Slow-Roasted Shoulder of Lamb, rubbed with Rosemary, Anchovy, and Lemon Zest Recipe

I say, one can never have too many recipes for lamb shoulder. A versatile cut, the lamb shoulder, one that can be grilled, stewed, braised, or here, slow-roasted.

This dish was born out of a typical moment of greenmarket frustration, which I shall get off my chest just now.

A few Saturdays ago, I was waiting in line before my organic butcher‘s stall. Immediately ahead of me was a stocky little lady, whose many years of experience had taught her how to maximize the annoyance of the person behind her, i.e. me, through the cunning use of her shopping trolley.

Never one to let a stocky little lady defeat me, I outmaneuvered her by gliding her trolley forward with my right foot, slowly but surely, every time her back was turned.

Her technique was this: when the line moved forward, she followed, but neglected, for as long as she could possibly hold fort, to pull her trolley along with her, thus blocking the progress of the other customers, and preventing them from getting a comfortable look at the day’s offerings — a dire handicap on a busy market morning, when one is required to place one’s order with great velocity.

Never one to let a stocky little lady defeat me — she was half my height after all, though she may prove quite the cannonball in a fight — I outmaneuvered her by gliding her trolley forward with my right foot, slowly but surely, every time her back was turned.

And yet the final victory, it pains me to admit, was hers.

When her turn came, she ordered two links of blood sausage, a hefty slice of headcheese, and six pork chops. And then, as an afterthought, she pointed to the handsome shoulder of lamb that was sitting, all alone, in the lamb shoulder tray. My heart sank. This was, of course, what I had been coveting all along, and mine was the voice of last resorts when I uttered a half-joking, half-serious, might-as-well-give-it-a-shot, “Aw, that’s too bad, I had my eye on this one, too!”

Needless to say, she barely registered my comment*, and I swear I saw the shadow of a smirk as she grabbed her trolley and stomped away.

I ended up buying collier d’agneau (neck of lamb), which turned out fine braised with carrots and sweet potatoes, but a few days later, as I was planning the menu for an upcoming dinner party, this unresolved lamb shoulder situation floated back to the surface of my mind. I picked up the phone, dialed the number printed on the butcher’s wrapping paper, and asked if he would please set aside a shoulder of lamb for me the following Saturday.

He did, and it is with a titillating sense of revenge — ha! who’s smirking now? — that I massaged the meat with a paste made of fresh rosemary from Muriel‘s garden, anchovies, pink garlic, mustard seeds, and lemon peel. Garlic cloves en chemise** and a few late-harvest tomatoes were slipped into the baking dish, and the whole thing was popped into a low oven to roast for several hours, until the meat was nicely browned, crusty, and infused with the tangy seasoning paste.

This I served with a simple side of Italian-grown farro, a.k.a. emmer wheat or triticum dicoccum, the ancient grain that fed the Roman legions: it needs a few hours of soaking and forty minutes of cooking (preferably in homemade stock), but it cooks to a gratifying chew, it is nutritious as can be, and a nice change from the usual starch suspects.

* In case you’re wondering, yes, this strategy works every once in a while. Admittedly, I have better success if my opponent is a man, whose chivalry may lead to him letting me have the last piccola baguette, or whatever it is I hope to get.

** Ail en chemise = unpeeled garlic cloves; literally, “with their shirt on.” Isn’t it the most pictorial way to put it?

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Slow-Roasted Shoulder of Lamb, rubbed with Rosemary, Anchovy, and Lemon Zest Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 3 hours

Total Time: 4 hours, 15 minutes

Serves 6 to 8.

Slow-Roasted Shoulder of Lamb, rubbed with Rosemary, Anchovy, and Lemon Zest Recipe


    For the seasoning paste:
  • 1 bushy sprig of fresh rosemary (you can substitute 1 tablespoon dried rosemary, but fresh really is preferable)
  • 1 organic lemon
  • 10 filets of anchovies packed in olive oil, drained
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled, germ removed if any
  • 2 teaspoons whole mustard seeds
  • A few generous grinds of black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • For the meat:
  • 2.2 kg (5 pounds) bone-in shoulder of lamb (depending on the size of the animal, this may amount to one large shoulder, or 1 1/2 small shoulders)
  • 8 small ripe tomatoes, about 650g (1 1/3 pounds)
  • 4 cloves garlic, still in the last layer of their papery sheath


