A Sunday roast has always been one of the meals I look forward to the most. Tender meat served with crispy roast potatoes, loads of vegetables with a rich gravy – it doesn’t get much better than this. I remember when I first started cooking roasts I found them fairly stressful due to all the component parts. However, it is all about good preparation and timing- if you can get that right then it is a fairly painless process.
As we rear our own ducks we tend to make our own duck fat, which is then frozen in portions ready to be used for roast potatoes. After plucking, drawing and butchering the ducks we render the unwanted skin of the bird down in a hot oven (180C – 200C fan) for about 40 – 55 minutes to draw out the fat. The fat is then sieved and left to cool slightly before pouring it into small pots ready to be frozen. If you can’t get duck or goose fat then use olive oil or vegetable oil in its place.
As I have mentioned in previous blogs, as a family we prefer to eat lamb well done, consequently all timings recommended for the meat are made with this in mind. If you prefer your meat medium or rare please see the notes.
Roast lamb with garlic and rosemary
Ingredients: (Serves 4)
1 leg of lamb (1kg – 1.5kg)
3 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
3-4 stalks of rosemary (cut into 2” pieces)
1-2oz butter (softened)
1-2tbsp olive oil
Preheat oven to 180C fan.
Mix the garlic, butter and oil together in a bowl.
Take a sharp knife and make deep incisions into the joint roughly 6-8 times.
Smear the garlic butter all over the joint, push some gently into the incisions.
Insert the rosemary pieces into the incisions and season well.
Place the meat joint in a roasting tray.
Place in the oven and cook the lamb for 1hr -1hr 15 minutes basting occasionally for a well done joint.
Remove from oven, wrap in foil and allow to rest for 15 minutes in a warm place before carving.
If you prefer a more scientific approach to cooking meat and would rather use a meat thermometer to gauge how your leg of lamb is cooked work on the following principle:
50C – Rare
60C – Medium
70C – Well done
75C – Very well done
Alternatively, insert a knife into the joint and press down slightly so that you can see the colour of the juices, the pinker the juices the rarer the meat.
Roast potatoes in duck fat
6-8 medium potatoes (peeled and cut into large pieces)
2-3tbsp duck fat.
Place the potatoes in some salted water and par-boil for 15-20 minutes.
Drain in a colander and set above the pan to continue to drain for 30-45 minutes.
Roughly 40 minutes before serving, place the duck fat in a roasting tin and place in the oven at 180-190C fan for 5 minutes to melt the fat.
Remove from the oven and very carefully tip in your potatoes. Stir and turn the potatoes in the pan to make sure they have all been covered in oil and then season.
Cook in the oven for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.
Red cabbage with sultanas
400-500g red cabbage (finely sliced)
1 handful of sultanas
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2-3tbsp olive oil
Place the cabbage and sultanas in a pan of salted boiling water and cook for 5-6 minutes (or until the cabbage is soft).
Drain the cabbage well, then return to the pan and add the vinegar, oil and sugar and stir well.
Taste and add seasoning as required, serve.
Honey glazed carrots with parsley
5-6 carrots (peeled and cut into batons)
2 heaped tsp honey
1 heaped tsp butter
1tbsp freshly chopped parsley
Place the carrots in a pan of salted boiling water and cook for 10-15 minutes (or until the knife goes easily into the carrots).
Drain the carrots and return to pan, add the butter and honey stir together and add cover for 5 minutes.
Just before serving scatter over the parsley and season with a little salt and pepper.
4 onions (peeled, and left whole)
Cook the onions in the same roasting pan as your joint.
Remove the onions from the pan after about 40-45 minutes.
Place in a small ovenproof dish, cover with tin foil so that they stay warm.
If they cool too much, pop them back in the oven for 5-10 minutes before serving.
Gravy (for lamb)
juices from the meat pan
1 glass red wine
2 heaped tsp red currant jelly
½ pt – ¾ pt water (or vegetable water)
1 stock cube
1-2 heaped tsp cornflour (made into a paste with a little water)
Having removed the meat, place your meat pan along with its juices on the stove and heat.
Add the glass of wine and allow to bubble away for 2-3 minutes.
Add ½ pt of water, red currant jelly and crumble in the stock cube stir together.
Pour in the cornflour paste and stir continuously as your gravy thickens, add a little more water if it is needed.
About a month ago I assisted a local butcher with the butchery of some of our lambs. It was an interesting experience and I am pleased to have learnt some basic butchery skills. The day started fairly early (7am to be precise) – the butcher started with one of the largest lambs and demonstrated how the process is carried out.
