The numerous swine farms of Catalonia make this region the main source of pork in Spain. Not surprisingly, the menu in Rousillon, the historic capital of the region is replete with pork-based dishes. Although a principality of France, some major influences are Spanish and Arab. Globe artichokes are popular in the region and indeed I would have loved to use baby versions of them in this dish. Without a doubt the dish can be enjoyed more in the Belle Époque setting of Perpignan, the city where Gaulish chieftains met to consider Hannibal’s request for a conference.
The dish combines the wonderful flavours of lemon, rosemary, aniseed and honey. It works well as a spectacular Sunday lunch. One large lamb shoulder will feed 5 – 6 people. It is absolutely imperative that you use lamb of excellent quality or the texture of the shoulder will be wrong. Most supermarket acquired lamb will not suffice for this dish.
Prepare the lamb shoulder
Flatten one large shoulder of lamb using a rolling pin. Flatten it into a rectangular shape and if necessary, trim the edges
For the stuffing
4 oz (120 gms) finely diced lamb (use excess lamb from the shoulder trimmings)
4 oz (120 gms) chopped streaky bacon
1 oz (25 gms) chopped almonds
leaves of 2 sprigs of rosemary, chopped
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp grated lemon peel
1 slice of fried bread
Ground black pepper to season
Combine all the ingredients into a food processor and process for a short time until the mixture forms a course paste. You do not want the stuffing paste to be too smooth.
For the lamb ballotine
Fill the centre of the lamb with the stuffing. Carefully roll the shoulder and sew the edges together to form a cylinder. Don’t make the ballotine too tight else it will burst as it is being cooked.
Completing the dish
12 new potatoes, peeled and boiled in salty water for 5 minutes
6 small apples, peeled and cored
6 small pears, peeled and cored
6 apricots, peeled and stoned
6 peaches, peeled and stoned
Heat 6 tbsp olive oil in a large casserole pan. Gently place the lamb ballotine into the hot oil and brown the skin all over, rotating the ballotine gently. Reduce the heat to low and cook gently for 60 minutes. Add the part boiled potatoes, gently stir the potatoes around the lamb, close the casserole lid and cook for a further 15 minutes. After a further 10 minutes, add all the rest of the ingredients and close the lid. Cook for a further 10 minutes. Place the ballotine on a serving platter and display the fruits around it. Serve the ballotine as slices.