Monday, March 30, 2009

Roast Chicken with Goats Cheese & Wild Garlic

Well it's been an interesting few weeks roasting and boiling things. Top of the list has to be the famed Italian Bollito Misto which I've been itching to try for ages, and finally got round to the other week when my bro came down with his family. To be honest it wasn't all I had hoped for though, although I wasn't in the best of health and it's never a good idea to try and cook when you're not feeling great. I think I might have to revisit it another time though - ever since I actually had it in Italy I've been captured by how wonderful something so simple can be.

But back to last weekend and the title of this blog post. Ever since I did the turkey at Christmas, pushing butter and the skin to keep the bird moist, I've been eager to repeat the process and to try some more experiments. Thinking of what to cook this Sunday I decided to have a try with some goats cheese that needed eating, a free range chicken, and the now almost obligatory wild garlic.

The ingredients lined up ready to go

Getting your fingers between the breasts of the bird and it's skin is a doddle really, although maybe once you've done a turkey a chicken isn't a challenge! I decided the goats cheese wasn't enough by itself though (I used a crumbly Vulscombe with herbs) so mixed it ahead of time with some soft cheese and salt & pepper just to increase the fat content. It was going to get pretty hot after all. This went under the skin and then a good handful of wild garlic and about a quarter of a lemon inside the cavity.

The bird with the cheese mixture under the skin, seasoned and stuffed.

Then into a fan oven at 180°C for 15 mins per pound plus 15 mins (timing that I've worked out is good my oven, but as ever for this sort of thing your oven might be different).

Roasting away - about half-way through now.

And finally out of the oven, ready to rest for 20 minutes or so.

I served this with oven baked rosemary & garlic potato wedges and purple sprouting broccoli with a hot red wine vinaigrette. The broccoli was a little overcooked, but the vinaigrette came out really well, which I'd lightly spiced with cayenne pepper. Saw something vaguely similar on Saturday kitchen the morning before so thought I'd give it a whirl myself.

All plated up and ready for munching.

So how did it work out? Pretty good really. I thought the residue from the chicken pan was going to be too burnt at first to use for gravy, but it was actually really delicious, and the everything worked very well together. Opened a bottle of Beaujolais to drink and then was great too, in fact everything was kind of just right for the season, a real taste of spring. This whole "let's shove something under the skin of the bird and see what happens" lark could become a minor obsession with me I think!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Slow Roast Lamb with Wild Garlic & Red Onion

Finlly, it's back - the wild garlic is here again!

We love a bit of wild garlic, and there's something quite special about the fact that it's abundant once more, something to do with Spring being around the corner, promises of being back in the garden again, salads, warm walks in the sunshine, and even swimming in the river. Much as I love the Winter, whether cosy around the wood burner or playing in the snow, I always get restless towards the end of any season, eager for the next one to start and with it a whole new set of experiences ready and waiting.

And what better to go with wild garlic than lamb. Moretonhampstead had a big foodie festival on Friday (the 7th), and amongst all the things we picked up was a very well hung shoulder of lamb. I do prefer shoulder over leg, but then I like my lamb well done on the whole and think shoulder works much better like this because of the added fat that keeps it moist. I do like rare lamb now and again, but if I'm going to do that then I almost always go for a rack instead of a leg.

We didn't know whether we'd get any wild garlic, as last time we checked two weeks ago there was none, but we popped down to one of our favourite spots and sure enough there was loads of the stuff coming up all over the place. It really is the most profilic free veg you can think of, and it's not as if you need much of it so it'll stretch for many a meal. If you're not sure where to find it then you need to be looking out around stream banks and other wet places.

A close up of wild garlic next to the waters edge. It's the big broad leaves, and has an unmistakeable aroma of garlic, very strong.

A wider shot just up from the water. This is very early in the season but you can already see just how prolific it is. Later on there will be flowers as well, nice to sprinkle into salads.

I love a lamb shoulder roasted very slowly, and for this one (5lb joint) I did it very simply, sliced up two red onions quite thickly and placed into a large roaster, seasoned and then two big handfuls of wild garlic leaves - no need to cut them at all (but the Italian will insist that I wash them :-) and then the lamb shoulder (on the bone as ever) on top of that, with a bit more seasoning. The idea is that the onion and garlic is mostly covered by the lamb to stop them burning, and in return they'll flavour the meat from the underside and cook down and become a sort of sauce for the meat. Then in a normal oven at 150°C for about four hours. At least that's the idea ...

Ingredients all ready to go.

Wild Garlic & Red Onion ready for the meat to go on top

... I did add a glass of white wine after an hour or two to keep it moist but then had to go and teach online for a while, and by the time I got back the onion and garlic had cooked a bit more than I had hoped so we only managed to salvage about a third of it for the meal, but it was exceptionally tasty. And the lamb? Lovely flavour, incredibly tasty, and the skin was so light and crispy, kind of like fresh lamb crisps. I think the best comparison is with crispy fried duck, as you get the same sort of tender meat and crispy skin. Next time I really must pack it into a smaller roaster so that there's less chance of over cooking the onion/garlic, and maybe add a bit more liquid too neat the end of cooking.

