Saturday, November 22, 2008

Roast Pork with (special) Apple Sauce

If you roast a lot then like me you probably rotate your meats. I'm not exactly fastidious in this, but I do try and experiment and keep things moving on the culinary front, so last weekend it was time for pork to make a welcome return to the table.

When it comes to pork the joint that I usually plump for is rolled spare rib. It's pretty cheap compared to leg, and has a good blend of different textured meat and fat. There's always a great bit of crackling to be had from the top, and leftovers galore - and fab leftovers this week - but first the main event.

Pork will always be synonymous with crackling in my head, so when I roast a piece it's really important that I get some cracking good stuff off it. As such I tend to use a blend of recipes from people who I trust, such as Hugh F-W and Delia (although she has a bit of a dark cloud over her these days - what's with all that rubbish about plastic dinners?). My preferred technique is to rub with salt and then whack in a really hot oven for 20, then down slightly lower for at least 30 mins per pound or so (and this is with meat that's been out of the fridge for at least an hour). And most importantly don't baste! Just leave the fat be and it will crackle up wonderfully. But then there's the problem with the rest ...

If you cook then I'm sure you've come across this yourself, resting the meat somewhere warm covered (for me often the far side of the kitchen) means the crackling will soften up a bit. What I tend to do is take the crackling off once the meat's out of the oven, and then whack it back in the oven again (but on a lower heat) so that it stays crisp. This has the added benefit that a little more fat will drip off, so you can feel slightly (just slightly) better about eating roasted pig fat neat ...

Roasties and crackling back in the oven

And to go with it? Well I usually do mash, but for some reason plumped for roasties this time around, and they were pretty tasty roasted in the fat from the spare rib. And then apple sauce - I'm very fond of the stuff with meat (although the Italian hasn't yet seen the light), and this time around tried something a little weird by adding not just a clove but some Pastis into the mix. Turned out this wasn't such a daft idea - the aniseed flavour works a treat with both the apple and the pork. If you fancy a change then just introduce a small splash of the stuff into your apple sauce - I reckon you won't be disappointed.

Apple sauce, warmed by the wood burner. Actually a bit overwarmed - still getting used to the power of this thing!

The final dish, just before adding the gravy and apple sauce

Finally we rounded it off with more apple in the glorious shape of a traditional English apple pie (although in this case prepared by an Italian), and then spent the rest of the afternoon feeling enormous. Just what Sunday's were made for.

Apple pie resting in the fridge before baking

And the leftovers? Well that's another post, but let's just say I went a bit east for inspiration, and took my new dumpling book for a spin ...

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Pot Roast Brisket with Basil Dumplings

I love a piece of brisket now and then, but it can be a tricky thing to cook and I've overdone it once or twice, which is never a good thing. Lately I've taken to curing it first to create a kind of corned beef, and I'd really recommend it if it's not something you've had a go at. My favourite recipe so far is from Fergus Henderson's Nose to Tail Eating (now that's a well named book) which is simple, but has lots of strong flavours which tuck themselves nicely into the main flavour of the meat.

Once the meat had cured this time around it kind of fell apart into four large pieces, which I left whole and bunged in with plenty of onions, carrots, swede, potato and beef stock, plus bay leaf & thyme. It then went on our new wood burning stove - we've been experimenting with cooking on it, but it's early days!

The picture shows it with the basil dumplings added. I wouldn't use basil normally, but we had some left that needed finishing up (well, it probably needed throwing away really, but I hate doing that) so in it went. I should add that the Le Creuset pot that the pot roast is in (OK, well perhaps 'stew' might be more accurate!) I found at the local dump for £1. Weird how great stuff like that is thrown out sometimes, but good for those of us who don't mind reusing what others don't want ...

The stove did a great job in the end of cooking it through, and I think will be a fab addition to the house - and that's apart from being a brilliant way of heating the house without relying on fossil fuel. The cat certainly likes it at any rate.

All in all a great meal for very little cost, and perfect for this time of year, although you might want to go easy on the dumplings!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mushroom Magic

Not strictly a Sunday roast post, but of interest all the same I figured ...

