The Musette: Slow cooked lamb and baked beans

At the weekends, particularly during the colder months, one of my challenges is to find, amend or develop recipes that cook while we’re out riding and are ready to serve by the time my husband has finished his post-ride ablutions. My solution to this conundrum is what I like to refer to as ‘slow one-pot cooking’. Slow cooking turns less expensive cuts into a feast, tenderising the meat and giving the flavours time to develop and meld together. I cook this in the oven but equally it can be cooked in a crock-pot or on a gentle heat on the stove.

This is a favourite recipe which I’ve adapted from one by Australian chef Bill Grainger. It requires only a few ingredients and can be served with a simple green salad and a crusty baguette or another green vegetable. For very hungry cyclists, you could also serve a baked potato to mop up the tomatoey juices.

Ingredients (serves four cyclists)

  • Approx 1kg (2.2lbs) boned and rolled lamb shoulder, trimmed of all excess fat (ask your butcher to do this)
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp freshly ground sea salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
  • 250ml (1 cup) of white wine (optional)
  • 1 fresh or dried bouquet garni
  • 2 x 400g (14oz) canned chopped tomatoes
  • 2 x 400g (14oz) cans cannellini or haricot beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried red chilli flakes (optional)
  • 1 tbsp finely grated orange zest (optional)
Like so many things in life, planning and preparation is the key to a successful outcome

Like so many things in life, planning and preparation are key to a successful outcome


1. Preheat the oven to 160ºC /140ºC fan/gas mark 3 (320ºF/275ºF fan). Place a large, sturdy roasting dish, casserole (dutch oven) or frying pan on the hob over a medium heat and add the olive oil. When hot, add the room-temperature lamb and brown well all over. This will take ten minutes or so.

Beautifully browned

Beautifully browned

2. Remove the shoulder and now gently cook the onions in the fat until they turn translucent – about ten minutes. Add a teaspoon of salt to help prevent the onions from browning. Add the garlic for 30 seconds at the end.

3. Remove the onions, drain off any excess fat and deglaze the pan with the white wine. Let it bubble away for around five minutes. Season the lamb and put it, onions and winey reduction into a casserole dish.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

4. Now add all the other ingredients and stir gently. To prevent the casserole from drying out, cover the contents with a circle of crushed, damp greaseproof paper and pop on the casserole lid or tin foil. Slide it into the oven and leave to cook while you’re out riding. This will cook happily for anywhere from 2-4 hours.

5. On your return, remove the casserole dish from the oven and leave to stand with the lid still on while you’re having your shower.

6. Take out the lamb and discard the bouquet garni.

Ready to serve

Ready to serve

7. Remove the string, thickly slice the lamb  – it generally just falls apart – and serve with a portion of the sticky, tomato-flavoured beans. You’ll see from the photo I’ve sprinkled some chopped flat leaf parsley onto the beans, or you can use chopped fresh thyme leaves. Just add a green salad or another green vegetable on the side and, if you must, some crusty bread or a baked potato. It all depends on how much energy you’ve expended on your morning’s ride!

Soon to be demolished

Soon to be demolished

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. Don’t forget to taste and season as you cook. Unseasoned food is bland and you use less salt and pepper if you season at the start and during the cooking process, rather than at the end.

2. Shoulder of lamb is quite a fatty cut so it’s important to eliminate as much of that fat as possible by cutting it out and then browning the lamb. If, when the dish has finished cooking, it still looks too fatty, blot the surface gently with a paper kitchen towel to absorb any excess.

3. This dish can be cooked the day before, left overnight in the fridge and then reheated the following day. This also makes it easier to eliminate any excess fat which will harden on the surface.

4. The recipe works equally well made with chickpeas (garbanzo beans). Again, you can used tinned or cook from dried the day before.

5. As this is cooking rather than baking, feel free to play around with the herbs and spices. I have made a similar dish with tinned flageolet beans, a finely diced confit lemon, a handful of artichoke hearts and 500ml (2 cups) of white wine.

6. If you are going to use wine, only cook with wine you’d be happy to drink.

7. Go easy on the rosemary in the bouquet garni as an excess tends to give the beans a soapy flavour. I use a mixture of bay leaves, thyme and a little rosemary.

8. I often fold young baby spinach into the hot bean mixture, instead of serving it with a salad.

9. You can cook the lamb separately from the beans. Once browned, pop it into a roasting tray on a trivet, add an inch or so of water and cover the tin with baking foil. The water will prevent the lamb from drying out. Just cook the beans as instructed albeit without the lamb.

(All photographs are courtesy of my in-house photographer and chief recipe tester Richard Whatley.)

Next week, I’ll show you how to turn the leftovers  – I always have leftovers – into a comforting, traditional French dish.

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