Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Slow Roast Salt Marsh Lamb with Onions, Garlic & Thyme

Seems everywhere's getting foodie these days - or then again maybe it's just the places I choose to go - and Exeter is no exception. We've got some great places to get food around town now, what with the Thursday farmers market, and streets full of quality shops like Magdalen Road, plus places like Chandos in town (although their attitude to pricing is ... well ... let's just say they like a good mark-up. A very good mark-up).

Until recently we also had the brilliant Foodeaze as well, which is sadly currently closed, but happily due to reopen even better than before - we hope. But the reason I'm mentioning all this is actually the annual Exeter Festival of Food & Wine.

I've been going since it started I think, and have seen it grow from a quite small affair with not really enough room for all the attention to a very professional set-up, with top name chefs, tents of food galore, and special night time events. True it may have lost some of the charm of earlier days, when the suppliers may have been a little more generous with their tastings, but it's still a great place to be. Hell, I even made sure I got back from Spain in time to attend!

This year I got my usual selection of goodies, the pride amongst them a shoulder of salt marsh lamb, a great piece of meat, well hung and full flavoured. I love lamb well done so I slow roasted it for about 4 hours at 150ÂșC (important that it's not a fan oven for this, otherwise it cooks to quick and can dry out) on top of about 5 sliced up onions, 6 or so cloves of peeled garlic and loads of fresh thyme, plus the usual salt & pepper. This was all pushed down into a big Creuset stewing pot. I'm really starting to fine tune this technique now for slow roasting - this time I used no liquid at all, just relied on the meat and the onions to produce liquid as they cooked, and sure enough it worked a treat. The secret is to try and make sure that the meat completely covers the other ingredients, that way it roasts and steams, and nothing gets burnt. The meat comes out beautifully tender and moist and the onions sweet and slightly caramelised.

Served this with buttered minty new potatoes, rocket salad, and a rape seed oil minty mayo. Oh, and a nice drop of Australian red ...

I have to say though that part of the success of the dish was the sheer quality of the meat, which I'm happy to say has been providing leftovers all week for various risottos and stuffed pittas and wraps. When you start with such a good product you really have to do something pretty spectacular to screw it up. Kudos to the supplier, The Thoroughly Wild Meat Co.

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