Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday Doubles: 'Open' Pot Slow Roast Lamb Shoulder with Leeks & Lemon Balm + Fast Roast Rack of Lamb with Rosemary

Sunday roasts can start to feel a bit samey eventually, and though I try and be experimental I often fall back to the old favourites. This Sunday though I was definitely feeling a bit more experimental, so not only decided to try some new ideas out but also to do a double roast with lamb both fast and slow.

I first had this at River Cottage, and loved the idea of tender slow roast lamb falling off the bone at the same time as tender pink juicy lamb with crispy fat. Sure it's a bit more work to do, but the slow roast pretty much takes care of itself once it's in the oven so you're not slaving in the kitchen all morning.

I've been experimenting with slow roasts in particular at the moment, and am working in an idea where the meat is pushed into a deep roasting container (I use a big Creuset pot) on top of various vegetable and herb flavourings. This keeps the more tender ingredients from burning, and helps the meat steam and roast at the same time keeping it really moist without losing that lovely crispy fat. I've done a fair bit of this with lamb recently, so was looking for something unusual, and as I gazed out my kitchen window my eyes came to rest on the Lemon Balm ...

The ingredients for the slow roast

Lemon and lamb are good bed fellows, but the lemon balm would be too light by itself, so I went for that other stalwart with lamb, leeks. The method's quite simple:

  • slice 2 leeks an average thickness, put them in the bottom of a deep Creuset pan or similar, add a little olive oil, salt & pepper, and toss together.

  • add a very generous bundle of lemon balm, criss crossing the leeks to cover.

  • rub the shoulder of lamb with a little more olive oil, season well, and then squeeze it on top. It must be a tight fit, so if necessary take a cleaver to any tricky edges, and then tuck whatever has been cut off in any holes.

Lamb tucked into the pot over the other ingredients

This then went into a normal oven at 150ÂșC for 4 hours. I did need to add a generous splash of lamb stock (water would have done) after about and hour and a half, as it was getting a little dry by then. You do need to keep a vague eye on it, but if you don't have the time just add the stock at the beginning of cooking instead.

Then there was the fast lamb. For this I managed to find a small rack, which to my mind is the best lamb for fast roasting like this. The butcher had chined the back, making it easy to carve later, so I squeezed a rosemary sprig in there, criss crossed the fat with a sharp knife to speed up the crisping, and seasoned well. Then into a very hot oven, I did it as hot as I could in mine, for only 20 minutes, plus about 10-20 minutes resting after.

The rack of lamb once cooked

Our broad beans, which we overwintered this year very successfully, are being very prolific, so we'd purposefully left some to get large with the idea to make minted broad bean puree. Didn't come out quite the way we wanted, a bit too loose I think, but tasty all the same. Also served this with buttered thyme potatoes, nice combination that.

The finished dish. You can make out what's left of the leeks on the left of the plate, they caramelised wonderfully. I didn't serve the lemon balm, that was just for flavour

The end result was a lovely combination of flavours and textures, and there's not much I'd change. Oddly enough I thought the lemon balm might have made it a little antiseptic, but in the end the flavour wasn't strong enough, so next time I'll add more I think. The leeks had caramelised so much they were delicious but powerful, so probably dominated the lemon balm a little - though not the lamb. That's a tricky meat to dominate!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Spit Roast Rabbit

Was off looking for beef the other day, no surprise there, but couldn't find what I was after and spotted some good looking rabbits for sale so went for one of those instead. Talk about from one extreme to the other!

Been meaning to try a rabbit for ages, and had the idea that it might work out well marinated with lots of herbs, wrapped in fatty bacon and spit roasted, so that's what I did. Took loads of fresh marjoram from the garden, some garlic, plenty of oil and left it for about three hours or so in the fridge.

The Rabbit and ingredients

Ready to go in the fridge

Rabbit can be a notoriously dry meat, so I needed to wrap it in plenty of bacon in order to keep it moist on the spit. It was well seasoned first, and then loads of streaky went round secured with toothpicks.

Wrapped and ready for roasting

Then into a hotish oven for about 45 minutes. Came our rather well I reckon.

Crispy baconed rabbit!

With it I prepared a Tian of potatoes, another first, which is basically thinly sliced potatoes cooked in olive oil in a sort of cake. In the meantime B had prepared a leek and fennel mousse with a red pepper sauce, inspired by the Exe Shed restaurant in Exeter, which we had with toasted tortillas as a starter.

The leek & fennel mousse starter

The finished rabbit with the tian of potatoes

End result? Well, the starter was the star in the end, but you probably guessed that from the pictures. Yes it did taste as good as it looked! Rabbit was very tasty but still a bit dry - should have added even more bacon to the back legs perhaps, or maybe I just cooked it too long and too hot. The bacon was to die for, can't beat good bacon well crisped I reckon, but the potatoes were disappointing as well - far too oily. I did follow the recipe for them in their case, something I only tend to do when trying something very new, but wished in the end I'd trusted by own judgement rather than the book.

I guess you can't win them all, but always fun trying new things. Rabbit is usually braised, but I reckon I can pull this off with a bit more practice, and the left over meat has gone into making a fabulous sauce for pasta - nothing is ever wasted round here!

Meanwhile back to today, and another roast. Lamb with new potatoes from the village, a fresh mint sauce made with our own mint and some minted broad bean puree with our broad beans. At least that's the plan. Now where am I going to find a good local piece of lamb on a Sunday morning ...

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Home Made Passata: How to make a cheap, delicious and versatile tomato sauce

We use a lot of passata at home, in various sugos, for pizzas, topping meatballs and meatloaf, that sort of thing. We do often buy it but it's also a doddle to make your own, and you can make a huge amount and then just freeze it in small pots for whenever you need it. We have a big stack of little pots that used to hold mushy peas from the fish and chip van, for example, although I guess that just shows we eat far too much fish and chips :-)

I always use Napolina whole peeled plum tomatoes, creature of habit perhaps, but they are a good product and are often half price at all the major supermarkets so buying a load when they're cheap means you're saving money and enjoying great home made food.

I'm trying some new with this sort of thing, and videoing bits here and there as I think it gives a better idea of timing, textures, quantities, etc. than a written account. I've split the passata one up into three as it does take a good couple of hours or so to cook down into the finished product.

As you can probably tell, the director needs some practice, as does the cameraman!

The rabbit sauce was left over from a spit roast rabbit dish the Sunday before, more of that whenever I get around to blogging about it ...

Roast Chicken wild Wild Garlic & Lemon

Just trying something new - video blogging! Probably needs some work, but fun none the less.

Part 1: Preparation


Part2: Gravy & Cabbage/Pancetta

Part 3: The finished dish


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