Tag Archives: lamb

Slow Lamb III

lamb

There are variants of this published elsewhere, but with timings, temperatures and instructions that simply don’t work for me. I blame publishers’ timetables and the lack of decent testing and copy editing, rather than the authors.

Anyway, this is a handy dish as you get the meat and spuds out of the way up front, giving you a chance to get on with everything else. The layer of skin, fat and connective tissue on top, combined with the steam from the stock below, will keep the meat moist for the long cooking period.

To feed six you will need:

  • a whole shoulder of lamb, bone in: this will be around two kilos
  • a kilo of potatoes: the floury sort, e.g. King Edward, work the best
  • one large or two medium brown onions
  • a whole head of garlic (or more if you want)
  • a fistful of herbs (fresh thyme is best, however, if you use rosemary, then just half a dozen stalks, as it’s a bit of a bully)
  • around 800mL stock (chicken or vegetable)
  • salt, pepper, bay leaves

Start with the spuds. You’ll need to peel them and slice them to around an eighth of an inch in thickness. I use a mandoline for this. Ditto the onion. Put a layer of potatoes at the bottom of a large roasting tin, then the onion in a single layer, a couple of bay leaves, and a grind of pepper, and just a touch of salt. Continue to layer the potatoes on top: it needs to be even but not pretty. The combined potato and onion layer should be around an inch deep in total. Pour over the stock, it should almost, but not quite, cover the potato. (Just top up with water if you don’t have enough stock.) Spread the herbs in a layer on top of the potato.

Pre heat the oven as high as it will go.

Use a sharp knife to score the very outside of the joint in five or six long cuts, about two inches apart. (That’s the convex side, with membrane or possibly skin depending on how real your butcher keeps it.) Rub some salt into the cuts. Dismember and peel the garlic, and using a sharp knife, make holes in the underside (that’s the concave side) of the joint, and insert the garlic cloves. Or, if you’re feeling lazy, just spread the cloves on top of the herbs.

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Put the whole lot in the oven, leaving it at maximum for five minutes before reducing to gas mark 2, which is around 150°C in my oven. Fan ovens probably need to be around 135°C.

It will need five hours. Check every hour or so, and don’t be afraid to top up the liquid if it seems to be drying out. It is almost impossible to overcook this, the risk is undercooking. After about two hours the stock should be glooping gently, and the joint softly hissing at the fat runs out from under the skin and gently bastes the meat. At the end of the fourth hour, slide a skewer into the thickest part of the joint. If you’re met with a lot of resistance, you may need to turn the oven up a notch.

(If you just happen to have about a kilo of parboiled carrots and parsnips tossed in a couple of tablespoons of duck fat or butter, and lightly seasoned, slide them into the oven on the shelf beneath the meat at this point.)

By the end of hour five, a skewer inserted into the thickest part of the joint should meet with no resistance at all, and the job is done. Remove the tray from the oven, cover with foil, and leave to rest for twenty minutes.

(The theoretical carrots and parsnips should be removed, doused with two tablespoons of honey, tossed, and returned to the oven, set again to maximum, whilst the meat rests. Sprouts with pancetta and chestnuts would complete the picture.)

Dish up. You should be able to carve the lamb with a spoon. Try not to fight over the potatoes.


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Slow Lamb 2

Let’s take slow lamb over to the other side of the Mediterranean. This isn’t quite perfected, but it’s jolly good nonetheless. Line a roasting tin with a piece of foil large enough to wrap up over and seal, and into it place the following:

  • 1kg lamb neck fillet, chopped up into one inch lengths, try and get this into a single layer
  • the juice of 2 lemons
  • a whole head of garlic, peeled and bashed up a bit, but no need to separate
  • 1 tbsp of dried chilli flakes
  • 6 whole dried chillies
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 12 cardamom pods
  • 1 tsp of sea salt (sea salt crystals are quite large, so much less if you’re using table salt)
  • 20 whole black peppercorns
  • a cinnamon stick broken into 2 or 3 pieces

Pack the head of garlic in with the lamb, tuck in the cinnamon sticks, and just sprinkle everything else over the top evenly. Wrap up foil, and crimp, so it’s properly sealed.

