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Slow roasted lamb with lentils and fennel-spiced pumpkin

slow lamb

There are many ways to roast lamb slowly, some taking 7 hours or even longer. This recipe will get you meltingly tender meat, but you can take it further by roasting even longer, at a lower temperature. It needs to be so soft you could carve it with a spoon.


Serves 8 as a main course


2kg piece of lamb, leg or shoulder are best

a bunch of rosemary

a bulb of garlic

olive oil

1 medium pumpkin (about 1-1.5kg)

500g puy lentils

2 sticks of celery

2 carrots

4 shallots (or small onions)

1 tsp fennel seeds

1-2 red chillis, chopped roughly

a generous handful of spinach

a splash of red wine


Pre-heat the oven to 230°C. Peel the garlic cloves.


Get a large, deep ovenproof dish with a lid and lay half the rosemary and half the garlic cloves in the bottom. Score several times through any fat on the surface of the lamb and rub it all over with olive oil. Season generously and place it inside the ovenproof dish. Lay the remaining rosemary and garlic cloves on top and put the lid on.


Put the whole dish in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 170°C. Leave to roast, covered with the lid, for four hours. It won't do any harm if you check on it once or twice during cooking, but there's not really any need to. Don't worry if the lamb seems to be swimming in liquid: a lot of oil and juices will come out during the cooking process. Just leave it.


Whilst the lamb is cooking, prepare the rest of the dish. Peel and seed the pumpkin and cut into bite-sized chunks. Toss in olive oil, sprinkle over the fennel seeds and the chilli. Put into a roasting tin and roast in the oven for about 30-40 minutes until the pumpkin is tender. (If your oven isn't big enough to fit the pumpkin in at the same time as the lamb, you can roast it later, whilst the lamb is resting.)


Dice the celery, carrots and shallots. In a pan large enough to hold the lentils as well, fry gently in olive oil until softened and just starting to colour. Add the lentils, stir to coat in olive oil and cook for a further minute or so. Add a splash of red wine and continue cooking until the alcohol has burnt off. Add water to the pan until the lentils are just covered, bring to the boil then simmer for about 20 minutes until tender. The lentils will absorb the liquid: at one point you will probably need to add a little more water.


When the lentils are cooked, add the roasted pumpkin, turn off the heat, cover and leave until you are ready to serve.


After four hours, check the lamb. It should be so tender that it is practically falling apart. Lift it gently out of the dish onto a carving board, and leave to rest for fifteen minutes (or longer).


Pour the cooking juices into a jug and strain or skim off the fat. Add the juices to the lentils and turn the heat on again to warm them through. Simmer for fifteen minutes or so to reduce the liquid a little.


Pull the lamb into soft chunks and add to the lentil mixture. Stir gently - the meat will disintegrate if you are too rough - and serve onto deep plates, or bowls. Eat with flatbreads and perhaps a small dollop of minted yoghurt on the side.

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