Saffron-stuffed lamb with orange-blossom vodka gravy

“Always remember: If you’re alone in the kitchen and you drop the lamb, you can always just pick it up. Who’s going to know?”

Julia Child

The idea for this dish comes from From Moro: The Cookbook by Samantha and Samuel Clark – a recipe listed by The Guardian as one of the twenty best ever published.

I don’t know how I have the temerity to think I can improve on it, but I made these bold changes before I knew the recipe had been so hailed. I think the fortification provided by the vodka and the heavy-handed quantity of garlic in the yoghurt sauce make it mightly, and wonderfully robust!

Because the joint is boned, it is dead easy to carve.

Sam and Sam Clark suggest serving this with braised spinach or chard but I think my instant spinach method is fine for the spinach; and if you follow this link you will find various quick methods of cooking chard.

What to do with leftovers

The quantity of saffron pilaf stuffing made using the recipe in this link will give you twice the amount you need. Use the other half to make a good lunch for two the following day by frying, and serving with a fried egg. Or by reheating with grilled halloumi.

Recipe for saffron-stuffed lamb with orange-blossom vodka gravy

Serves 6


  • Saffron pilaf stuffing – go here to find out how – you only need half this quantity – save the other half, fry and serve with a fried egg for lunch the following day (enough for two)
  • 1 shoulder of lamb – approx. 1.8 Kg/4 lbs – get your butcher to bone it and take off most of the skin and fat
  • 4 tbsp/¼ cup. olive oil
  • 80ml/⅓ cup vodka
  • 4 tbsp/¼ cup orange blossom water – or zest and juice of an orange
  • Smoked salt
  • Indonesian long pepper
  • 240g/1 cup thick Greek yoghurt
  • 4 fat cloves of garlic, crushed with 1 tsp smoked salt
  • ¼ large cucumber, minus seeds but with skin and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp REALLY good quality olive oil – the type that you eat for its own sake drizzled on a piece of bread


  1. Preheat the oven to 210°C.
  2. Put the lamb, skin side down, onto a clean work surface and open it out fully.
  3. Stuff all the pockets with about half the pilaf stuffing, roll up and tie with string.
  4. Cover the surface of a big roasting tin with olive oil and get it really hot on the hob.
  5. Season the rolled, trussed lamb and then brown in the hot oil.
  6. Put in the oven and roast for 1½ hours.* see note for cooking times for different weights/cuts of lamb
  7. Meanwhile make the yoghurt and garlic sauce by mixing the yoghurt with pepper, salt-crushed garlic and cucumber. Drizzle over the olive oil.
  8. When it’s still pink inside, take out the lamb, put on a carving board, cover in foil, and leave to rest for ten minutes.
  9. Meanwhile make the gravy by deglazing the roasting tin on the hob with the vodka and orange blossom. water. With a fish slice separate the flavourful gunge on the bottom of the pan. Leave to simmer gently for about five minutes. If it looks as if you need some more liquid add some stock. Serve in a gravy jug which allows for separation of the fat.

*Note: cooking time for:

  • whole, half or boneless shoulder = 40 minutes per 500g, plus 40 minutes
  • part-boned shoulder = 60 minutes per 500g, plus 30 minutes
I have the temerity to serve it with a very garlicky yoghurt tzatziki-type sauce
I have the temerity to serve it with a very garlicky yoghurt tzatziki-type sauce

Music to cook to

Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain with Orange Blossom.

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