If you want to call this by its full French name, it's gigot d'agneau boulangère. That's a bit of a mouthful, though, and the anglicised version, baker's lamb, sounds a bit, well odd. So the Anglo-French lamb boulangère it is. If you're wondering why bakers have managed to give their name to a gorgeous dish of lamb cooked slowly on a bed of thinly sliced potatoes and onions, with not a hunk of bread in sight, it dates back to days of old when knights were bold and ovens weren't found in every home. The Sunday roast would be sent to the local baker before mass, to be collected on the way home from church and eaten for lunch. Tasty, tasty lunch.
A gigot d'agneau is actually a leg of lamb. And whilst this would be traditional, I usually go for a shoulder of lamb. I prefer the flavour from the shoulder and it's a pretty penny cheaper than a leg, too. It still has the requisite degree of fat to drip down onto the potatoes and a large shoulder is ample for six people. If you're in the slightest bit nervous about cooking lamb, start here. It's super-simple and super-delicious. If you're not nervous about cooking lamb, carry on. It's still super-delicious.
- One shoulder of lamb, the best quality that you can afford, weighing around 2.5kg (between 5 and 6lbs)
- One large sprig of rosemary, broken into smaller sprigs
- Three fat cloves of garlic, sliced lengthways into thirds
- Six large potatoes, sliced thinly
- Two medium-sized onions, sliced into half-moons
- 500ml (1 pint) lamb, chicken, or very weak beef stock
- Salt and pepper
Pre-heat your oven to 220° Celsius (430° Fahrenheit or gas mark 9). Meanwhile, make a series of incisions into the lamb and insert a sliver of garlic and baby sprig of rosemary into each one.
Place the lamb in a deep roasting pan and put it in the oven for 30 minutes.
When the meat has released some of its fat and the outside is sealed, pull it out the oven and take it out of the pan. Lower the oven to 120° Celsius (250° Fahrenheit or gas mark 1).
Arrange a third of the potatoes over the base of the pan, scatter with a third of the sliced onion, and season with salt and pepper. Repeat the process twice. The potato and onion should be gone.
Pour the stock over the potatoes and place the lamb back on top of the pile of potatoes. Return the pan to the oven.
Leave it there for at least four hours. At least. The meat should be tender and beginning to pull away from the bone; the potatoes should be cooked through. Allow the meat to rest for 15 minutes whilst you crisp the top layer of potatoes at a higher temperature. Then you're ready to go.
Serve it with vegetables of your choice (kale, cabbage, or leeks all work well) and a sturdy red wine, such a Syrah or a Grenache blend.