  1. Pluck the needles of rosemary and discard the tough central stem (you can leave it to dry and use it as a skewer on a later occasion). Peel the zest of the lemon using a zester or a simple vegetable peeler (save the naked lemon for another use).
  2. In the bowl of a mini-chopper or blender, combine the rosemary, lemon zest, anchovies, peeled garlic, mustard seeds, pepper, vinegar, and oil. Pulse until the mixture turns into a coarse paste, scraping the sides of the bowl regularly.
  3. Place the meat in a baking dish large enough to accommodate it, and rub in the seasoning paste, taking care to spread it well, and on all sides. (Clean your hands meticulously before and after the rubbing.) Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour, preferably 3 or 4.
  4. Remove the meat from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking to bring it back to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 220°C (430°F). Remove the plastic wrap from the baking dish. Add the unpeeled garlic cloves and the tomatoes, cored and halved, slipping them under and around the meat, wherever you can.
  5. Place the dish in the oven to cook for 30 minutes. Lower the heat to 130°C (270°F) and cook for another 2 1/2 hours, basting and flipping the meat every 30 minutes or so. Cover with a sheet of foil if it seems to brown too quickly.
  6. Let rest on the counter under a sheet of foil for 5 minutes. Carve the meat tableside and serve, ladling the juices on a side of farro or bulgur. The leftovers are even better the next day.
  • Oh no, she took the last one? This often happens to me in our snooty Tribeca locale, when the last carton of eggs from truly free range hens goes – and my heart just falls because we have to wait another week for these eggs to come. Lamb is heavenly especially in this chilly weather – and I like the anchovy idea quite a bit!

  • Classic! I bet that paste would be great rolled inside a boned lamb shoulder, too.

    I’m always interested in whether a cook uses high heat at the beginning or toward the end of a roast. Different people swear by one or the other. As I understand it, high heat at the end carmelizes well, but perhaps would risk burning the garlic, by then already cooked, in the paste. I expect the basting helps protect the garlic. The British advice I’ve received has been 350F all the way, but to me that seems to miss an opportunity.

  • Looks like a great dish Clotilde. I’m sorry about your market troubles. I just hate situations like that! Glad you got your lamb shoulder in the end!

  • Oooh lovely! We had slow-roasted shoulder of lamb only the other day, it’s fabulous, isn’t it?

  • Sounds like you had the last laugh. I’m sure her lamb was no where near as tasty as yours!

  • This sounds like a great meal. I love the idea of anchovy paste on the lamb. I have never done this, but I often dissolve a little anchovy in a dish to give a salty undertone. Ususally, no one would ever guess it was there. Ha, ha! My little secret.

  • Joan

    rosemary, anchovy, lemon zest!…I’m there already…looks scrumptious and we’ve cool enough weather for it at the moment, surprisingly…oh goodie!

  • rainey

    Have to agree with Dana that hers probably lacked your flair.

    Anchovy and lamb — what an interesting pairing!

  • The lamb looks beautiful, but I just followed the link to the baguette story (I, like a good little reader always follow the links)…And you are a girl after my own heart! I adore bread and can 100% completely relate! What a novel idea…makes me oh so very happy you shared that little tid bit with us! Thank you! ;)

  • Zoé

    All good, except why cook it for so long? Lamb is best when juicy and pink inside, non?

  • Erin

    I think I have encountered her American counterpart in the bakery.

  • Anchovies are such stellar secret ingredients. I love lamb and the French do too. Maybe you can answer a question for me, as you seem to be a lamb expert: The other day I saw a deboned gigot and agneau au lait. Is the idea behind agneau au lait similar to a suckling pig? Would you still cook the gigot for 7 hours if the bone was removed?

  • Well, I looked high and low, and there was no lamb shoulder to be found. I so wanted to make this dish today. I did find some beautiful lamb tenderloin steaks, though. I marinated them in the same paste and broiled them in the oven. Maybe not as wonderful as your roast, but very delicious nonetheless. Thank you for the recipe.

  • Je cuisine peu de viande mais l’épaule d’agneau fait partie de mes morceaux préférés et cette recette au romarin me semble divine!