The other day we (well, B I should say) made mushroom risotto with some dried wild mushrooms that we'd gathered many months ago. Drying mushrooms for me is often the best bet as I'm never sure when they're going to get eaten, and most mushrooms dry very well. There's also the question of identification - whilst I'm pretty confident down the woods these days, and can easily tell the different between most dangerous and edible mushrooms, there's always that element of doubt for some! At least drying them means that you have a little extra time just to make sure you're right.

The risotto was made from parasol and hedgehog mushrooms though, two pretty unmistakeable types and if you're interested in gathering wild food then a good place to start. The parasol has size on it's side to mark it out, and the hedgehog is one of only a very very few mushrooms to have spines instead of gills or pores, so difficult to get wrong. But although the risotto was fab, that's not what I'm blogging about - it was the suppli/arancini we had tonight that has me up here typing.

The parasol mushroom

The hedgehog mushroom

Suppli/Arancini (same thing, different names, it's an Italian thing - very regional lot) are basically rice (often leftover risotto) formed into a ball around a central core, in this case mozzarella, coated in breadcrumbs and then fried. They look a lot like our Scotch Eggs. These were just wonderful, one of those moments in cooking where something allegedly simple transcends it's simple origins and is transformed into gourmet cuisine - I'd post a picture, but you'd never get the taste, and besides, I've eaten them all :-)

Some arancini - these aren't ours, but if I put ours next to this picture you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference

I should add before closing that these are also just about as cheap as you can get - considering the chief ingredient, mushrooms, was picked up for free from the forest floor (though you might want to do a little bit of research before you tread that particular path!). A bit of good cooking makes a little food go a long way.

P.S. On the gathering wild mushrooms note please, please don't take this as a message to go pick mushrooms without experience. This season seems to have been particularly kind to the Death Cap mushroom, which is just about as bad as it gets and is not named as some sort of weird joke. Death Cap may well kill you and doesn't look that bad if you're not familiar with it. I've always followed sage advice (Roger Phillips for example) and the best piece of advice above all has been to get to know just one type of mushroom and stick to that. Then get to know another and stick to that. And so on. If you don't know what it is, leave it alone!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Traditional English Lamb

It can seem a strange time of year right now, as the year passes from the fun of the summer months into the new academic term, and the pressures of work intensify at the same time as the number of outside activites diminishes. But that's no reason to stop cooking ...

My local butcher was offering a special deal on lamb this weekend, and as I had half a mind to buy some anyway that seemed like a good deal. As usual though I walked away with a fair bit more than I planned to, but then again meat always seems best roasted in large quantities. This time I got a full leg and roasted it very simply - just a light rub with olive oil and salt & pepper and then in the oven, although on a rack this time to get a nice even cook.

The meat fresh out of the oven - ready to rest for 20 minutes or so

It was a well hung piece of meat and cooked very tender with great flavour, and as I've said elsewhere in this blog lots of variation across the meat as to texture and depth of flavour as well. We were a bit lazy and dug out some dauphinois potatoes from the freezer to go with it, but did manage to get a good crop of runner beans from our own plants to go alongside.

Food dished up

With all the current pressure on finances lately at both a national and an international level it seems mad that more people don't cook like this seeing as how far you can make food stretch. True I've had to spend tonight preparing leftovers - a lamb pilaf which will feed six or so and some shepherds pie mix which will probably be frozen until we need it (and will feed at least six again) - but you get great food for little money this way.

Ah maybe I'm just old fashioned already - but I know my gran(s) would approve :-) And I know my belly approves as well!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Spit-roast shoulder of lamb, stuffed with soft cheese and tomato

Been meaning to try another spit-roast lamb, but this time decided to go for shoulder as the leg ended up a little dry. I tend to prefer shoulder anyhow - personally I think it has a better flavour.

