Slow-Cooked Shoulder of Lamb and…The Pictures

When I was growing up we didn’t go to the movies very often.  Going to ‘the pictures’ was a real treat.  You dressed up for this very special occasion and arrived at the theatre in plenty of time to purchase your tickets that were for allocated seating only.  A very polite usher in a smart uniform wielding a torch led you to your seat.  The theatre was always two stories with a gently sloping section down below and a balcony section above.  The floors inside the threatre were wooden so naughty people sitting at the end of the rows would roll their jaffas down the aisle and no one seemed to tire of this prank.

Slow-roasted shoulder of lamb

And the picture palace (as many of them were called), weren’t in a complex.  There was just one theatre, not a dozen, and one movie screening only.  That movie would be screened for about three weeks giving the whole town a chance to see it, then a new picture would replace it.

Before the picture started you didn’t have to suffer minutes of advertising.  You would be shown a ‘short’ and this was a film of around 15 minutes in length that had probably been made by an aspiring film maker who had borrowed money from everyone he knew to purchase enough reels of film to make his debut as a director and cinematographer.  You didn’t pay extra for these, they were a bonus and many of today’s great filmmakers had their first short films screened in this way.

Then the picture would begin and everyone would settle down to watch it and you’d hear the jaffas rolling along the wooden floors and then at some crucial moment in the picture the projectionist would stop the movie and it would be intermission.  Everyone would head out of the theatre for a choc-top ice cream or more jaffas or a bag of chips.  But if you didn’t want to leave your post ushers came in and walked through the theatre selling drinks and ice creams and chocolates and lollies.

Smashed Veg with gravy in the background

I remember being taken to see such classics as The Poseidon Adventure that resulted in us all being terrified of being on a cruise ship at night on New Year’s Eve in an ocean with a 90-foot tidal wave.

I also went to see The Towering Inferno and that had us all terrified of being in poorly constructed high rise buildings on their opening night.

But there was one movie that came to our town that I really wanted to see but I wasn’t allowed as my parents said it was too scary for me and would give me nightmares.  I protested much but they said I was too young to see it and the film was just too frightening.  I was so furious when one Saturday I noticed my older sister wasn’t home only to discover she had been taken to see this movie because being 20 months older, she was mature enough to handle it and therefore wouldn’t suffer nightmares.  So I never did get the chance to see Jaws but from what everyone told me I knew if you went for a swim in the ocean, particularly at night, a Great White would take your leg and you’d die of blood loss.

Steamed Greens

You couldn’t download movies off the internet and watch them on your laptop or your mobile phone.  You couldn’t hire them from DVD stores or Video stores.  You couldn’t even watch them on TV because many movies would take up to ten years to transit from the silver screen to the humble TV.  So if you missed it, you missed it.  But you could read the book and every family home had a copy of Jaws!

Here’s a meal that cooks itself while you’re out at the local Picture Palace.

Gravy with red wine vinegar, capers and mint leaves

Slow-Roasted Shoulder of Lamb with Smashed Veg and Greens

Serves:  6

Degree of Difficulty:  3/5

Cost:  This is a really lovely winter’s meal that is quite affordable because shoulders of lamb tend to be very reasonably priced

For the Lamb
• 500g lovely greens, such as white cabbage, Savoy cabbage, Brussels tops or cavolo nero, leaves separated, stalks finely sliced
• a large bunch of fresh rosemary
• 1 x 2kg shoulder of lamb
• olive oil
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 bulb of garlic, unpeeled, broken into cloves

For the smashed veg
• 750g peeled potatoes, cut into large chunks
• 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into small chunks
• ½ a large swede, peeled and cut into small chunks
• 75g butter

For the sauce
• 1 tablespoon flour
• 500ml good-quality hot vegetable or chicken stock
• 2 heaped tablespoons capers, soaked, drained and chopped
• a large bunch of fresh mint, leaves picked
• 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Preheat your oven to full whack. Slash the fat side of the lamb all over with a sharp knife. Lay half the sprigs of rosemary and half the garlic cloves on the bottom of a high-sided roasting tray, rub the lamb all over with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place it in the tray on top of the rosemary and garlic, and put the rest of the rosemary and garlic on top of the lamb. Tightly cover the tray with tinfoil and place in the oven. Turn the oven down immediately to 170°C/325°F/gas 3 and cook for 4 hours – it’s done if you can pull the meat apart easily with two forks.

When the lamb is nearly cooked, put your potatoes, carrots and swede into a large pot of boiling salted water and boil hard for 20 minutes or so until you can slide a knife into the swede easily. Drain and allow to steam dry, then smash them up in the pan with most of the butter. If you prefer a smooth texture, add some cooking water. Spoon into a bowl, cover with tinfoil and keep warm over a pan of simmering water.

