Archives for posts with tag: lamb shoulder

I am guilty of getting obsessed with some things culinary – recipes by a certain chef, for example Nigel Slater, a favourite dish like posset or fruit curds, a place to shop like the Oxford Covered Market, an ingredient along the lines of lamb shoulder, rhubarb, lemons or star anise…

Today I got to satisfy a couple of my current obsessions in one fell swoop and in so doing created a simple supper for a group of friends.

It all started at the Oxford Covered Market a few days ago. I was dawdling though the market marveling at the array of food shops – fishmonger to cheese shop,

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butcher to coffee shop,

Italian delicatessen to green grocer

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– when my eye settled on a couple of boxes of rhubarb.

There was no way I’d be going home without a bag of rhubarb. The question was which of the two types would it be? The one lot were elegant thin prettily pink sticks from the Wye Valley at £6.95 and the others were from Yorkshire – heftier, darker, more sculptural stems adorned with lovely leafy fronds. Price £4.95 per kilo. Impossible to choose.

‘They’ll be sweeter, won’t they?’ said the greengrocer of the delicate pink ones, and I suspected he was right.  But what if the less beautiful, cheaper ones actually had a better flavour? I mean it’s not all about sweetness with rhubarb, is it?

After spending an agonizing few minutes weighing my options,I decided I had better have some of each. I’d do a taste test.

As I was paying for the rhubarb the greengrocer asked rather tentatively ‘Have you bought rhubarb before, then?’

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘but not from you.’

‘It’s quite old fashioned isn’t it? Generally, it’s older people who buy it.’  Hmmm, well what exactly did he mean, I thought indignantly.

But all I said was, ‘Really?’ And then he came out with a real shocker.

‘To be honest, I’ve never cooked it myself… What are you going to do with it?’ He sold the stuff — how was it possible that he’d never cooked it? Somehow, though, his ignorance gave me all the assurance he lacked. This is what I told him:

‘I’m going to slow-roast a shoulder of lamb on a bed of rhubarb and then make a rhubarb posset for dessert.’ The thought of making two batches of the same thing merely to test which of the varieties of rhubarb was the better seemed like a very shoddy one indeed and I jettisoned it without a qualm.

The greengrocer was suitably impressed, and I marched out of the Covered Market with my double pack of rhubarb, and a steely determination to prove that it’s not something that the old, but rather the adventurous, use to create a memorable dish.

Back at our temporary residence in Cumnor, just west of Oxford, I dug out (on the internet) a couple of old favourites: Nigel Slater’s recipe for lamb cutlets cooked with rhubarb  and his rhubarb posset.  Then I dashed down the road to Michael Cain & Family Butchers to buy a free range lamb shoulder.

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Rhubarb Posset

I changed Nigel’s recipe slightly and oven roasted the rhubarb with a stick of cinnamon, three fresh bay leaves, the rind of a lemon, 10 black peppercorns and a cup of water.  Then once the rhubarb was cooked I reduced the reserved liquid by boiling it with the the bay leaves, cinnamon, peppercorns and lemon rind for ten minutes.

Slow cooked lamb shoulder

I rubbed the lamb with seven spice power, chili flakes, salt and pepper and placed it on the bed of chopped onion, rhubarb, celery and a small handful of star anise in the base of a heavy ovenproof dish. I roasted it covered for about five hours at 140 C.  Serve with a gravy made from the vegetables.All you need to go with this is a simple green salad and maybe potatoes.  Or celeriac purée à la Nigel Slater.

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For the past 48 hours I have been seduced by the fruit that caused all the trouble in the first place. Or was it the serpent that was the evil one?

The quince, it seems, way pre-dates the apple. Not only is it thought that it was a quince, and not an apple, that was growing so temptingly in the Garden of Eden, but it was also a quince that started the Trojan War.

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A much loved fruit from mythical times through mediaeval times, Cydonia oblonga appears in De Re Coquinaria (On the Subject of Cooking), a collection of Roman recipes  thought to have been compiled in the late fourth or early fifth century and attributed to Caelius Apicius.

PATINA DE CYDONIIS 

A DISH OF QUINCES IS MADE AS FOLLOWS: QUINCES ARE COOKED WITH LEEKS, HONEY AND BROTH, USING HOT OIL, OR THEY ARE STEWED IN HONEY.

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I was delighted to see that lovage features large in what must surely be the original cook book. I was charmed by the rose wine and the violet wine. The puréed parsnips sounded divine. I was intrigued by the In Ovis Hapalis – poached eggs served with pepper, lovage, nuts and honey. I’ll skip the stuffed dormouse, sow’s udder and the rose petal and calf’s brain dish.

But I digress. The quince is, in some quarters, out of favour and is certainly not appreciated by those with no intimate knowledge of  its charms. But it is a truly rewarding  fruit if you are prepared to spend an hour or 48 in its company in the kitchen.

The quince, along with the prickly pear, was one of the fruits that was held in high regard by my mother. It was one of the fruits that for me was a symbol of her idyllic childhood spent swimming in farm dams and rivers. In my childhood, venison as well as ‘ mock venison’  was always served with quince jelly.

I spent quite a few hours in Google’s company when I came home from the shops with six velvety chartreuse quinces. By the time I had scoured Google  – and all my recipe books too – I found myself running back down to the greengrocer to buy an additional box of quinces. And then I settled in for a weekend in thrall to the quince.

The first thing I made was membrillo. Well, to be honest I actually made a version of  River Cottage Quince Cheese.   I followed their instructions exactly except I used less sugar – 75% of the  weight of the quince pulp. And mine took a little longer than theirs, possibly because I cooked it on top of our anthracite burning Godin stove. I was rather pleased that I didn’t have to use any additional energy to cook the membrillo.

While the membrillo was cooking I made supper – shoulder of lamb seasoned with salt and pepper cooked on a bed of leeks, quince halves, and thyme. Cook it at a low temperature of 150C for about four hours, tightly covered, and you’ll end up with silky leeks, soft quinces with a haunting depth of flavour and lamb that falls off the bone.

Thank you to Apicius for the idea of cooking quinces with leeks.  Now I need to get back to  De Re Coquinaria to see how to cook that flamingo I have tethered in the back yard.

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More quince recipes:

Quince Tarte Tatin from David Lebovitz

Quince Curd – The British Food Larder

Quince Pancakes – Saveur,  adpated from The Breakfast Book  by Marion Cunningham

And then of course Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has a few other quince recipes worth trying as does  Nigel Slater.