I bought one already rolled, but undid it and coated the inside with first a layer of soft herby cheese from Cornwall and then some tomato sauce - basically just a tin of tomatoes I'd cooked down to a thick paste and then flavoured with Oregano. Why this combination? Well, the cheese we'd bought we didn't reckon was too great by itself, but I thought it would work out great in a finished dish.

Lamb rolled out with soft cheese ...

... and now with the herby tomato sauce added as well

The whole thing was rolled back up again and then into the oven on the spit - hot for 20 minutes to get it going and then low for another hour and half or so as I like my lamb well done. Popped a tray underneath so catch the juices for gravy.

Ready to go into the oven

And the result? Well it did get a little overdone on the outside - almost charcoal in some places! - but that was to be expected given the cheesy mixture going everywhere.

A little dark perhaps!

Good flavour overall either way, and it wasn't actually burnt, just dark. B liked it better than me to be honest - personally I thought you lost too much of the lamb itself with all the other strong flavours, but I wouldn't kick it out of bed, so to speak.

The finished dish - and in the sun for once!

The runner beans are our own (with a little help from a colleague - a mole problem, don't ask) and the potatoes were from my Dad. They were leftovers cold in the fridge which I threw in the oven once the meat had come out. Turned into mini roasties with half the hassle, so that's worth noting all by itself.

And the lamb leftovers? Well they're down stairs at the moment - lamb has been minced up and fried off to give it some sweet caramelisation, some more tinned tomato and cheese has gone in, as well as some red onion, garlic, white wine and rosemary and it's about to be dinner with some pasta (and probably lunch tomorrow as well). Actually it's about to be dinner for several nights in a row - I swear I've made enough for about 10 people at least!

Spanish Roasting

One of the reasons I haven't posted much lately is holidays - been in Spain for example. But even there, I couldn't stop the roasting habit! Picked up a maize fed chicken one Sunday and some local white onions and lemons, and then went and foraged around the olive groves where we were staying for herbs and other goodies to flavour it. Ended up with something pretty tasty I have to say:

Bit fuzzy this picture, but the best shot of the sauce. The onions and herbs (mostly thyme) were inside the cavity of the bird. Used some local wine to enhance the sauce and just served it warm with some crusty bread and salad.

Fist time I've been to the Spanish mainland, and felt quite at home there, although not perhaps as at home as in Italy of France. Not the best cuisine in the world perhaps, but there was great quality produce to be had that's for sure. Oddly enough we never really found any bread of the quality you can find so easily in France or Italy.

The best thing we did find was undoubtedly a fresh goats cheese that we first tried in a shop in the Spanish enclave of Melilla in North Africa. Our stilted conversation with the owner whilst trying to find something for a light lunch eventually led him to take a plate out of the fridge which was covered with a bowl, and underneath was a wonderfully subtle fresh cheese. We found it later again in other shops, sometimes cows milk as well as goats, and although never quite as good as the first one we'd tried still very tasty nonetheless. I never did find out what is was called!

Cheap Eats: Why big roasts give you big flavour and big value

I know I've gone on before about the value of a good roast over buying bits and pieces of meat, or heaven forbid some instant meal, but I thought I'd expand a little on my point. 

The reason I started this blog was because I tend to roast a large piece of meat on a Sunday, in true English style, and then use whatever is leftover for food for the rest of the week. Nothing exactly unusual about that - hell, my grans (were they still about) would be surprised if I didn't - but it doesn't seem as common as it used to be.

I reckon I can sum it up in a few points as to why big roasts are a great choice, especially given the current financial climate:

  • By buying a big roast you're getting lots of different bits of meat in one package, so you get variation in flavours and textures just from one piece. 
  • Buying a larger piece is just about always better value than buying separate smaller pieces, as you're not paying for someone to do the work involved in cutting bits up.
  • Making things with the leftovers saves you loads of time - the meat is already cooked, so you can usually turn around dinners during the week in about half an hour or so using leftovers.
  • The value is amazing - I reckon I only spend at most £1 on meat per meal per person, and that's not some sort of supermarket value meat (like some poor bastard chicken from a huge hen house) but good quality meat from local farms
So to do we do with leftovers to make it stretch so far? Here are some examples:

Breast meat is lovely in sandwiches of course, but also great in salads.
The thigh & leg makes wonderful curries.
Just about everything from a chicken can go into a risotto!
Stuffed pancakes or stronganoff - just add some slow cooked onions and mushrooms, a little creme fraiche and you've got a really tasty sauce for just about anything.