  • Nikki

    I’ve never cooked a shoulder of lamb… but I’m inspired. Much like my ill-fated fig quest of this last week! I can empathize with the market situation as I was nearly bowled over by a little old lady with a trolley while I was looking over the sad remnants of fig season…

  • Hmmmm….anchovies? I shouldn’t think negatively as I’ve never tried it, but I admit it wouldn’t have been an ingredient that came to mind.

    I think I ran into that same little lady in Antibes once…she jumped the check-out line completely ignoring my existence. I tried to resist, but it wasn’t worth it. She won!

    Shopping stories get me worked up…better not to remember too many.

    Meilleurs voeux!!

  • From Paris – Yes, Agneau de lait follows the same principle as suckling pig. As for the deboned gigot, no, I wouldn’t bake it for 7 hours — I would simply roast it until browned on the inside but still pink inside.

    StickyEtc. – So glad this turned out to your taste, thanks for reporting back!

    Zoe – I would agree for some lamb cuts (gigot, chops), but the lamb shoulder is a tougher cut that benefits from a long and slow cooking.

  • I’m drooling on the keyboard! Thanks for the recipe.

  • Rhonda

    I would do this but take out the anchovies which sound odd to rub on lamb.

  • I should note, for those who are doubtful about the inclusion of anchovies, that the lamb-anchovy pairing is a rather classic one.

    They can’t be detected as such in the finished dish, but they add a subtle saltiness and pungency that bring out the flavors of the lamb beautifully.

    You could substitute capers if you’re philosophically opposed to anchovies, but I think you’d be missing out…

  • Judy

    Clothilde, Usually your American English is exquisite, but I have never heard of a shopping trolley. Is it the same as a shopping cart? Do they call them that in Britain?

  • Judy – Well, the reason why I didn’t use the American term “shopping cart” is that the reader would have thought of the grocery store-type cart, when I really meant one of those personal 2-wheel carts that people use to go to the greenmarket, as illustrated by the image I linked to. Is there an American term for this sort of basket-on-wheels?

  • Nikki

    Clotilde, back for my grocery list for tomorrow. :)

    I’ve always used the term trolley interchangably with both the 2-wheeled basket and the traditional shopping cart. Although, I’ve also heard people refer to the basket as a cart as well.

  • Philippa Jordan

    I tried this recipe with goat leg, just cooked it a little longer as goat is a little tougher. It was absolutely delicious — the anchovy/lemon/rosemary/garlic etc. worked great. Served with garlic and chive mash potato.

  • I love lamb shoulder too and this looks like a great recipe.

    One of my personal favorite is lamb shoulder rubbed with rosemary, espelette pepper and garlic inspired by a recipe contained in Alain Ducasse’s grand livre de cuisine brasserie.

  • gingerpale

    Just plain 2 wheeled cart is how I found them on the internet, but now I’m stuck thinking of them as “Clotilde carts”!

  • Mungo

    Shopping trolley is perfect British English (or what could be called English English) but you could also say shopping basket on wheels, or wheelie basket or one of those shopping things old grannies wheel around… Clothilde’s audience are anglophones wherever they may be found so please do not assume that a break from “correct” American English is a mistake. I’m a native English speaker and would find candy, sidewalk and pants (as in trousers, rather than knickers…) all pointless terms to me! Let”s try and be a bit open-minded and allow all English variants to flourish! Oh and also in the UK we use supermarket trolleys not carts. A cart is something a horse pulls. Oh the joys of two countries divided by a common language! What do people say “down under”?!

  • My fiance likes lamb, but I could never find a good recipe. The pictures make it look complicated (and pretty) so thank you for providing a manageable recipe. I’ll try it soon! :)

  • I first tried lamb with anchovies through a Simon Hopkinson recipe and was surprised how well they worked together. I love the addition of the mustard seed in yours.

  • funny, Clotilde. Is that a sesame seed coating in the photo or am I mistaking it for the grain?

  • Few things make me irritated, however, folks blocking the way in the grocery store or similar drives me nuts. It’s like they don’t notice there are 100 people around them. Hello! Will you please not park your fat ass in the aisle! Sorry, I got carried away there …

    Love shoulder of lamb, though. I’m planning a dinner myself and had just made up my mind to serve braised lamb shanks, but now — perhaps I need to ponder a little more.

