Pot Roasted Lamb with Braised Shallots

lamb and leek flower sauce

 

It’s absolutely freezing right now, the snow is falling and it’s time to raid the freezer for something that will gently braise away filling the cottage with warm hunger pang inducing scents. At the back of the freezer, much to my surprise I found a big hunk of lamb leg that I must have bought a good 6 months ago and completely forgotten about it hidden away behind the frozen elderflower syrups. I marinated it in a warming blend of garlic, rosemary and thyme whilst it defrosted then simply popped it in a big roasting pot with some peeled pickling onions, lamb stock and sherry. In Summer I tend to serve lamb with fresh mint sauce but colder days mean sturdier stuff so I opt for leek flower sauce which is an incredibly potent blend of leek flowers, salt and seasoning and packs a real flavour punch.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cloves garlic, few sprigs rosemary, small bunch thyme, olive oil
  • lamb leg joint
  • 6 pickling onions, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons Essential Cuisine lamb stock powder
  • 300ml amontillado sherry
  • 3 bay leaves
  • freshly ground black pepper and Halen Môn salt

To serve:

Roasted veg, steamed savoy cabbage and leek flower sauce.

Method:

  1. Blitz the first four ingredients to make your marinade then rub it all over your lamb and leave for 24 hours.
  2. Put everything in a pot, cover then roast in the oven at 180C for about 1 1/2 hours then remove meat to rest covered with tin foil and tea towels whilst you reduce the liquid by about half to make the gravy.
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Roast Chicken with Jerusalem Artichokes and Sherry

Roasting a chicken on a Sunday is one of my favourite things in the world. I know many people like to spend as little time as possible cooking but it’s the opposite for me when it comes to Sunday roast dinner.  Once I’ve returned from the boot sale, where I will have bought my veggies and free range rooster (and lots of other less essential treasures, or as Glen puts it: “more bloody plates, glasses and shit”), I will orchestrate it so I can spend hours pottering away in the kitchen – wine open, Radio 4 on and me doing the occasional little happy dance to myself.

This year I grew Jerusalem Artichokes and whilst I adore their taste I am somewhat less fond of their unfortunate and rather explosive side effects, hence their nickname “fartichokes”.  Glen refuses point blank to eat them anymore and I didn’t want them to go to waste so this recipe was born.  It’s a great way of cooking a chicken as you can leave it happily in the oven for a couple of hours (even 3) and it doesn’t dry out. The chicken takes on all of the wonderful flavours and you get THE most amazing gravy ever. I roast my potatoes in a separate tray in the bottom of the oven then move them up later on.  You don’t have to eat the artichokes, the flavours have infused the chicken, but I can never resist and I always regret it later!

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken/rooster/capon whatever you fancy
  • half a lemon
  • bunch of fresh thyme
  • Jerusalem Artichokes peeled and quartered
  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • 1 heaped tablespoon garlic powder
  • 400ml cream sherry
  • salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to its hottest setting, mine is 230C.
  2. Put your lemon and thyme inside the bird’s cavity and put it into a big roasting tray.
  3. surround the chicken with the artichokes and unpeeled garlic cloves.
  4. season the chicken with salt and pepper then sprinkle the garlic powder over the bird  and artichokes.
  5. Pour the sherry into the roasting tray.
  6. Cover with tinfoil making sure there are no gaps for steam to escape then roast for about 2 hours in the top of the oven.  Put your roasties in the bottom for now.
  7. After 2 hours (or longer is fine) remove the tinfoil, drizzle the bird with olive oil and roast uncovered for about 20 minutes or until the skin is nice and brown.  I like my wing tips crispy so always give them a good rub of oil.
  8. Remove the bird and place it on a plate covered in tin foil and a tea towel to rest.
  9. Take your artichokes out of the tray and add them to your roast potato tray which now moves up to where the chicken was to get them all crispy and lovely (or throw them away if you don’t want to be farting furiously later).
  10. The pan juices will taste amazing, just thicken them slightly by making a Buerre Maniè and whisking it into the juices whilst on the hob.