Rib of Beef
The rare middle is used for sandwiches or turned it into little steaks.
Tender bits between the ribs themselves can be used for things like salads.
Tougher bits like the meat on top are cut into centimetre cubes and frozen ready for curries or stews.
Anything else left over is minced up and turned into cottage pie or bolognese.

Making curry from leftover rib of beef

Spare Rib
Makes great Schintzel's, tend to have more flavour than the real thing I reckon.
Cubed meat is great for curries again, or pork casseroles.

Shoulder of Lamb
Probably my favourite. I like cubes of it cooked in with rice. You fry up a little onion and garlic in big pieces, add the rice and the lamb and toss around a bit, then in goes twice the amout of water as rice, a little salt, and seal for about twenty minutes until rice is tender. Comfort food!
Also good for curries (reading this you'd think I live off curry!).

Anyhow - enough for now. Just one more thing though - bones! I always try to get meat on the bone, as they make such great stock once you've got the meat off. That stock can be used for soup straight away, but also adds loads more flavour when used for all the dishes above (well, except for sandwiches perhaps).

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Chicken with Lemon & Oregano

It's easy to feel that going back to chicken is a bit of a cop-out come Sunday lunch, but the thing with chicken is it's just so versatile and tasty. I think every time I do it I'm at a bit of a loss as to how to do it, but then pretty much every time it comes out great anyway - don't know why I bother worrying really!

I long ago gave up buying cheap chicken, waste of time that stuff really even without worrying about the conditions that most birds are raised in. Flavour is enough of an argument to get me to switch, but these days I do try and be a bit more vigilant in other chicken products that I pick-up. That's what the 'Chicken Out' campaign has taught me if nothing else, that the buggers will try and stick cheap, nasty, exploitative food in anything given half a chance. That tasty looking chicken madras, a quick chicken bap down town for lunch, even those biscuits you've been buying for years. Turns out they put battery reared food in lots of stuff. Anyhow, enough carping on about that. Back to the food.

This recipe was inspired by the fact that I had most of a lemon knocking about in the back of fridge looking to be finished up, and some left over new potatoes that weren't quite as fresh as they could have been - sometimes the smallest things can inspire good cooking. The lemon went inside the chicken cut into about eight pieces along with a couple of garlic cloves, and the potatoes were scattered around the bird along with a large cut up onion. Then the whole thing was liberally seasoned scattered with oregano and then finally some olive oil. Then into the oven for the usual sort of time whilst we went down the pub.

The chicken before going in the oven

The idea with this style of cooking, something I've been doing for many years now although usually with lamb, is that the juices from the meat and the oil will combine and the potatoes will get covered in all this extra flavour but also start to caramelise and crisp up a bit. It works a treat and so long as your roasting time is not too long your vegetables will get that extra depth and sweetness to them. The onions this time around were particularly wonderful, somehow tart and sweet, soft and chewy, all at the same time.

Served this with broad beans - our first crop from the mini-allotment at the end of the garden - together with some pancetta that we had in the fridge from B's village back home in Italy. The beans were very quickly boiled whilst I rendered off the fat from the pancetta. Most of the fat was put aside and then the beans and bacon (what a classic combination that is) just tossed together - no seasoning at all, didn't need it.

The chicken once roasted

I thought this need a little extra something so made some focaccia bread to go with it. Turns out the flour I used was brown, which I wasn't expecting (it was local flour from down the road we hadn't tried before) so instead of the usual rosemary focaccia I make I turned this into fennel focaccia instead, and it turned out pretty good and a good foil for the strong flavours of the bird.

Fennel Focaccia

All in all a damn good feed, and what with some untypical English Sunday Summer Sunshine (!) added some much needed sanity into what has lately been a bit of a demanding life.