Remove the lamb from the oven and place it on a chopping board. Cover it with tinfoil, then a tea towel, and leave it to rest. Put a large pan of salted water on to boil for your greens. Pour away most of the fat from the roasting tray, discarding any bits of rosemary stalk. Put the tray on the hob and mix in the flour. Add the stock, stirring and scraping all the sticky goodness off the bottom of the tray. You won’t need gallons of gravy, just a couple of flavoursome spoonfuls each. Add the capers, turn the heat down and simmer for a few minutes.

Finely chop the mint and add it to the sauce with the red wine vinegar at the last minute then pour into a jug. Add your greens and stalks to the pan of fast-boiling salted water and cook for 4 to 5 minutes to just soften them. Drain and toss with a knob of butter and a pinch of salt and pepper. Place everything in the middle of the table, and shred the lamb in front of your guests. Absolutely delish!

Slow-cooked lamb shoulder

This recipe is from Jamie Oliver’s Jamie at Home cookbook.

Thanks Jamie for the best ever lamb shoulder recipe I have ever enjoyed.



  1. Go Jamie with full whack! I say that all the time but only at home and as a joke. John just rolls his eyes at me.

    I remember cartoons before the feature. We didn’t get to go to “the movies” very often either but we did get to go to the local drive-in. I think it was just to let the kids play on the playground while my parents watched the movie.

    My parents insisted that we see every live performance that was within driving distance. Concerts at the local uni, local plays, traveling shows. They thought movies weren’t as good.

  2. The first movie I saw at the pictures was “Pollyanna” – then on holidays being taken by dad to see The Battle of Britain! Very entertaining – not! Then Mary Poppins with friends and trying to sing every song on the way home. I remember Saturday morning pictures too – just for kids and we would watch all the serials and eat lots of sweets all for about 6pence.Slow cooked lamb would have been great when we got home. I can smell the delicious aroma right now.

  3. J Cosmo Newbery says:

    Damn! There goers the diet!

  4. Wonderful story, and wonderful recipe. I really appreciate a meal that ‘cooks itself’ while you’re out doing errands or at work. Just a lovely winter warmer.

  5. Green Dragonette says:

    I think the first film I saw at the cinema was ‘Jungle Book’…those
    were the days…

  6. I still go to the cinema, I don’t download movies (it’s an easy way to get a high fine in Germany) and wherever I am I try to find an old cinema with a wooden chairs. I was lucky to live in Amsterdam for the past two years, they still have some of it. Your lamb looks delicious.

  7. You caused me to flashback to my youth with movies – a time when small towns had a theater with one screen. Meanwhile, because my wife doesn’t like lamb, we don’t have it.

  8. A slow roasted shoulder sounds delicious! And we just happened to go to the movies this past weekend!

  9. Amy @ Elephant Eats says:

    I love this story of your childhood 🙂 I totally had to look up what Jaffas are…they don’t have them in the U.S. I don’t think.

    I LOVE leg of lamb. This looks like a gorgeous feast!

  10. niasunset says:

    I enjoy reading your stories dear Charlie, and wonderful recipes with amazing photographs. Thank you, love, nia

  11. Victoria at Flavors of the Sun says:

    I love to traipse down memory lane with you, partly because it drums up old memories of my own, often oddly similar to yours.

    The lamb makes my mouth water…

  12. That took me right back, Charlie. I never saw Poseidon Adventure, but did see The Towering Inferno. I think I was 8, and it was a birthday party sleepover. The parents took about 5-6 girls out to a Chinese Restaurant for dinner (quite exotic in those days) and then after The Towering Inferno. We slept in the basement. Because I had only ever had electric heat, I had never heard a furnace turn on. And boy did it turn on in the basement. I was P E T R I F I E D! I had to call my Dad to come and get me. I think they were both quietly relieved that I was home.

  13. This looks absolutely incredible! Nothing’s better than slow roasted lamb.

  14. A_Boleyn says:

    I remember going to the movies with my older (3 years was a lot) brother which was the only way I was allowed to go to the movies. My parents didn’t have the extra time to take me as they were usually working a second job on the weekends. Later on, I went by myself and I still remember the quiet (no cell phones or talking to your neighbours during the movie) and that the lights went off to herald the beginning of the show. Now, they don’t actually ever turn on the lights so reading the movie magazine in the lobby isn’t possible until you get home. And people arrived early not during the first five minutes of the main feature.

    A great lamb dish and accompaniments by the way. 🙂

  15. Magnificent look lamb, Charlie! I never understood the jaffa thing – why pay good money and then roll your choccies down the aisle? The very first movie I remember being taken to was the Sound of Music and it was a very memorable experience – I’d won tickets in a colouring contest. Lovely post, lovely memories, thank you.. 🙂

  16. Your pictures look incredibley delicious 😀
    Lamb has never looked better!
    My dad tells me about his first experiences going to the movies – it sounds a lot more important and exciting as an outing than now 😛


  17. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says:

    A friend of mine who grew up in NZ said that before the movie started, they used to have to stand for God Save the Queen! 😮