Three hours in the oven at 150°C should do. Serve with couscous.

Despite the relatively heavy use of spices, it’s mild and aromatic, rather than viciously hot, as the whole spices seem to preserve more aroma. If you need to use ground spices, then halve the quantities. You could also add a pinch of ground spices if you want to add kick. Don’t bully your guests with too much chilli, instead, just serve with harissa on the side.

(Serves six.)


Lamb and Spuds

I dare not call this “hot pot” as it would offend the pride of a number of regions who claim hot pot as their own.

  • 500g of lamb neck fillet or shoulder, chopped into one inch pieces
  • a handful of diced streaky bacon (roughly 50g if measurements like “a handful” bother you)
  • an equal volume of carrots and onions or leeks
  • 750g of potatoes
  • stock (Marigold boullion powder is fine)
  • some fresh or dried thyme
  • Worcester sauce (this is the secret ingredient)
  • flour, butter, oil, salt, pepper

To avoid unnecessary washing up, pick a large pot that can go on the stove top and in the oven. I use a big cast iron pot for this: not a Le Creuset, but an el cheapo French thing from Robert Dyas; it was twenty quid and does the same job.

Pop the pot on a gas ring, gently warm it, and add the bacon. You want a low intensity sizzling sound, so the bacon darkens and oozes all its fat. Whilst that’s happening, slice the potatoes about as thick as a pound coin. Don’t bother peeling them unless the skins are particularly horrid or you’re having very posh guests.

Get the oven going at 140°C. (That temp works in my fan-forced, you may need to go a little higher in a gas oven.)

Hack up the lamb, turn up the temperature, and fry it in the bacon fat, in batches if necessary. We want to get it nice and brown on the outside, partially for appearance, and also for flavour. No need to cook it through, though, as that’s what the next stage is for. Once done, set lamb and bacon to one side, but leave any fat in the pot. Add the veg and fry, adding some butter or groundnut oil if there’s not enough fat from the bacon. (Avoid olive oil, as this would make it a little too Mediterranean. Mind you, add some whole cloves of garlic, oregano, olives and anchovies, and you could take this dish a long way south.)

Once the veg have softened a bit, return the meat, and add a splash of the stock. The stock needs to be hot if you’re using a cast iron pot, so the temperature change doesn’t cause the iron to crack. Give it a good scrape and stir, to release all the dark brown sticky gooey stuff from the bottom of the pot into the stock. Add a teaspoon of Worcester sauce, plus salt and pepper. A spot of dried thyme is good as well, if handy. Have a taste and adjust quantities.

Level out the meat/veg layer, and then layer the sliced spuds on top, and add the remainder of the stock, plus enough hot water to come almost level with the top layer of potatoes. (Having a freshly boiled kettle on hand is somewhere between useful and mandatory.) It’s a bit like pommes boulangères: we want the very top layer of potato to get crunchy, and the lower layers to get gooey.

Into the oven for about two hours, no lid necessary. Keep an eye on the liquid levels and top up if necessary. The idea is to achieve a gentle universal bubbling effect. Some people can do this on the stovetop, I think the oven works best. Towards the end, lever up the spuds and fish out a piece of meat. It should be tender, verging on the point collapse. If not, another half an hour won’t hurt.


Slow Lamb

This is so easy. Just chuck it in…

…wrap it up…

…and after three hours at 150ºC, le voilà:

An adaptation from St Delia, who in turn adapts if from Kleftiko, this would be a no-brainer except for the fact that you need to get things going three hours in advance of eating. This is one of the recipes in her How to Cheat book, and it slightly misses the point, by adding unnecessary faffage. (The observant will also notice that Delia says, “wrap it in foil”, but her photo shows a more cunning two layer arrangement of baking parchment and then foil. Hmmm. Not sure it makes a difference.)

Here’s what I used to feed four.