  • Kate

    I tried this recipe with a boneless lamb shoulder and it turned out great. I didn’t have basalmic vinegar so I used cider vinegar, but otherwise stuck to the recipe. Delicious!

  • Victory! Sorta… But victory nonetheless.

  • This is unrelated to the lamb (which looks delicious btw), but I noticed you’re reading Year of Wonders. I read that book years ago and had forgotten how much I liked it! Well, except for the odd ending…but I won’t spoil it for you by saying any more.

  • Chealon

    The thought of using anchovies is making my mouth water – definately will try this seasoning paste the next time I use lamb shoulder or leg of lamb. And yes, I agree with everyone, the market incident was unfortunate, but all turned out for the best in the end !!

  • Looks really good!!

  • wanderer

    this looks and sounds really good. would this be good with other cuts of meat such as pork?

  • We had a very similar meal a couple weeks ago and I’m still thinking about it. In fact, we overcooked the farro and ended up stirring in a fist of grated parmesan and lemon zest and mounding it like a risotto. I’ve tried to recreate it since but haven’t gotten it quite right yet. Love little “oopsies” that turn out like that.

    By the way . . . if you haven’t already, please stop by to help me raise money for Share Our Strength towards ending hunger in America. You don’t have to buy anything, pay anything or even do anything — other than download a cool song by Corinne Bailey Rae and pick up some new holiday recipes (and a nifty widget for your blog if you’re so inclined). Thanks for your support!

  • elizabeth

    I made this on Sunday minus the mustard seeds because I did not have any and I didn’t want to make my husband run to the store because he looked so happy watching football on the television and I was still in my pj’s. When the cold weather comes to Southern California I love to cook lamb shanks or a nice lamb roast. Your recipe was wonderful. . I did share the anchovy secret with my picky eater son and he said it was the best lamb he had ever had.
    Thanks for the great recipe.

  • thanks for the lamb tips!

  • This looks good, I must try it. Not with lamb shoulder though.

  • Anne

    When the woman asked for the lamb shoulder, you may have asked her how she was going to cook it. Sweet revenge would be in knowing that she may not have cooked it as well but then again, there may have been an opportunity to learn a new trick!

    Those old girls, they know what they’re doing. :-)

  • Rich

    My mom and I always refer to the two-wheeled carts as “granny carts,” but I have no idea why.

    I spent last week in Paris on a Clotilde-inspired trip and I must say that it is the most wonderful city I’ve ever been to. (I kept an eye out while wandering Montmartre but, alas, never bumped into our heroine.) Thanks for the inspiration!

  • This was simply fabulous! I made it with lamb loin baked over a bed of roasted potatoes, caramelized tomatoes, thinly sliced lemon and onions. Amazingly tasty! J’adore votre blog et toutes vos recettes … j’ai un de tes bouquins aussi que j’aime bien utiliser pour l’inspiration.

  • Omission

    I’m an occasional but usually terrified visitor to the Batignolles market (my French buckles under the pressure to order at speed). I shall certainly try the lamb from that stallholder…

    As a resident of the Abbesses area, I have to ask: which butcher do you go to?

  • This sounds lovely. I haven’t made lamb in ages – I have kind of a lamb-averse family, but on a cool day, this might just turn them. It also sounds like a beautiful way to use anchovies, which (I assume) will just melt down into intense, un-pinpointable salty deliciousness. Thank you!!

  • Omission – I buy 99.9% of my meat from this butcher at the Batignolles greenmarket on Saturday mornings, but if I need to buy some during the week, I go to Jacky Gaudin’s butcher shop at 50 rue des Abbesses (or to the Chicken Family rôtisserie for roast chicken).

  • WOW that lamb looks and sounds totally mouth watering. Lamb is my favourite, especially slow cooked.

  • okay i am officially salivating!!! that looks beyond delicious. lamb is such tasty meat.

  • Kasia

    Oh you are SO tough, you really showed her.

  • wonderful combination of flavours, lvely blog and recipes, i will e back for more,

    cheers from london,


  • Barbara

    Well, in the end you outsmarted her. Funny story.
    I adore lamb. And does anything go better with it than rosemary?

