Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Stuffed Lamb Shoulder for St George's Day

St George - Bulgarian icon
St George's day is celebrated widely in Bulgaria. Along with Ivan, Dimiter and Nikola, George is one of the most common names here and all the people having the name George celebrate their nameday today. That means, a lot of relatives and friends gather around the table and have a long, long lunch and the main dish is based on a lamb meat - whether a whole lamb turned on a spit (the so called 'cheverme'), lamb roasted with potatoes, or my favorite recipe - whole lamb shoulder stuffed with rice, stewed lamb offal and a bunch of herbs - 'drobsarma'.
This impressive dish is served widely for the Easter lunch and for St George's day. 
As a result of the long roasting, the meat remains tender, the skin is crispy and the stuffing is full of aroma.
There are some significant differences between the Bulgarian recipe for stuffed lamb shoulder and all the recipes popular abroad.

First - This recipe does not call for boned shoulder, to the contrary - it is based on the idea of stuffing the pocket between the outer membrane of the shoulder and the meat.

Second - Offal is important part of the recipe. Lamb liver and lung shall be boiled in advance and included into the stuffing.

Third - The typical strong taste of the lamb pairs well with the fresh and grassy flavor of mint and green onion, so the combination of tastes in this recipe includes a lot of spring onion, mint and freshly ground black pepper.

Slow cooking makes the flavors blend, so this dish requires a lot of time to be prepared properly. Women get up early on St George's day, only the roasting in the oven takes about three hours.
Stuffed lamb shoulder

Roasted lamb shoulder
My mother in law is a lucky woman - my father in law always helps her in the kitchen and they do most of the cooking together. I made some pictures while they prepared the stuffed lamb shoulder in order to show you more clearly how this typical Bulgarian dish is to be prepared.
  • 1 whole lamb shoulder about 2 kg (4 lb) with fatty outer membrane intact and bones on
  • 1 cup short grain rice
  • 3 cups lamb, chicken or vegetable stock
  • 4 sprigs of green onion, finely chopped
  • 1 lamb's liver
  • 1 lamb's lung
  • 100 g butter
  • 2 Tbsp dry spearmint, crushed or 5 sprigs of fresh spearmint, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp paprika red pepper
  • freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste

1) Prepare the stuffing. 
First thing to make is the stuffing. 
To make the stock put the liver and lung in a small pot and cover with 4 cups of stock (lamb, chicken or vegetable). Simmer for 20 minutes, set aside to cool and chop in small pieces.  
At the end of boiling you shall have three cups of stock, needed for the stuffing.
Melt butter in a pan and add the chopped onion. Saute for 15 minutes until it starts to soften and add the rice and 1 tsp salt. Cook for 2-3 additional minutes and pour in three cups of stoch where you have boiled the offal. Cook until liquid is absorbed. Add mint and mix well. 
Remove stuffing from heat and let cool.
Stuffing with rice and lamb offal2) Prepare a 'pocket' in the lamb shoulder
Using a sharp knife, make a pocket under the outer membrane of the lamb's shoulder. Push your hand gently and slowly separate the bottom of the membrane and the meat. Try not to tear it.
Making a pocket in the lamb shoulder
3) Stuff lamb shoulder
Preheat oven to 200C (400 F) and place the rack in the lowest position.
Stuff the rice mixture into the lamb 'pocket' distributing it evenly. The rice will expand during cooking, so leave about 2cm (1 inch).
Stuffing the lamb shoulder
Closing the pocket
Tie the two end-sides with a string in order to have a totally closed pocket which will not allow the juices to go out. 
Stuffed lamb shoulder
4) Roast the stuffed lamb shoulder 
Season the lamb with the red pepper, arrange some pices of butter onto the skin and put it skin side up in  a baking dish. Add 2 cups of stock to the baking dish, cover with aluminium foil  and put roasting pan into the preheated oven.
Lamb shoulder ready to be roasted
Cook for one hour, remove foil  and continue roasting uncovered for two additional hours, basting it occasionally to keep it moist.

5) Slice and serve
Take lamb shoulder out of the oven, slice and serve with some spoons of the stuffing aside. Enjoy hot with some glasses of wine and a huge portion of green salad. 
Slicing the lamb shoulder

Stuffed lamb shoulder

Lamb shoulder with stuffing
Roasted lamb shoulder

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