Needless to say we've now got bags of leftover meat to play with plus loads of lamb stock from the bones. I think I might take that whole crispy duck idea a bit further - I feel some pancakes coming on ...

Sunday, March 01, 2009

More Roast Rib & Experimental Potatoes

Day off today as the Italian is doing lunch, a primo of beetroot ravioli served with butter and poppy seeds and some traditional Italian sausage from the mountains known as Cotechino cooked with lentils. All of which means I get to sit up here in the study drinking prosecco and blogging about last weekend :-)

We had guests for the first time in a while, as my parents were down to stay for a few days, and that coupled with the fact that our sugo supplies had been running low meant that we decided it was time to get a Rib of Beef back on the table. I've blogged before about how wonderful I think this cut of meat is, as it's relatively straightforward to cook, has practically the best flavour of any cut of beef, and makes for the best leftovers as well, hence is incredibly thrifty even though it seems to cost a bomb when you buy it.

Mum & Dad often come down to visit, more often that not twice a year, and it's always great company to have them around for a few days. We live a long way away from each other (though not quite as far as the in-laws it has to be said) so when we do see each other it's always nice to have plenty of time to catch up and share what we've all been up to. Yes the phone, email, skpye and the rest of them play their part, but you can't beat face-to-face time. And whatever the wonderful benefits of ICTs may be, it'll be many years before they'll allow us to share a few good bottles of wine and some great food together!

So, back to the rib. This was was shade under 4 kilos, 3 ribs from the sirloin end, my favourite bit, and well hung so showing a fair bit of dark colour on that end.

Scored, seasoned and ready for the oven. The butcher had sawed the ribs this time before I had a chance to tell him not to, as I usually prefer my beef unchined.

I cooked it my usual way, something which I've perfected for my fan oven over the years, but I'll share it here with you in case it works for you too.
  1. Beef out of the fridge at least 1 hour before cooking, preferably longer but depends just how large your piece of meat is.
    If it's not room temperature to start then you've got a lot more heat to push into the meat, and this will affect how well it cooks deep into the piece you have.
  2. Well seasoned with plenty of salt and black pepper, and then 20 mins in a pre-heated fan oven at ~210C
    The hot initial cooking will start to turn that fat crispy and run off some of the thinner stuff into the pan ready for basting. Temp wise so long as it's more than 200C it'll do the trick.
  3. Oven down to 150C, meat out and basted with the fat (removing some now for the roasties and/or yorkshires if there's plenty), then back in the oven again for 8 minutes per 500g.
    Important here not to leave the oven open. My method leaves the oven to cool down to 150C over time, whereas some other recipes will do a half hour initial cook. I often only ever baste the meat at this stage, which will give you crispier fat, though this may depend on your own oven. 
  4. Out of the oven and under foil for 30 minutes to rest before carving.
    I guess most people are familiar with why you rest meat, but if you're not then please just try it. It's all to do with the way meat fibres tense up with heat, but rather than go into the science you're best off trying and then enjoying it yourself!
So that's my way with rib. It'll give you a pretty rare piece, but you can always give the more squeamish the end bits if necessary. Then it's (relatively) thickly cut, and this time served with yorkshires, buttered carrots, watercress and celeriac potatoes.

Plates loaded ready to go on the table.

So what's with the potatoes? Well there's a bit of a story behind them. They started of as a potato and celeriac puree to go with the duck we were going to have the night before, two big breasts I'd bought that day from Tiverton pannier market from the folks who make Pennies Pates. We had a very elaborate meal planned which included the same beetroot ravioli we're having today, and duck which I'd intended to pan fry and then roast, and serve with a port, chicken stock and star anise reduction which I'd been experimenting with. It was halfway into all this mucking about, up to our ears in various cooking utensils and all sorts of pots bubbling and steaming away, that I opened the duck breasts and wondered what the funny smell was ...

Suffice to say they were very badly off, and a quick check on the sell by date (I'm terrible at checking those things!) revealed the date 12th of February. And it was now the 22nd of February. Dinner was cancelled.

I've not been back to Pennies Pates yet to tell them, to be honest I had better things to do this weekend, but I guess I should have been a bit suspicious that they were offering a free pate with the meat in the first place. Needless to say that the pate has not been touched and will go into the recycling tomorrow, my trust in the company having taken a serious blow. To be fair they've always offered a very interesting selection of cheeses, but I think cheese is where I will leave it. It was the first time I entrusted them to provide me with some meat, and I think the last time as well.

But the potato and celeriac pureee was not lost! True our attempts to turn it into impromptu duchess potatoes were not brilliantly successful, as they tended to melt away into a kind of cross between a biscuit and a pancake, but they were tasty that's for sure. What's more we had so much that they've also now topped two cottage pies (also experimental, but more of that another time!) which will feed about eight I reckon, and that's not to mention all the sugo we've made since as well.

Sugo at the top and cottage pie mix at the bottom, simmering away slowly

All in all lots of fun, and one of the best bits of beef we've had in a while. One other small thing though to note which I should have spotted earlier - if you're going to try experimenting with something like the potatoes don't put them in the same oven as the yorkshires. As they were so wet they steamed, and took the crunch out of my puddings a bit.


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