  • 800g lamb neck fillets (this is a cheapish cut, and suited to slow cooking)
  • the juice of two lemons
  • a sprinkle of salt and pepper
  • a bunch of thyme (branches and all)
  • a whole head of garlic, the cloves separated and peeled – or more

Some key differences.

  1. Spread the branches of thyme across the bottom of the dish.
  2. Don’t bother slicing the garlic into slivers and inserting into the meat; it’ll take ages. Just peel them and chuck in with everything else. I pack the meat into a single layer, and pack the garlic cloves in between each piece.
  3. Once everything is in the dish and wrapped, you can leave it for a couple of hours at room temperature or overnight in the fridge without it coming to too much harm — unless your local “room temperature” is 35°C
  4. Don’t bother with the lemon zest and parsley faff. Foodies call this gremolata – I call it unneccesary.

Serve with couscous, I think.

You may want to spent some time out of the house whilst this is cooking, as the smell may drive you mad.

Lamb Curry

There was some rather good lamb in the supermarket today, so it had to be Curry.

I used

  • 400g lamb leg, trimmed and chopped into cubes
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp minced chilli from the jar (wasn’t quite enough for my tastes)
  • 50mL Greek yoghurt (and another 50mL for later)
  • a 450g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • a large onion
  • a fistful of coriander leaves
  • and a supporting cast of cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, cumin seeds, and cloves

I do it like this:

  1. Put the cubed lamb in a bowl with the chilli, crushed garlic, a grind of pepper and salt, and the yoghurt. Mix well, and let this sit for at least an hour, or maybe an afternoon. If you’re doing it overnight, maybe in the fridge.
  2. Meanwhile, chop the onion into wedges – no need to get fancy – and gently fry it in a large pan, with a couple of tablespoons of oil, six cloves, and half a cinnamon stick, broken into two.

    Around about twenty minutes ought to do the trick, which is just enough time to have a beer.
  3. In a mortar and pestle, grind up about a teaspoon of cumin seeds, and the seeds from six cardamom pods until vaguely powdery. Yes, you can get fancy and use some kind of mechanical grinder, but the effort you spend cleaning that bit of machinery afterwards will put your labours with the mortar and pestle to shame.
  4. Back at the pan, fish out the cloves and cinnamon – doesn’t matter if a few bits get left behind – and then turn the heat up high. Add the cumin and cardamom, and stir madly for about half a minute.
  5. Just before the spices start to burn, add the lamb. (You may want to have your extractor fan going at this juncture, or have a window open.) Keep stirring furiously, for about a minute, until the lamb is cooked on the outside.
  6. Turn the heat right down, and hurl in the tomatoes.

    If you hurl them in with the unnecessary esprit and élan with which I hurled them tonight, you will get tomato on your jeans. Consider this possibility.
  7. Now, just let the whole thing simmer, very gently, for about an hour.
  8. Five minutes before the end, stir in the rest of the yoghurt, and the coriander leaves.
  9. Serve with basmati rice. You could reserve some of the coriander, plus a lemon wedge or two, for a garnish, if you’re that way inclined.

Shepherd’s Pie

There is leftover garlic mash from the other night. It was pushed into a square sandwich bag, and squished into a flat slab, about an inch thick. The slab is conveniently the same size as my smallest square baking dish. Muwhahaha.

Some minced lamb and a chopped onion get fried in olive oil with salt, pepper and a half a teaspoon of sugar. I realise that there’s no red wine handy, at least of the sort I’d use to deglaze the pan, so I pop in a splash of vermouth and, for the hell of it, some squished up juniper berries. A sprinkle of dried thyme, a tin of chopped tomatoes (minus their juice) and the results go into the bottom of my baking dish. A layer of frozen peas and then the slab of mash. The mash turns out not to be exactly the right size, so there’s some artistic carving with a serrated bread knife to make it fit.

Finally, into a hot oven for half an hour. Joy.

Variations:

  • Worcestershire sauce
  • tomato paste (not keen on this as it makes the whole thing tomato flavoured, whilst the pieces provide just the occasional nugget of fruitiness)
  • chopped up dried tomatoes