The beautiful shoulder of lamb is by nature a joint with a larger element of fat than say, the leg. So the shoulder needs more trimming if you want to restrict the fat within the meat. Below is the full shoulder minus the neck muscle. This is how they arrive at my counter at Tesco once removed from the cryovac packaging.
First of all I removed the blade bone by trimming around the bone to release the meat and sinews. Then I place my two fingers around the top of the bone and pull towards myself. Amazingly, if you have trimmed well the whole thing comes clean away from the meat. The key is good trimming and fulcrum. Doing it this way means that you don't rip the shoulder skin by hacking at the thin join of bone and skin.
The next part is more labour-some. The two knuckle bones need to be tunnel boned which is done with careful pushing actions with the tip of the knife and a twisting motion as the bones come free of the meat. The outer knuckle bone is the more awkward to do because of its irregular shape. All the tougher bits of the joint now need to be removed so that when the meat is rolled and eventually eaten you aren't spitting out chewy bits of sinew. You then continue by removing any extraneous fat and the lymph node buried in a wedge of fat in the top right hand corner of the meat. It's all about working carefully with the tip of the boning knife and teasing away the unwanted element. Like any working in this way, a gradually learnt recognition of structure of the muscles and bones is key to a good clean job done.
Once all the fat and gristle has been trimmed you can then cut the shoulder in half in the same direction that the blade and knuckle end would naturally lay 'bone in' and pull the muscles into tight balls and string up across the meat creating a cross and then two more diagonal strings to create the cushion effect.
Photo above shows the full shoulder in three cushions.
Now the exciting bit! The cooking of the shoulder. Shoulder needs a slower cooking to get the best result and the piece (top joint of the above photo) I cooked I did on gas mark 6 for two hours.
I decided to add rosemary and garlic to the lamb and trimmed some rosemary from a big bush in my cottage garden. I cut off little sprigs and sharpened the ends with a sharp knife. The garlic I cut into slithers and then cut slits in the meat to push the garlic/rosemary into.
As you can see I photographed each stage simply because I like to do this and get great pleasure in being able to share the images/text and ideas with you.
The meat went into a pre-heated oven for an hour covered with silver foil and then I took it out, removed the foil and basted the meat with the unctuous meat juices. The cooking oil was olive oil.
For the last half hour of cooking I chopped up some Tesco Cornish new potatoes and added fresh mint from my cottage garden. The house air was full of fantastic aromas of cooking lamb, garlic and rosemary.
These cooked on the oven top for about half an hour alongside some French beans I had in the freezer. Once cooked the lamb rested on the side for fifteen minutes even though it was very tempting to snaffle a slice or two. I removed the rosemary and added the cooked garlic to the gravy for added flavour.
I removed the strings once the cooked meat had rested on the side.
A lovely simple Sunday dinner, easily cooked with patience, love and respect for the meat.