Monthly Archives: May 2011

So, so slow…

I got up early on Sunday to pop a little something special into my oven before I went to work.  Earlier in the week I had been out to the Farm shop to buy some very lovely lamb.  I have spoken here before about the wonders of Arkady lamb and, what came out of my oven roughly twelve hours later was a testament to the quality of the meat and the magic of slow cooking.   Being British, I have an intrinsic and unquestionable desire to eat roast on a sunday.  It is a need that Mr T will never understand, once he actually asked me to stop cooking so many roasts!  The gall of the man, that is tantamount to asking me to stop breathing air. 

And so, feeling slightly sluggish on a Sunday morning, I dragged myself from the warmth of my bed and carried myself to the warmth of the stove.  The beauty of what I did next, is its sheer simplicity.  I sealed the lamb in a frying pan, added a few little bits and bobs which I will describe in full later and then went to work.  Luckily I had the trusty Mother in law in residence so she was on hand to change the temperature of the oven and baste the meat. 

I went to work, safe in the knowledge that I was coming home to a good feed.  Before I even walked in my front door, I could smell the heady scent of sweet slow cooked lamb.  The first thing I did was delve into the oven to extricate my steaming pot.  As I touched the tongs to the meat, it just melted off the bones.  My attempt to turn the meat over was ridiculous because it would not stay in one piece, it was a slippery mound of tasty and it was not behaving.  And so, I whirled round the kitchen and prepared all of the vegetables.  I knew if I sat down that I would never get up again. 

So, once the honeyed parsnips and carrots were safely stowed away in the oven and the pumpkin and potatoes were roasting merrily, I set to work on the gravy.  Luckily I have the luxury of being able to buy tiny pots of jus from work and therefore had the perfect base for a gravy.  Lots of red wine and herbs later, the gravy was well on its way.  And so, Mother in Law was in charge of beautifying the table, a job which she excels at, flickering candles and all. 

I dished up plates of every vegetable conceivable and the lamb.  We sat down with a lovely bottle of red from the Wilyabrup region and tucked in.   Now, I know when it comes to food, it is really easy to over word things and I am definitely guilty of that and so I will say this.  Oh my god.  So, so, so good.  Whilst Mother in law and Mr T were debating the importance of workers unions, I was just sitting in the corner groaning.  I would weigh in to the lofty debate with “so bloody yummy” and “this is the only way to cook lamb” and “this is the best lamb ever” and “I’m awesome”.  Clearly I was not on their wave length but once they had tasted that meat, they were certainly on mine. 

Now, there is something different about this blog.  It is something that I have been wanting for a long time and fingers crossed, if I can switch on my technological brain, there will be a really badly taken photo of my food.  How exciting! 

Down to the nitty-gritty.  Here is the recipe.  It is not an exact science but if you have questions or queries, then feel free to send me comments.

Slow Lamb Shoulder

1.5 – 2 kg Lamb Shoulder

1 carrot

1 stick of celery

1 onion

5 cloves of garlic

500 ml red wine

Enough beef or lamb stock to nearly cover the meat (feel free to use a good quality stock cube, I often do)

Method

Just remembered the annoying part that all recipes start with… preheat your oven to 220 degrees c

Sprinkle the lamb liberally with salt and pepper.  Fry on all sides in a frying pan or casserole until it is deep brown and caramelised. 

If there is room, chuck your roughly chopped vegetables around the meat, if not, do it once you take the lamb out.  These should also be fried til lovely and brown.  Take out your lamb and vegies and put aside. 

Turn the flame up nice and high and when the pan’s really hot, pour in your wine.  Be careful as the alcohol may flame up, if it does, don’t panic, just give the pan a gentle wiggle and the flame will stop once the alcohol burns off.  Keep flammable items away at this stage, wigs, shell suits and eyebrows will go up in a puff of smoke.  Now, this has loosened all those lovely caramelised bits, so if you’re cooking your lamb in a casserole, you need to pour the juices in there.  If you are using the same pot you used to fry in, then pop your meat and vegies back in. 

Nearly there.  By now, your meat and veg should be nestling in an oven proof pot or casserole with the juices.  Pour enough hot stock over the meat to nearly cover it.  Grab a circle of baking paper and place it directly onto the meat so that it fits snugly, make a little hole in the centre so that it will sit nicely on the liquid.  Next, cover with a lid or foil and put it in the oven. 

After 30 mins turn your oven down to 150 degrees c.  At this stage you should baste it every hour and then re-cover.  If you pop out to the shops or something, you can baste less often and it shouldn’t matter.  The meat will be ready in about three or four hours but if, like me, you want it to fit in with your life then cook it for longer.  I turned my oven down to 100 degrees c after four hours and it cooked for about eleven hours and it was perfect.  Serve with roast vegetables and gravy.  You can reduce the pot juices by half and add any hard herbs that you like, rosemary, thyme etc.  Use a thickener like cornflour to get it to a good consistency. 