The first step was to cut the lamb in half down its spine using a large saw. Then each of the sides were divided up into the following cuts:
shoulder – this is taken off first after cutting around the blade and can quite simply be pulled off.
leg – this is removed from the carcass just in front of the pelvis bone using a saw, then a boning knife was used to remove the pelvis bone so that only the leg bone remained and any excess fat was trimmed off.
rib chops / cutlets – the cartilage at the bottom of the ribs was removed. Then a sharp knife was inserted between each of the ribs as close to the backbone as possible and then run down to the end of the rib. Finally a clever was used to remove cut through the backbone at the point of the initial incision.
loin chops – after the rib chops have been removed, the loin was rolled up into the spine, then the clever was used to chop between each of the vertebrae to produce individual loin chops.
scrag end / neck – this is removed after the shoulder by a saw and is divided into manageable pieces using the clever.
stewing meat – this is made up of any trimmings from the lamb.
This process was carried out on all but one lamb, who had been nicknamed ‘tiny’ ever since he’d arrived, unfortunately this lamb was a triplet and did not grow particularly well over the 5 months he was with us and subsequently when it came to butchering him it was carried out slightly differently:
rack of lamb (the rib section was left whole)
scrag end; and
It was from the butchery of the smallest lamb that I was able to try French trimming a rack of lamb. It was my first attempt and I found it interesting to try. The first thing I have to comment on is the amount of potential waste you have when you French trim a rack of lamb. I retained all of this meat and will be cooking it is a stew later this week. French trimming is a slow process, but it did make the dish look more inviting. I found that by snapping the rib at the very top and then gently pulling the bone downwards I was able to remove a lot of the cartilage and meat from the ribs and then tidied it up using a very sharp knife.
As the winter months are starting to set in, it is worthwhile having a couple of casserole recipes at your fingertips. Casseroles in my opinion are wonderful because you can leave them to cook away in the oven at a low temperature and know that after 2-3 hours you will have an amazingly tender meat and vegetable casserole ready to eat. The other major benefit to a casserole is that there is really no need to serve anything with them other than some French bread – this is because the casserole contains all the carbohydrates and vegetables to make it a well-rounded meal.
A casserole dish is an invaluable piece of kit to have in your kitchen; however if you don’t have one then you could always use a deep oven-proof dish that you cover with a double layer of tin foil. If you do this you will need to make sure that the tin foil is on very tight so that the steam stays inside the dish whilst it is cooking.
Lamb and Bean Casserole
shoulder of lamb
2 onions (diced)
1 red pepper (diced)
2 carrots (diced)
3 celery stalks (diced)
a small bunch of thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tsp paprika
tin of tomatoes (400g)
1 tbsp tomato puree
½pt vegetable stock
a tin of Cannellini white beans (800g)
2 glasses of red wine
oil (for cooking with)
1. Preheat oven to 160C fan.
2. Place Lamb in a large casserole dish with a little oil and cook for 5 minutes allowing the meat to brown off a little.
3. Add the onions, carrots, celery, pepper, seasoning and paprika and mix well.
4. Finally add all the other ingredients, cook for 10 minutes to allow it to come up to heat before placing in the oven and cooking for 2 – 2½ hours until the meat is meltingly tender and falls off the bone.
5. Remove from the oven. Take the shoulder out of the casserole and strip off any meat that may still be attached to the bones. Cut the meat into bite sized chunks before returning the meat to the casserole dish; stir the well before serving with a slice of French bread.
You can’t beat a good curry! If I was getting a takeaway 90% of the time I would go for a curry. When I was younger I used to really enjoy the coconut based curries like Korma, however over the years I have started prefer slightly spicier tomato based curries. The curry I probably order the most is a Rogan Josh closely followed by a Bhuna. It is fairly hard to come by a good curry out in France so I have had to try to make my own. I am not a huge fan of shop bought sauces because quite a few of them leave an aniseed after-taste in your mouth. That being said, they are very useful when you are in a rush and want to have a curry quickly.
By contrast, the type of curry I have been making is a very slow cooked lamb curry, whilst it uses a lot of spices it is very simple to make. The joy of this curry is that once it is cooked the meat falls of the bone and is beautifully tender. The spices I use give the curry a gentle warmth and would probably be best described as a medium spiced curry. For my friends who struggle with its heat I serve a yoghurt dip (a combination of yoghurt, lemon zest and cucumber) and sliced banana which counters all of the spice. Whilst I prefer this curry to be made with lamb I have in the past made it with rabbit and chicken which worked equally as well.
Below is a picture of my spice line up –
A rich tomato based lamb curry
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp fenugreek
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
10 cardamom pods (shells removed)
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp turmeric
2 onions (sliced)
2 garlic cloves (minced)
3 heap tbsp tomato puree
1 can tinned tomatoes
½ pint stock
750g – 1kg lamb (cut into chunks)
2tbsp vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 160C fan.
Place spices in a pestle and mortar and grind together.
Place the garlic, onions, spices and oil in a large casserole pot (with a lid) and leave to cook on a low heat until the onions are soft.
Add the lamb and leave to brown for roughly 5 minutes.
Then add the rest of the ingredients to the casserole pot, give it a good stir before covering with the lid and placing in the oven for 2 – 2 ½ hours.