Tuesday 8 September 2009

Recipe: Lamb Shoulder, roast with Anchovy & Garlic

Decent cuts of lamb are definitely one of the good things about being in London! In Italy, versions of Lamb appear fairly often on restaurant menus, but it's rarely to be found on the butcher's counter - and when it is, it tends to be as cutlets, and never in the hearty trencherman's-fare form of whole legs or shoulders. For a dish like this, I have to wait until we're back in the UK.
In fact, the combination of lamb and anchovy seems to be thoroughly french - I can specifically recall versions from both Albert Roux and Paula Wolfert (who took hers in turn from Lucien Vanel) - and it isn't a million miles distant from Julia Child's recipe for Lamb Mentonnais. Anyway, whatever the provenance, the dish is delicious, and the smell that pervades the house beforehand as it cooks is almost as sublime!
For six.
Ingredients: one boned half-shoulder of lamb (not difficult to do yourself, or else have it boned by your butcher); 6 Anchovy fillets; half a teaspoon of dried Thyme; 2 cloves of Garlic, peeled and minced; 3 tablespoons of Olive Oil; Salt & Pepper; one and a half cups of good stock (veal, duck or chicken will do perfectly); half a cup of white Vermouth; 1 tablespoon of Dijon Mustard; one third of a cup of Cream.
1. On the work surface, open the boned Lamb out to make as close to a rectangle as you can; carefully trim off as much of the fat as possible and dispose of it.
2. Chop the Anchovies finely and combine in a small bowl with dried Thyme, minced Garlic, and Oil. Add half a teaspoon of Salt, and mix altogether. Spread half of this mixture over the Lamb, and then roll and tie it tightly with string before spreading the rest of the Anchovy mixture over the outside.
4. In a small pan, combine the Stock and Vermouth, bring to the boil and then reduce to an 'enthusiastic' simmer. Stir in the mustard and Cream, and continue to simmer as you roast the Lamb. (The sauce wants to be reduced to a coating consistency, and there should be about half a cup when finished - enough for a spoonful over each serving of Lamb).
5. Heat the oven to 240 degrees C, and roast the Lamb for about twenty five minutes (if you like it on the pink side, as I do - for 'medium' lamb, roast for a further ten minutes), and then remove from the oven to rest for ten or fifteen minutes before serving. If serving onto hot plates, then the Lamb can be left to rest in the open; if the plates aren't likely to be very hot, then 'rest' the meat in a warm oven.
6. Serve a couple of slices of Lamb per serving, along with a spoonful of sauce.

Monday 7 September 2009

Richard Olney...

...is someone to whom I owe an apology. Several years ago - having known his name for ages, but never actually having read anything he'd written - I finally got round to investing in one of his earlier books 'Simple French Cooking', and was so underwhelmed by the first recipe of his I tried that the book went straight onto the unreachable upper shelves, and I think I wrote rather a scathing blog-post at the same time, in which I consigned him to Outer Darkness.

I shouldn't have done.

The Technical Department recently referred me to an article Olney once wrote on the subject of Bouillabaisse, in which he so perfectly captured the essence of his experience ('memory distilling the limpid blue sky and the intermingled scents of the sea air, the bouillabaisse, and the cool fruit of the wine into an abstract symbol of well-being') that we spent the next half hour reminiscing about lunches of grilled fish and sea urchins consumed in clifftop tavernas, and endless wine-filled afternoons in the Greek islands of thirty years ago, before the terrible influx of cement-mixers and mass tourism.

And so, 'Simple French Cooking' was brought down from the shelves, dusted off, and I gave it another go. Quite apart from the recipes, Olney's writing is a real pleasure...and there's a splendid section on 'improvisation' where he acknowledges the value of recipes committed to print, but at the same time says that the point of understanding the rules of cooking is so that you can make it up as you go along and work, to good effect, with whatever you have to hand (leftovers, that week's bargains in the market, whatever happens to be at the back of the fridge..). Reading between the lines, I suspect that Olney was one of that tribe of bons viveurs who lived on the smell of an oil-rag, but did so with a richness and appreciation of the truly good things in life that escapes many people who have never had to worry about how to pay the next fuel bill!

The reason for my earlier disappointment, it now seems clear, was my own fault - I'd made the mistake of choosing a recipe from his dessert section, and in practice Olney (much like Pierre Franey, and in fact probably also like Dr Pomiane himself) was not a man for desserts. His preference was clearly for some decent cheese and another bottle of good claret, and the grudging and awkward appearance of desserts in the book at all was almost certainly against his better judgement and at the insistence of of a stubborn editor.

An example of his skill can be found in the perfection of his version of scrambled eggs with cheese: 6 eggs, 3 oz grated Gruyère, and 5 fl oz of vermouth which has been simmered with 2 minced garlic cloves for half an hour beforehand, and then strained before being added to the eggs and cheese; seasoning to taste; whisk gently, whilst cooking with 2 oz of butter for ten minutes or so in a double boiler, until it has the consistency of lightly whipped cream. Serve, garnished lightly with chopped parsley.
Not grand, probably not dinner-partyable, but ye gods, is it delicious!

Tonight's Dinner:

Lamb, stuffed with Anchovies; Fava beans à la crème.

Roast Figs and Raspberries in Port.