I cannot take credit for this recipe as I read it in Tom Kerridge’s “Proper Pub Food” and also saw it on the TV show of the same name where you can watch it here. Another reason that I cannot claim credit for it is because it is a classic recipe that dates back to who knows when and so no living chef can really lay claim to it. Pommes boulangere translates roughly as potatoes from the baker which I am sure anyone with a basic level of French will have already realised. This is a very traditional way of cooking potatoes which I have read dates back to a time when people did not have their own oven in rural France. Peasants would take their dishes of potatoes to the baker after he had finished making his bread and cook them in his oven; or something like that. I used to be into history when I was at school but we never covered the history of French cooking; they really missed a trick there I feel.
The joy of this dish is in its simplicity. It makes for a perfect stress free Sunday roast as you can put it in the oven and leave it for hours whilst you get on with your other Sunday activities. Slow roast lamb is also a thing of beauty and so you are on to a winner with this every time. As the brilliant chef Kerridge says a shoulder is best for this but I am sure you could do it with a leg as well; I used a half shoulder. I have read other recipes where you place the meat on a shelf above the tray of potatoes and let the juices drip down. To be honest this seems unnecessarily messy and I would not fancy cleaning the oven after that. Whatever you use ensure you cook it long and slow.
For my roast I used maris piper potatoes and I left the skins on. I did this as I thought it would give it a bit more of a rustic feel. There are probably reasons why you shouldn’t do this but I do not know what they are and surely they cannot be that bad. To chop the onions and potatoes I used a mandoline which I would highly recommend as it took absolutely no time at all; if you have not got one just use a sharp knife to slice these. The potatoes should be no more than a couple of mm thich. I used rosemary, thyme and bay leaves in my gratin and instead of stock a squeeze of lemon and some water. I did this as I thought that the combination of herbs, onions and juices from the meat would create its own stock; a little controversial but I like to try these things. For the lamb I studded it with garlic as per Mr Kerridge and I also rubbed it with oil and salt before sitting in on top of my potatoes. The whole lot is then place in a preheated oven at around 150C for around 4 hours. This should fill your house with the fantastic aroma of lamb, rosemary and garlic which is an added bonus. You will want to let the meat rest for about 15 minutes when you remove it from the oven.
To go with the lamb and potatoes I decided to make yet another salsa verde dressing. For regular readers of this blog you are probably getting a little tired of these, sorry about that. In my defence you do not want a gravy or sauce with this as the potatoes will provide some tasty cooking liquid for your plate. The lamb and potatoes are both quite rich and the sharp zingy flavour of the salsa verde makes the dish sing. To make this I chopped some mint, parsley, capers and anchovies and combined. To this add some crushed garlic, sea salt, lemon juice and plenty of extra virgin olive oil. I know that I need to make some different dressing and promise to try harder in future; but I just love this stuff. I did not make any other side dishes to go with this but you could easy pair this with any number of green vegetables.
To plate up you just need a serving spoon and a fork to pull the meat apart with. This means that it is perfect for a group meal with friends or family as you can place it in the middle of the table and let people tear into themselves. Drizzle over some of the herb dressing and sit back and enjoy with a light red wine. Sunday’s do not often get better than this. The lamb should melt in your mouth and be fantastically flavoursome. The potatoes will be a mix of crispy upper layers and well soaked and stock filled lower layers. Clearly this would be perfect for an Easter meal but is far too good to only have once a year. If you are looking for a classic Sunday roast that delivers on every level then give this a go; perhaps being a peasant all those years ago wasn’t that bad…