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!


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