I served my lamb with roast parsnips and carrots which I  quartered lengthways and popped in the oven with honey and olive oil.  I also chucked in some small new potatoes and chunks of pumpkin, they all took about an hour on 180 degrees (at this point my lamb was resting).  Feel free to use whatever vegies you love. 

This is the perfect dish to make when you have no time and want to impress.  People think you’re incredibly special and clever but really, it’s a breeze.  I hope my friend Miss G will give this a try, she is notoriosly nervous in the kitchen but I have faith.  This is a simple, fantastic recipe which champions the meat, so try to buy meat that has been ethically reared, I promise it will taste better!  Good luck

 

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Home and away

You may or may not have noticed that I have been away from my blog for a while and really not keeping you guys updated, which is a little bit naughty and I apologise.  I guess sometimes life gets in the way and I guess sometimes, horrible, enthusiasm sucking bouts of laryngitis get in the way.  I have been ill for a couple of weeks and that’s a sort of excuse and prior to that I was so busy snuggling up to winter and becoming better acquainted with my sofa that I kind of couldn’t drag myself to my bony computer chair.  I know, I know, lame excuses.  Forgive me, lets move on.

And so, after many, many days when I was confined to the house and confined to my bed, I was ridiculously hungry and twitching to get back in the kitchen.  There was a day, I can’t remember when, in the midst of my sickness when I was so determined to cook, to try to feel normal that I hobbled and coughed my way around the kitchen to make a mushroom stew with lentils and bacon which sounded so promising and was so disappointing that I nearly cried.  I don’t know what was worse, Mr T having to witness me; a poor excuse for a living being, fumbling my way round the stove or the dish of bland, boo hoo mushroom stodge which he had to endure for dinner.  It was a tough couple of weeks for both of us. 

Anyway, I digress.  I was going to tell you about my ‘coming out’.  After too many days with no sunlight in my life, I was finally feeling better again and enthusiastic about a trip to the outside world.  I awoke to the sound of squally rain hammering down on the roof, I considered getting out of bed but being that it was persisting down, I thought it was a much better idea to roll over and enjoy my book; I’m terribly clever.  So, after much lolling around in bed, I got up, smothered my poor chafed face in about three metres of make up and prepared to face the world. 

Mr T’s Mummy is visiting at the moment so that’s definitely livening the place up a bit.  So, the grand plan was that we would pick Mr T up from work, he finishes early on Fridays and head off to a local winery for a spot of lunch and a glass or two of wine.  It was raining as we drove there, it was raining as we walked in and it was raining as we left.  This is the story of our lives in winter.  Our destination was Hayshed Hill, which is a wonderful place which I now hold especially close to my heart as my dear friend was married there not too long ago.  I must, as this point say, that I only blog about local restaurants when I have enjoyed the experience.  It’s kind of necessary to be discreet when you live in a small town and work in the industry. 

We had a look at the menu, (I already knew what I wanted) and decided to share a couple of pizzas and a salad.  The salad arrived first and barely lasted ten seconds on the table.  It was a classic combination, poached pear, blue cheese and walnuts.  But it was a classic, executed thoughtfully, which elevated it to something truly lovely.  The spiced pears were perfectly poached, the blue cheese was salty and funky and the walnuts were candied, which meant it had that sweet and salty combination which I adore.  Scattered with rough torn herbs, which  added a light note to the dish; it was near perfect. 

And then my pizza arrived and I don’t remember much after that as I was in a carbohydrate induced fug of pleasure.  I was torn between enjoying the really fine chardonnay,the view of sheets of rain careering over the vines in the distance and the pizza.  There was a lot of pleasure to languish in and I think I was in sensory overload after many days of house arrest but it was a good kind of overload.  My pizza with prawns, baby capers and chilli was well seasoned and again, (it’s all in the detail) the prawns were just cooked, moist and plump and sitting oh so proud on their crispy base.  We had also ordered a basic mozzarella, basil and tomato pizza which was also really well done, the only minor, minor gripe was that the base could have been a little more crispy but that is personal preference. 

Somehow, I found room for a big glass of hot chocolate, which rounded off a delightful day.  The tiny glimpse of sun I saw seemed to shine a little brighter, the wind seemed a tiny bit warmer in the afterglow of a good lunch, with close family and a couple of glasses of vino blanco.  After all that, I would happily hibernate for a few weeks, as long as I get a meal like that at the end of it.  It’s good to be back.

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