Lunch is served!

You can see more pictures of this dish on my Facebook profile:

Saturday, July 12, 2008

'Ziti' Al Forno

Bit of a cock-up last weekend, as what with one thing and another I never managed to get to the butchers in time to get some meat to roast, at least not a joint. As ever with these things though that forced me to be more creative and I turned to a recipe that I had been wanting to do for some time - Ziti al Forno from Antonio Carluccio's "Passion for Pasta".

"Passion for Pasta" is a fab book and well worth getting a copy. There are so many pasta books out there, which generally speaking I find a bit of waste of time, but let's face it, Antonio is the master when it comes to this sort of thing (well, one of the masters at least! I can't really write something like that without at least mentioning Gennaro Contaldo). What Passion for Pasta has though above most books is that insight which understands that pasta is not something just to pour sauce over, but is an intrinsic part of the meal in itself. Carluccio brings across to the reader the critical message that not only is the choice of flavour of pasta, i.e. combinations of ingredients such as egg or durum wheat for example, a big part of the dish, but also that the shape of the past itself has a very important part to play, and whatever pasta you choose will have a big impact on the finished dish.

So what, you may be wondering, is 'Ziti' Al Forno? Well first off it is not a roast, but a baked dish, hence the "Al Forno". It was Sunday lunch though! You'd probably be surprised how often a baked pasta dish like this ends up as the special dish of the week. Lasagna, for example, often ends up on the Sunday lunch table in Italy so my partner tells me. She should know - she is Italian after all. And the 'Ziti'? Well they are in fact effectively long tubes of macaroni, and difficult to get hold of here in Devon, which is why they're in quotes. I actually ended up using a style of penne as it was the closest I could get - which brings me onto the dish itself.

Preparation time - sorting out the ingredients

Now I should say that I did deviate a fair bit from the straight recipe, which on top of the missing Ziti also calls for the addition of chicken livers and salami. I have to say after eating it though that I'm kind of glad I did leave them out (not that they were exactly to hand at the time!) as even without these it was a pretty rich dish. Basically the whole thing is layers of pasta, mozzarella, beef meatballs and tomato sauce which is finished with beaten egg, plenty of parmesan and baked in the oven - serious food.

Creating the Dish

We're big fans of meatballs and these little guys were fab - simply made from some beef mince that we did find up the road, a little onion, garlic, parmesan, bread and parsley from the garden. Think these will be a common feature in the kitchen in future just cooked by themselves and served with a bit of pasta and sauce. I'm not sure the raw garlic in them worked so well though - personally I love garlic but this could of done with just a little cooking first I reckon.

Frying up the meatballs

The tomato sauce was simplicity itself as well, just a few tins of good Italian tomatoes cooked down with some seasoning, herbs and wine. For pasta we did have to use penne but these were De Cecco organic penne, smaller than most with a good rough surface and the kind of quality that can be baked and still keep their al dente texture.

Before baking, covered in parmesan

Overall a fab dish, not as complex as it at first sounds, and delicious and impressive to serve. Recommended!


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Beef Sirloin, Pan Roasted Potatoes & Horseradish Crumpets

Was after the classic this weekend, rib of beef on the bone, but no luck at the butchers as he had none left. That'll teach me for not ordering ahead of time. Actually that said I'm often glad when this happens as it makes me more inventive in the kitchen, and is the main reason I tend to go up the road on a Saturday morning with only a vague idea of what I'm going to buy when I get there. What he did have instead was a large piece of rolled sirloin which looked pretty good, so I had half of that instead and went home to have a browse through the cooking library.

I thought I'd spotted something in a Gordon Ramsay book and sure enough he has one for roast sirloin with pan roasted potatoes and shallots. Pan roasting potatoes isn't something I'd tried before so we gave it a go, and it turned out pretty well in the end I have to say. Lots of garlic went in too as well as thyme for a full flavoured selection.

