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).


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