Slow-Roasted Harissa Lamb Shoulder

“These beautiful harissa spices give me flashbacks to a Moroccan holiday with my friends Jackie and Alex, although I can safely say the all-inclusive buffet of mostly chips and pasta didn’t inspire this recipe.

“A slow-roasted number, it will turn even hardened lamb-haters – the meat just tears apart,” says chef Poppy O’Toole. “Put in the effort with the prep, serve it up for dinner and spend half the night convincing your friends you didn’t buy it ready to cook. Take the glory.”

Serves: 4–6


For the lamb:

  • 2 tablespoons rose harissa paste
  • 3 tablespoons ras el hanout
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon light brown soft sugar
  • 6 thyme sprigs, leaves picked
  • 6 rosemary sprigs, leaves picked
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1.4–1.5kg/3–31/4lb lamb shoulder on the bone

For the couscous:

  • 200g/7oz couscous
  • seeds of 1 pomegranate
  • small bunch of mint, leaves picked and chopped
  • small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped
  • 5–6 black or green olives, pitted and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt and black pepper

For the flat breads: (makes 4)

  • 250g/9oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 250g/9oz Greek yoghurt (or 125ml/1/2 cup warm water + 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, if you’re vegan)
  • 1 teaspoon onion seeds, poppy seeds or sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • salt and black pepper


Start this the night before you want to cook. Place all of the lamb ingredients apart from the meat into a blender and blitz to a smooth paste to make a marinade.

With a knife, make some little incisions into the lamb shoulder to help the marinade get right into the meat. Rub and massage the marinade into the shoulder like it’s date night, until it’s completely covered.

Transfer the lamb to a roasting tin, cover with foil and place it in the fridge overnight (or for a minimum of six hours).

Make the flat breads: in a bowl mix all the ingredients – flour, yoghurt, seeds, baking powder and seasoning – into a dough. Knead for about three minutes, to a soft but not sticky ball. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave for 10 minutes to rest.

Read: Easy no yeast bread recipes

Cut the ball into four equal pieces and use a rolling pin to roll each one out to a thin round. You’re aiming for them to be about 12cm/5 inches in diameter – but don’t worry if they look rustic in shape. Set aside the rolled-flat flat breads on a lightly floured surface.

Place a large, dry frying pan over a high heat. Leave it to get hot, then throw in the first flat bread – no oil or butter, just dry, hot heat. Once bubbles start to form in the dough (about 30 seconds) and you’ve got a little bit of char on the underside, flip over the flat bread and cook the other side for about 30 seconds, to get a little bit of char there, too. Keep warm while you do the same with the remaining three flat breads. That’s it, remove from the pan and serve (or cool and tightly wrap to store).

Put the couscous into a container big enough to allow it to double in size and pour in 400ml/about one-and-a-half cups of cold water. Cover the bowl and transfer it to the fridge. Leave this overnight, too.

Read: Ten-Minute Couscous

Remove the meat from the fridge 30 minutes before you intend to start cooking so that it can come up to room temperature, and preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/375°F/Gas 5.

When you’re ready to cook, roast the lamb, still covered with the foil, for four hours, until it is charred a little on the outside and the meat is tender and pulls apart.

Drain the couscous through a fine sieve, so you don’t lose any of it. Mix all of the other couscous ingredients into it. Season with salt and pepper to taste and leave on the side to come up to room temperature.

Towards the end of the lamb cooking time, heat a dry frying pan over a high heat until it’s smoking hot. Place the flat breads in the pan and warm through. (Or reheat them in a microwave.)

Either serve your massive hunk of delicious lamb in the tin as it comes, or transfer it to a wooden board and pour all of the sauce that is left in the bottom of the roasting tin into a little jug.

Read: Lamb Noodle Stir-Fry

Just let people dig and tear into this huge, sharing-lamb deliciousness, with the warmed flat breads, the couscous and the sauce served alongside.

Poppy Cooks: The Food You Need by Poppy O’Toole, photography by Louise Hagger, is published by Bloomsbury, available now.

What is your go-to meal to cook for a dinner party? Please share how the recipe turns out for you in the comments section below.

– With PA

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YourLifeChoices Writers
YourLifeChoices Writers
YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.
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