This is not the most sophisticated-looking of dishes – you have to serve the meat in chunks rather than neat slices - but it’s incredibly long-suffering, is a cinch to prepare and tastes terrific. If you’ve only got four hours, cook it at 180C/fan oven 160/Gas mark 4. If you want to put it in the oven at noon, to eat at 8.30-9pm, cook it at 150C/fan oven 130C/Gas mark 2. The original French recipe uses dry white wine, but pink and red both work, and it’s not a disaster if you don’t put the anchovies in in advance. In fact, you can skip the anchovies, but they do give extra depth of flavour to the meat. You can also use lamb shanks (bone-in) or an unboned leg: if you do, ease the anchovies in where you can.
1 tin of anchovies in olive oil
1 large leg of lamb, boned and rolled
Sunflower or groundnut oil
12 very small onions, peeled
2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 bay leaves
3-4 sprigs of thyme or 2 tsp of good dried herbs (thyme/rosemary/marjoram)
Small glass (75ml) brandy
1 bottle (75cl) wine – white, rosé or red
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Stock or water
Flat-leaf parsley, to garnish
The night before, push the drained anchovies deep into the meat wherever there are openings. Wrap the joint in cling film and leave in the fridge.
Next day, pre-heat the oven to 160C/fan oven 140C/Gas mark 3 (or one of the other suggested temperatures above). Heat the oil in a casserole, ideally one that fits the lamb quite snugly (or use a large frying pan and then transfer the meat to the casserole). Quickly brown the meat, then add all the other ingredients up to and including the salt and pepper. Bear in mind that anchovies are salty. If the liquid doesn’t come two-thirds of the way up the meat, add some stock (or water).
Bring the pot to a bare simmer on the hob, then cover tightly and put in the oven. Leave for seven hours (or four or nine – see above). When it’s done, remove the lamb to a warm plate.
The sauce should be well reduced by now; skim off any fat using a large spoon. Check the seasoning and then decide whether you want to serve the carrots, onions and garlic or discard them: they’ll be in a state of collapse, but will still taste good.
Cut the lamb and surround or cover it with the sauce. Garnish the dish or each plate with some flat-leaf parsley (chopped if you like). Serve with creamy mashed potatoes, gratin dauphinois, polenta or just some good bread, together with something fresh and green, and a full-bodied red wine to drink.