start to colour at the edges. Turn the oven down to 120C.
- Add the lamb, thyme and garlic to the roasting tray ontop of the onions, cover with tin foil and cook for four and half hours.
- Remove from the oven. Remove the garlic and the onions from the pan, keeping the onions to serve with the roast lamb if you like. Now add the balsamic plus 120ml water, the cacao nibs and cook uncovered for an hour longer, basting the lamb with the juices every 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on a tray, cover loosely with foil.
- Strain the juices from the pan through a fine sieve into a pan big enough to hold the liquid. With a small ladle or serving spoon try to remove the excess oil floating on the top. Place the pan on medium heat and simmer until the sauce has slightly thickened.
- This lamb goes great with garlic mashed potatoes and some buttered carrots.
Notes to help you get the most out of your cocoa and chocolate.
Depending on the kind of cocoa you use, how much you use and how you use it, cocoa and chocolate will have a different effect on the taste and experience of your dishes. In each of our recipes, we’ll tell you how much influence it will have, in our cocoa notes:
Low – a subtle hint, playing a bass note in the harmony of flavours.
Medium – a rich interplay of cocoa with other leading ingredients.
High – cocoa starring role.
The Character of Cocoa
The flavour of cocoa and the chocolate it produces varies depending on where the cocoa is grown. Different growing regions have different personalities, each pairing well with other ingredients.
Fruit-led flavours, refreshing in the mouth – perfect with fruits, dark meats and game.
Saint Lucia, Trinidad, Java
Complex and multi-layered flavours jostling for position. Goes with pork, chicken and wines.
Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Peru, Ecuador
Roasted flavours, led by mellow notes of roasted nuts. Ideal with fish, eggs and desserts.
Demystifying Cocoa Percentages
The percentages used on chocolate labels can sometimes seem a bit confusing. A 40% milk chocolate, for example, is not made with 40% milk. The percentage always refers to the amount of cocoa used in the recipe, and the rest will either be all sugar (darks) or milk and sugar (milks/whites).
You’ll find higher percentages in dark chocolate recipes, with less in milk, and least in white. Surprisingly, one of the UK’s most famous dark chocolates contains just 39% cocoa, and its milk counterpart only 23%. That means the largest ingredient overall is sugar. We believe this is wrong. We always prefer to use more cocoa in our chocolate for an authentic and satisfying cocoa hit. We put 40 – 70% cocoa in our milk and Supermilk chocolate, and 70-100% in our dark.
Our white chocolate has a much higher cocoa percentage than average, at 36%.
Sugar only costs a tenth of the price of even the cheapest cocoa beans, so it’s no wonder that it is tempting for low – quality makers to use so much of it. But in the world of fine chocolate, deciding on whether to use, say 73% or 75% cocoa in a recipe is the chocolatier’s choice and depends on the quality, character and flavour profile of the bean harvest. In many ways, deciding the cocoa percentage is like deciding the alcohol level in a good wine.
How To Melt Your Chocolate
In a Bain-Marie (recommended)
This traditional method offers a great deal of control. Put your chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, ensuring the bowl doesn’t actually touch the hot water (or it can burn the chocolate). Heat in the steam for about 2 minutes until fully melted, stirring occasionally.
In a Microwave
Put your chocolate in the microwave on high power for a total of 40-50 seconds, but only in 10 second bursts, stirring in between to ensure it doesn’t burn. Stop when fully melted.
Essential Cocoa Nib Know-How
Knowing how to extract the best flavours from your cocoa nibs is essential to many of our recipes. It’s easy to buy cocoa nibs these days, but they can be of variable quality. Follow our tips below to make sure you get the most flavour possible from your nibs.
Awakening your Nibs
Often your nibs will have a silver grey hue to them as they have oxidised around the outside. This is harmless, but we recommend you grind them vigorously in a pestle and mortar for 30 seconds. You’ll see the nibs turn a gorgeous mahogany brown, their amazing flavour and aroma awoken at the same time.
Soak them in Water
After awakening, the nibs may still be hard and flinty. Soak them in a little hot water (just enough to cover them) for about 20 minutes which will soften them, the soaking liquid can be set aside as a flavoursome stock.
Storing your Nibs
Just like coffee, roasted nibs should be kept in an airtight container. If you are able to source ‘just roasted’ nibs or have made your own, you can freeze them in an airtight container until needed, retaining maximum flavour.
- preparation time: 10 mins
- cooking time: 300 mins
- ease of preparation: Easy
- serves: 4