  18. InTolerantChef says:

    Can I come over for dinner Charlie? This is a wonderful family meal indeed!
    I remember going to the movies being An Occasion, like someones birthday treat, and intermission was a welcome pit stop 🙂 Last week we raced out for a 6.30 screening of Brave (for littlej ) grabbed some burgers (without buns for me) and were home in time for us grown ups to watch our favorite TV show before bed. Very convenient, but no sense of Occasion. I think we’re missing out these days 🙁

  19. Wow technology sure has changed a lot of things 🙂 my dad was telling me the other day that he use to miss some movies because like what you said, you can rent, download or get it any other way but now…it’s so simple and easy 🙂

    Great recipe ~ I particularly like the smashed veggie gotta try it soon yay 😀

  20. I kind of wish that going to the movies were the same as it was back in the day. With tickets being the old price also, of course.
    Joanne (eats well with others)

  21. Tina @ bitemeshowme says:

    I still think going to the movies is a bit of a treat. I love watching the big blockbuster movies in the cinema – there’s no greater experience than having to watch it on a massive screen, surround sound and decent seating (sometimes). There are times though where I feel like I want to watch something but it’s just not worth paying the price. Sadly that does come into consideration when watching movies these days, it’s just not that cheap..

  22. Claire @ Claire K Creations says:

    I wish I could have that experience today too! Everything is so clinical these days and nothing really all that special it is?

    I especially like the idea of coming home to a dinner that has cooked itself!

  23. corrie from says:

    I love lamb. I cooked the 12 hour shoulder recipe from Chef Shane Delia from his restaurant and Book called MAHA. Sooooooo gooooooood. Will post pics soon. 🙂

  24. Vanessa Carnegie says:

    Mmm I love roast lamb.
    I miss the days when VHS videos hired from the local video store had a short Looney Tunes clip at the start.
    Also, it’s interesting how much the ads differ from state to state. In Melbourne and, from what I can gather, Sydney, you can be nearly 20 minutes late for the movie and still walk into the theatre before it begins. In Adelaide it’s only about 5 minutes and definitely less than 8, so many a time I have been caught in the snackbar line and missed the first bit of the movie!

  25. My childhood experiences of movies were also far more ‘special’ than movie going seems to be now. It was a very big treat, for just a few times a year, and I always felt very grown up when we went. It’s a shame some of the magic has been lost as these days it seems like a ‘normal’ activity for many children, and of course they can watch things on big screens at home too!

  26. liz - strayedtable says:

    yummo, how I dream of an oven. I have to say that I also loved going to the pictures. I still like to see things on the big screen. For some reason though I still don’t understand the choc top thing. Everyone else does. I am large popcorn kinda gal.

  27. says:

    Wow just how I remember it too. I thought you were a lot younger than me Charlie. and you probably are cause I know NZ was about 10 years behind us once upon a time. By the way Lorraine we used top play God Save the Queen and stand here too!You do look a lot younger than I , as it

  28. Minnesota Prairie Roots says:

    Like you, I rarely saw movies as a child either. And now, even as an adult, if I see a movie once a year, that’s it.

  29. I grew up in the same movie-going era and I’m glad to see the return of “one large screen” movie houses popping up here and there. The experience just isn’t the same viewing movies in a “shoebox!” 🙂 Truthfully, I haven’t been to a theater for years, though — last time I went, the volume was SO loud, I had to stuff tissues in my ears to moderately enjoy the show. So, rentals at home it is…

  30. Hi Charlie – what’s a “jaffa”? Not even I went to the movies that much when I was a kid… it just wasn’t really something we *did*. Love the look of the dinner – bet it’s a great thing to come back to after a nice action movie!

  31. ChgoJohn says:

    Ah, yes. I remember it well. Did you have drive-ins? All 5 of us would head to one and by the time the short was shown, we 3 kids were asleep in the back seat and Mom & Dad watched the movie in peace. I’ve never roasted a lamb shoulder, Charlie, but yours here sure does look delicious. And how the aroma of rosemary and garlic roasting fills the kitchen …

  32. I love slow roasted lamb! coming home from a brilliant movie to the smell of this must be absolute heaven!

  33. Jed Gray (sportsglutton) says:

    Lamb, rosemary, garlic, olive oil…few things are as satisfying.

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Thanks Jed. I’ve heard lamb is quite rare in the USA and that it’s not easily sourced. Is that right? My sister was living in NY and she said she could find it in butcher shops but it was so expensive she could only buy it on special occasions.

  34. What wonderful recipes! Oh my goodness but they make me hungry! I will have to leave this post in a bit and discover “swedes.” I have no idea! 🙂 But you’ve tempted me with that lamb roast. I eat very little meat, Charlie, but on occasion I can’t resist lamb shanks, so that tells you I can’t possibly be a vegetarian!

    I don’t recall having movie theater experiences that were quite this special, frankly, but I will say that audiences were more polite when I was growing up. I think the crowds are now rude and disruptive. I’d almost prefer watching from home! oxo

  35. The steamed greens look amazing 🙂

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