If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.

So long as one of the things they’re busy with isn’t minding small people.

Last Monday I had the first solid, solo day of work in 17 and a half months, thanks to Will’s debut at daycare. Every Monday he will now pass in a bold primary coloured room, playing with his peers.

He howled with outrage that morning when I left (I may have cried more than him when I walked out the front door). When I picked him up at the close of the day he was dressed in an elf costume with a smear of paint on his face and the unmistakable scent of playdough distributed through his fringe. This time he howled with outrage when I shut the door behind both of us to go home.

The last time I sat down at a computer at 8.30 am and spent the day steadily trundling through a document, tapping at keys and unspooling the inside my head was the day Will was born. I was desperately trying to get a head start on ‘Cut the Carbs’ and was so immersed I didn’t clock that my back ache wasn’t just from the less-than-supportive chair (it was the start of labour).

The sensation of returning to a place of peak productivity again was like finally outstretching my legs after a long flight cramped in economy.

Oh the things I accomplished that day. This dish was just one.

The genius part of this slow roasted lamb is how hands off it is; hence it’s perfect for those of us with a ‘To Do’ list that counts into the teens. It requires a small degree of babysitting in the beginning to toast the spices and brown the lamb, but really, if you were pressed, you could just throw everything in a pot or a slow cooker and come back to it hours later.

Cooking lamb slowly on the bone brings out the best of its sweet earthiness. This is a global bowerbird of a dish, picking up interesting small things from all over and willing them to get along in a confined space (much like daycare, I’m sure) . It’s more moreish that Moorish, though the cinnamon, coriander and subtle tannins in the Earl Grey tea for braising liquid do give it a dusky, romantic twinge- perfect for when you’re trying to reacquaint your mind with your adult self. I’ve enlisted goji berries for acidity and sweetness (largely because I bought them in bulk in a superfood spree) but you could easily substitute barberries, dried cranberries or currants. What is essential is the olives at the close. They provide the salt which helps balance everything out, pulling it back from nursery mush and nudging it into a special centrepiece.

I’ve served it both on the bone scattered with herbs to be dramatically forked apart at the table and pulled and redistributed through the sauce, like a ragu. It is lovely over mashed sweet potato, quinoa, or cauliflower rice.

All three of us ate it for dinner that night. Will was so tired he nearly fell asleep with his cheek in his bowl. And the next day, when things were manic with a small boy clanging around my shins once again, I was ever so grateful for the leftovers.

Five Hour Lamb with Olives and Goji Berries

Serves 4-6

Shopping/foraging

2 tbsp ground coriander
1 cinnamon quill
2 tbsp olive oil
1.25 kg half lamb leg, bone in (alternatively 1.25 kg of lamb shoulder, either on the bone or diced). For a full leg of lamb add an another hour and another cup of water.
1 Earl Grey tea bag
2 cups/500 ml hot water
2 red onions, peeled, halved and cut into slim half moons
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely diced
150 g cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup/30 g goji berries (can substitute with barberries of dried cranberries or currants)
1/3 cup/75 g green olives
Mashed sweet potato, quinoa or cauliflower rice, plus chopped chilli, parsley or fresh coriander to serve

Here’s how we roll

1) Preheat the oven to 140C/285F.  Take a heavy bottom Dutch oven or casserole dish with a lid and place over medium heat on the hob. Add the ground coriander and cinnamon quill and toast for 1-2 minutes until they smell toasty.

2) Add the olive oil and stir to combine. Add the lamb and brown for 1-2 minutes on each side.  Meanwhile combine the hot water with the tea bag.

3) Remove the lamb and add the onion, garlic, cherry tomatoes and goji berries to the pot. Place the browned lamb over the top of the onions.

4) Pour over the Earl Grey tea and bring to a simmer. Clamp on the lid and place in oven for four hours.  After four hours the meat should be beginning to pull away from the bone and the tomatoes squishy and pliant.

5) Return the lamb to the oven without the lid for the final hour. Check on it after 30 minutes. The sauce should be sticky and rich now. If you think it can stand being reduced further, return to the oven for another 30 minutes.

6) Prior to serving either scatter with olives and take to the table to carve whole (the meat should easily fork apart) or remove the meat from the bones and distribute through the sauce. Scatter with roughly torn parsley or coriander.

 

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