Bill Granger recipe: Baked shoulder of lamb with za'atar, preserved lemon and labneh

Serves 4-6

I fell in love with Moroccan food as a poor art student in Paris, when my friends and I explored the cheap restaurants of the now trendy Marais. It was there that I discovered the beauty of slow-cooked lamb stews and braises, where the meat just falls off the bone into a rich, spicy broth.

1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp sumac
2 tbsp za'atar
2kg shoulder of lamb
8 shallots, peeled and large ones halved
4 carrots, peeled, cut into chunks
1 head garlic, halved through the centre
500ml chicken stock
2 x 400g can cannellini beans, drained
1 preserved lemon, skin only, chopped

For the labneh

2 tsp salt
2500g Greek yoghurt

For the labneh, stir the salt into the yoghurt. Lay 3 to 4 pieces of muslin or strong kitchen towel in a sieve then pour in the yoghurt. Gather the edges of the cloth and twist to seal, then suspend the sieve over a basin or pan to collect any drained-off liquid. This will take about 12 hours.

Heat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas7. Mix the oil, sumac and za'atar together then rub all over and into the meat. Put the vegetables and garlic in the base of a large, shallow casserole dish, sit the lamb on top and cook for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 150C/300F/Gas2, pour in half the stock then cover the casserole with a lid and cook for 3 hours.

Remove the lamb from the pan and rest for 30 minutes. Spoon off any excess oil, tip in the beans and lemon and remaining stock, stir to loosen any sediment from the bottom of the pan then return to the oven and cook for 30 minutes. Serve chunks of the lamb with the beans, stock and labneh.

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