Braised Lamb Shoulder with Creamy Polenta and Smashed Minted Peas

As the season shifts to Autumn and the weather begins to cool, it's time to think about introducing some comfort food to your table. Recently I hosted a lunch for a dear friend's birthday, she's of Italian heritage and appreciates the love and generosity that can be conveyed through food. In fact her words to me post lunch were "you my friend are over the top in an Italian over-catering, deliciousness kinda way" - what a compliment!

I've actually served this dish to a few of my Italian friends, they all seem to love to devour lamb and polenta and lots of it! For me nothing bonds like a shared plate of delicious food, placed in the middle of the table, where one can serve themselves and then maybe even delve back in for seconds. It doesn't need to be complicated food, but rather simple food made with love.

This recipe is taken from the Comfort Food chapter of my new cookbook Our Delicious Adventure - Recipes and Stories of Food and Travel - why don't you cook it for someone you love x j

Melt in your mouth every time is this slow cooked lamb dish, beautifully matched with the creamy polenta and sweet minted peas. It will warm you inside and out and have you asking for more.

serves 4-6
what you need
1-1.5kg boned lamb shoulder
1 tsp sea salt
pinch of ground white pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
handful of thyme sprigs
4 garlic cloves, halved
¼ cup (60ml) balsamic vinegar
1 bay leaf
creamy polenta:                                                         
1 cup (160g) fine ground polenta (cornmeal)                                                           
½ tsp sea salt                                                           
2 tbsp butter                                                              
smashed peas:
500g green peas
1 tbsp butter
½ tsp sea salt
½ cup mint leaves, roughly chopped
juice of ½ lemon

what you do
1. Combine the polenta and 5 cups of water in a large saucepan. Cover and set aside for a few hours or overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan forced). Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Heat a large flameproof casserole dish on the stove over a medium heat, add olive oil to the pot to warm. Place lamb into the pot and cook until browned on all sides (usually 3-4 minutes on each side).
3. Add the thyme, garlic and balsamic vinegar and cook for 1 minute. Add 2 cups (500ml) water to deglaze the pan, then put the lid on and cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes.
4. Place the dish with the lid on, into the oven. Cook for 45 minutes then reduce heat to 160°C (140°C fan forced) and cook for a further 3 hours.
5. When the lamb has an hour of cooking time remaining, cook the polenta. Place the saucepan over medium-low heat and gradually bring to the boil, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to low and cover with the lid. Stir every couple of minutes to avoid it sticking to the base of the pan and burning. The polenta will absorb the water and thicken quite quickly and will tend to spit and pop which is why it is best to keep the lid on in between stirring. Cook for 30 minutes. The polenta will thicken further and begin pulling away from the sides of the saucepan as you stir. Remove from the heat, add salt and butter and stir until well absorbed.
6. For the smashed peas, cook the peas in boiling water for 5-7 minutes or until tender. Drain and mash to a creamy consistency, then mix in the butter and salt. Keep warm.
7. Remove the lamb from pot and set aside. Skim fat from remaining cooking liquid and discard. Place the casserole dish over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes to reduce and thicken the sauce.
8. Break the meat apart with a fork. Serve on a bed of creamy polenta with a drizzle of sauce, and the smashed peas on top. Sprinkle with mint and squeeze lemon juice over. Serve remaining sauce in a jug at the table.

Note: Deglaze means to pour some cold liquid, such as stock, wine or water, into a very hot pan to loosen and dissolve the brown bits of food particle on the base of the pan. Scraping the brown bits, which are rich in flavour, until they dissolve into the sauce is key to deglazing.

peas are most commonly green and are a pod-shaped vegetable containing small round edible seeds. They are often called ‘green peas’ or ‘garden peas’. Once shelled from the pod, they can be enjoyed raw or cooked, having a sweet taste and somewhat starchy texture. A valuable source of Omega 3-fats, vitamin E and beta-carotene, peas are usually boiled or steamed.

© Recipe - Our Delicious Adventure - Recipes and Stories of Food and Travel by Jane Grover

Image from Tracey Berry on Instagram @traceaberry

Image from Tracey Berry on Instagram @traceaberry