The best bit about the dish though I think was my horseradish crumpets, at least that's what I'm calling them! They weren't really crumpets, actually it was leftover pancake mixture from the night before (lamb and leef stuffed pancakes flavoured with wild garlic - a blend I'd had in the freezer for a while wondering what to do with) to which I'd added a good helping of creamed horseradish. I figured I could cook them on the stove in a couple of rings in place of yorkshire pudding. You can see them in the front of this photo which I took just after I'd poured the mixture in.

They had a lovely flavour and texture, especially for someone who likes the squishy bit of a yorkshire best! I think I might try and polish this particular recipe up a bit and do a proper crumpet with bicarb to see what turns out. Could be onto a winner here I reckon! All in all a pretty satisfying lunch, and although Gordon might not like me ignoring large chunks of his recipe (just how much port am I supposed to add?) I'm sure he would have liked to taste a bit of crumpet ;-)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Fillet Steak & Saute Potatoes

For the first time in months - no roast! I feel a bit ashamed, but what we had instead was a bit tasty ...

Well we both had a lot of marking to do, so needed something quick. Plus we had left over potatoes to eat, so ... bought a piece of fillet.

I know they always say fillet doesn't have the flavour of rump or sirloin, but there's also the point that it depends on the quality of the meat as well. This looked so dark and tempting at the butchers I couldn't resist and sure enough it had flavour to match, not as strong as some cuts but incredibly beefy nonetheless. The same piece went on to make four portions of beef stroganoff too (another all time favourite) so whilst unquestionably a treat not perhaps as indulgent as you might think cost wise.

Saute potatoes - mmmm, again something you don't have every often, but worth it now and again. Plenty of salt & pepper are all both of these need really, although I do tend to use a pretty good butter in the pan I must admit. Served with our own rocket & salad and a fab bottled hollandaise we've just discovered that's made locally. I love the stuff, alhtough B isn't as keen.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Lamb Roasted with Tomatoes & Orzo

Thinking about Greece for the next holiday and has fate would have it a brief wander around the local town the other day yielded two lovely Greek themed cook books from the local charity shops. One, "Culiniaria Greece", is a veritable tome on Greek cooking and lifestyle across it's many mainland & island areas, which will undoubtedly form the basis for our trip, but this recipe actually comes from the other book and was last Sunday's main course.

It's a sunshsine recipe and no mistake, and does capture something of the mediterranean and hopefully Greece in particular. You take a shoulder of lamb (unroll it if necessary) and flavour generously with salt, pepper, oregano, garlic and lemon slices. Roll up, tie, and pierce with garlic slivers (never really happy doing this bit, but hey ho I usually follow the recipe first time around at least), season and add a little olive oil. Now empty into a roasting pan a couple of tins of tomatoes, more garlic, a little water, a little sugar, more oregano, a bay leaf, seasoning and add the lamb. You're now ready for the oven.

Cook as normal for the lamb to start, i.e. 25 mins or so per pound depending how you liek it, but then (and I diverged from the recipe here a bit I'll admit) when you take the lamb off to rest add a bit more (boiling) water to the roasting pan and at least two good handfuls or orzo, which here means the pasta shaped like rice (or even barley) and not barley itself. This cooks in the sauce for the last 15-20 minutes or so whilst your meat rests.

Not too bad at all on the whole, although I could perhaps have increased the sugar and the seasoning in general but very tasty none the less. I've always liked lamb and lemon and it went particularly well here, and of course here you get pretty much everything you need in one dish bar a green salad on the side.

Not sure I'll be rushing back to this recipe, but I'm sure with one or two tweaks we'll be doing it again. Just made for hot summer days I reckon.

Chicken stuffed with Soft Cheese, Pesto & Asparagus wrapped in Prosciutto

Now I don't usually blog about anything other than Sunday Roasts, but this seemed too good to miss out on. After a bit of a disappointing experience at a place called Landewednack House in Cornwall (read more on Trip Advisor if you're interested) we came home looking for something really tasty but simple to throw together. What I turned out was a twist on an old Good Housekeeping recipe (no sniggering in the back please!) that always works well which combines simple ingredients in an oven baked dish.