  • Yuum! lamb shoulder sounds great :)sure made me hungry and its only morning here :P

  • Just bought some anchovies and I was looking for a new recipe! Thanks for sharing. JC

  • I’ve never cooked lamb since I don’t eat it but I know my French family would love it if I did cook it, so thanks for this great recipe. I’ll give it a try! Cynthia

  • It looks as though you put that coveted shoulder of lamb to very good use!

  • There’s nothing worse than being pipped at the post is there?

    I love lamb, it’s my absolute favourite, so I will be giving your recipe a go – thanks for sharing it!

  • The Leg of Lamb is one of my favourite cuts of meat. I normally season it with salt, pepper and rosemary, and insert bits of garlic into the meat before the roasting. Usually turns out well. The only regret is we can’t get fresh herbs this part of the world.

  • Phyllis

    I read this post almost 2 years ago, and thought to myself, I should make this one of these days. Well, it never happened until now….. it’s in the oven… smelling good, but I must confess, in my happiness to put it in the oven, I forgot abt the garlic and the tomato….. =(

  • JJ

    Very “delicious fotos” you have :)

  • Oh, I have to try this. It looks very delicous. Thanks for the lovely recipe.

  • my favorite taste sensations: lemon, rosemary, and anchovies. WoW!i must try this.

  • I was never a big fan of eating lamb, but this looks so good. I think I’ll get my mom to help out as I’m a bit of a clutz in the kitchen lol.

  • CraigP

    MMM, anchovies on a leg of roast lamb. A technique hundreds of years old and still sensational. Will do that next weekend!

  • Clotilde – j’adore cette recette. La combinaison d’herbes est parfaite pour l’agneau. J’ai utilisé cette recette la première fois que vous l’aviez mis ici. Merci pour tout votre travail avec le blog et le livre.

    To all your readers – This marinade is a definite keeper – I highly recommend it!

  • Your story of the lady with shopping cart made me smile. So glad you had to buy another cut so you could offer this recipe. French husband and family adore lamb on Sundays and I look forward to trying it on them.
    Thank you!

  • Jo

    Thanks for sharing the recipe. Gorgeous eats!

  • This is a fabulous dish! I made it last night and found it utterly addictive. I’ll be making it all winter long, it’s that good. Thanks so much!

  • Pete Down Under

    Ironocally whilst in the car today the radio station I was listening to were going on about adding anchovies to a Lamb Roast.

    Amazing the number of phone ins that had never heard of using anchovies with a Lamb Roast.

    The talk back host asked one person who was unsure about anchovies if they liked Worcestershire Sauce to which they replied yes. So he then told them it was made with anchovies. LOL

    I have used them for years now when preparing Lamb along with Garlic, lemon rind/juice, Rosemary and lots of cracked Black Pepper. So now will try the mustard seeds as well.

    Thanks for all your good work!

  • Alisha


    Like Phyllis,”I read this post almost 2 years ago, and thought to myself, I should make this one of these days.” And I did for Easter! Served with roasted vegetables (radishes, onions, carrots, and full garlic heads) and Meyer lemon cheese cake for dessert, the lamb shoulder was a hit!

    Talking with the butcher was educational too. He thought I wanted 5 lbs and I knew I wanted a bit more than 2.75lbs for 3 people. We settled on 3 lbs.

    • Happy to hear it, Alisha, thanks for reporting back!

  • Lilluz

    Dear Clothilde, I can’t wait to try this recipe! With the oven temperatures that are to be used, are they for a fan-forced oven? Is it always fan-forced oven temperatures that you give for all your baked/roasted recipes? Thank you :-)

    • Yes, the temps given are for fan-enforced ovens. Happy baking/cooking!

  • Maria Tregub

    This seasoning paste is superb – !!! – I used this recipe on a cut of lamb, named “shoulder shank” – that what I had – I guess, it is a different cut from “shoulder”. I’m also lucky to have a rotisserie in my oven. So, I put my piece – prepared as you instructed – on rotisserie stick. I also have a meat thermometer for oven; so I cooked it – also following the recipe – till thermometer measured meat’s temperature at 160°F (71°C) -well-done – took about the same time – it was SO GOOD!

    • I’m very pleased to hear that, Maria, I love this recipe too! I also have a rotisserie in my oven, which I’ve used often for chicken, but I’ve never thought to use it for lamb shoulder, for some reason. Thanks for the great suggestion!

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