Basically you take a chicken breast, slice it through the thickest part and then stuff with a blend of soft cheese and pesto. Then wrap it in the ham, add a little more pesto mix on top, wrap in foil and then bake for 25 minutes or so in a moderate oven. It comes out lovely and tender and all the juices mix together to form a (very watery) sauce which you can then dip into.

I served this with a twist on my usual rosemary roasties in that here I'm using pink fir apples cut a little differently, but of course the beauty of this is that you can cook the potatoes at the same time and so go off and read the paper in the meantime.

The chicken is free range from the local farm, stuffed with pesto we make as and when we need it from our own basil plants and a local cream cheese. I also added a little white wine to add flavour and increase the steam as I decided this time to include four asparagus sprigs in each of the chicken bundles as well. They turned out brilliantly, and I think may well become a regular feature when the season is right.

All in all a welcome return to Devon, and also a welcome confirmation that whatever over priced B&B's in the Lizard might think we can easily turn out food far superior to their offerings!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Best of Both Worlds: Lamb Fast & Slow

Spring lamb is here and whilst I love older meat there is something enticing about it. This Easter I decided to try and emulate a dish I had at River Cottage with it - lamb cooked slow and lamb cooked fast.

I bought two pieces from my local butcher (Dave Haggett of Silverton - fab place, as recommended by Rick Stein on his Food Heroes programmes) both about a kilo - a half shoulder and half leg. The shoulder was set on red onion slices and rosemary and done in a low over for over 2 hours. The leg was with lemon and olive oil and roast hot and fast. Whilst both were resting I then took juices from both pans, deglazed, passed through a sieve to get all that onion & rosemary flavour out and on the plate.

The result was pretty special, and I think will become a regular on the table. The addition of lots of rosemary and onion to the shoulder really penetrated the meat after all that long slow cooking (I did use four quite large rosemary sprigs, but then I love the stuff). The lemon on the leg just started to burn a bit and gave that lovely charcoal effect here and there. On the plate these two ways of cooking lamb worked really well together, and whilst either would be nice by themselves the contrast was a real pleasure. Nobody could decide which they liked better in the end!

You might think it would be much more work to do this, but in actual fact because both roasts were so simple it didn't take much. I think I spent most time reading the paper, not cooking. I did serve this with wild garlic dauphinois, which went well but also meant that they could be prepared early too and just sit alongside the slow shoulder in the same oven - nice and easy. For vegetables it was spinach again with wild garlic - well there's just do much wild garlic around right now and it tastes so good why not use it I reckon.

On that note we have wild garlic pesto in the fridge again - if you haven't tried it you're missing a trick. It's fab stuff, just take a standard pesto recipe and swap the basil for the garlic and don't bother with any garlic cloves - you might need a bit more parmesan/pecorino than usual though to offset the sharpness, and perhaps even a little cream to add sweetness. It can be a bit metallic. It's lovely on fresh pasta for a quick lunch or perhaps on the side of some simply grilled fish.

No pictures today I'm afraid as no camera!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Spit Roast Lamb

Been meaning to try and spit roast an entire leg of lamb, and the other day the butcher had a special on all lamb so seemed a good chance to try it out. By spit roast I mean just held on a skewer in the oven, not actually turning on an open fire. My oven has a special attachment for holding meat like this.

To be honest it wasn't the best lamb I've done, as I found it just a little drier than I would have liked. I think the trouble is I like lamb well done, but if you spit roast or do any kind of roasting that doesn't involve some moisture with the meat then cooking it well done will dry it out a little. You can make the best gravy this way though - the trick is to put a tray underneath the meat as it roasts and this tends to get some very caramelised juices in it at the end of cooking that you can deglaze with whatever other flavours you want into a wonderful rich and tasty sauce.

Served this with a wild garlic cream as well, so it certainly didn't taste dry with that! I know a patch of wild garlic nearby and we went there just to see if any was up yet and found loads of the stuff. So of course we picked loads, and not only made this wild garlic cream sauce but also some wild garlic pesto which is fab stuff - just use wild garlic instead of basil and it works fine. We've been having it on pasta and gnocchi, but I think the best is on bruschetta with just a few chopped up tomatoes (if you can find some this time of year that is, that haven't been flown half way around the world).

Also served it with roasted crushed potatoes - another leftover dish that has become a favourite. I had a few boiled potatoes left this time, and what I tend to do is break them up a bit with the back of my hand then fry them with an roughly chopped onion (red in this case) till they're starting to get crusty. Then they get pushed into rings on a backing sheet and in the hot oven for 15 mins or so just to make sure they're piping hot and that they cook together into a bit of a cake. It's important when you put them in the ring to push them down so that when you come to serve they stay in shape. They tend to have a lovely combination of soft and crunchy this way once they're ready.

Loads of lamb leftovers from this, which went on into loads of other meals as ever, including what I think was one of the best lamb sugos I've made in a long time. Funny how sometimes they just seem to turn out better than others, although I did make a conscious decision this time to limit the amount of tomato and added more herbs than usual, although only rosemary and bay. There was of course the left over gravy from the lamb as well, which gave it a great dark colour and rich and silky depth - and you only really get that with the spit roast I reckon. But then again this is part of what I love about cooking - it's always different. In a world full of deadlines, assessments and labels it's nice to play around with things that can't really be tucked into such neat little boxes!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Capturing the food

Been merrily roasting away lately, but nothing particularly interesting so no posts. Just the standard Chickens etc. One thing that I do try to do is capture the food on camera though, but I always find this a struggle.

I'm not exactly a great photographer and wish I could capture the food better, but there's a real art to it I guess. I think I'm improving though - here's one of a set I was trying for unbaked bread rolls:

Just starting to get the right blend of light, angle and focus I think!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Pot Roast Chicken with Garlic

Picked up a recipe from another blog site last weekend, as I was looking for something to do with Chicken and garlic. Turned out really well - here's the recipe on their website:

Tweaked it a bit for my tastes, so left mine uncovered and didn't bother moving the bacon off. The fact that that meant I could nip down the pub whilst it was cooking was probably also a factor!

Here's how it looked before it went in the oven:

I served this with dauphinois potatoes, so that the creamy sauce from that would run into the garlicky juices from the chicken. Very tasty once it was done, plus lots of left overs for other things. A fair bit of it became a sort of chicken stronganoff with the addition of mushrooms, cream and parsley, and that went on for a fair few more meals in itself, especially good stuffed into pancakes, topped with a little grated cheddar and then under the grill for 5 minutes.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Bakers Oven Shoulder of Lamb

Now this should really be done with Mutton, but that's hard to come by so I always use shoulder of Lamb instead, and always on the bone. So much better to cook meat on the bone, plus of course you can make wonderful stock with them after.

The trick with this one is the long slow cooking. It's basically a Hugh F-W recipe which I've tweaked for me - he has wine in his and tends to cover it with foil when roasting, but I prefer adding rosemary and leaving it uncovered (provided it's in a normal, i.e. not fan, oven). It's also a one pot dish so the sort of thing you can prepare in the morning and then leave for four hours or so why you go off and do something more interesting instead.

The Lamb before going in the oven. It's surrounded by potato and onion layers, some garlic cloves and lying on abed of rosemary, lightly seasoned with salt, pepper and a little olive oil.

It can be a little fatty when it comes out again, but you don't of course have to eat the fat, just spoon out the potatoes and onions and leave the rest behind. I tend to leave whatever I don't want to cool and then throw the hardened fat away then as it's easier to separate when cold.

The potatoes come out both soft and crunchy at the same time, and wonderfully flavoured.

The Lamb itself is taken off earlier and left to rest for at least 20 minutes in foil, as normal.

Altogether an incredibly satisfying dish especially on a cold winter's Sunday. I served this one with leeks in white sauce, and as the gravy and leeks run in together you get some lovely combinations. Lamb and leeks were just made for each other!


Related Posts with Thumbnails