Squirrel and Sherry pie

Game is incredibly popular around here, we have the fantastic Game Auction that takes place every Tuesday morning at the Cattle Market.  You never really know whats going to make an appearance hanging on the rails – wild boar, deer, hare, woodcock, partridge, squirrel, it’s a real mixed bag.  The squirrels normally go for between 50p and £1 depending on the crowd.  Yesterday I popped into town to pick up a newspaper and grab a brandy hot chocolate from the guy on the market, next to him was Picks Organic Farm who raise all their own meat and the quality of their beef is absolutely fantastic.  I asked if they had any veal sweetbreads at all and was met with the reply: “no, people are still a bit funny about veal… but we’ve got squirrel”.  Done, I said, I’ll take the squirrels instead.

Having only had squirrel as part of a mixed game pie before I wasn’t entirely sure about the flavours.  I’d heard they took on a nutty flavour due to their diet so thought a nice nutty Amontillado sherry would help bring that out.  I had a look online to see if there were any recipes to use as a guide but failed to find any so decided to wing it.  I didn’t want the squirrel to be overpowered by any other really strong flavours so kept it all pretty simple and made it up as I went along.

Ingredients (made 2 generously filled pies)

2 local wild grey squirrels, skinned, gutted and cleaned

1 red onion, finely diced

3/4 carrot, finely diced

1 stick celery, finely diced

2 garlic cloves

About 10 mushrooms finely sliced

Butter

1 tblsp rapeseed oil ( a good nutty one, I use Chiltern Cold Pressed)

2 thyme sprigs

Large wine glass Amontillado Sherry

Handful hazelnuts

Chicken stock (enough to cover the squirrels)

Shortcrust pastry

Puff pastry

1 beaten egg to glaze

Method:

Put your oil in a saucepan then add the onion, carrot and celery and fry gently to soften then add the garlic and a large knob of butter and the mushrooms  and continue to cook gently for about a minute before adding the 2 whole squirrels.  Allow the squirrels to just brown then add the thyme, sherry, hazelnuts and enough chicken stock to just cover, pop a lid on the saucepan and simmer really gently for about 30mins.  I had intended to cook it long and slow as its hard to tell the age of a squirrel and the older ones are tough but after 30 minutes the meat was really tender so decided to remove the squirrels and put to one side to cool.

I then reduced the saucepan contents to intensify and thicken.  Whilst this was happening I rolled out my shortcrust pasty, lined 2 small casserole dishes and baked them blind in the oven for 20 mins (filled with tinfoil and rice).  The stock was reducing well but it needed a little extra thickening so in went some more butter that I had squished some flour into to make a quick beurre maniè.

Now that the squirrels had cooled I stripped the meat off and added it back into the saucepan and seasoned with some salt and pepper.  Once the pastry was ready I gave the insides a quick brush with beaten egg, filled them with the squirrel mixture then brushed around the edges before popping a puff pastry lid on each one, creating a little hole in the centre to let the steam escape and then brushing with more beaten egg.  These then went back in the oven for about 15mins until the lids were all puffed up beautifully. Once taken out of the oven I just turned them upside down and they fell out of their little casserole pots.

I had been tasting as I went so I knew that it would be nice but I was still surprised by just how nice it was.  The nutty sherry brought out the flavour of the squirrel and allowed it to really shine.  The hazelnuts had softened but still had a bit of bite to them which was lovely against the tender meat and crisp pastry.  I served the pies with a buttery mash and a dollop of good horseradish sauce on the side.  The horseradish worked so well with the pie that next time I might just add the tinniest  amount to the pie mix.

There was a mixed reaction from people on Twitter and Facebook in regards to eating squirrel, with the overwhelming majority being hugely enthusiastic and positive about this wild, sustainable meat.  Many people shared my view that eating more grey squirrels can only be a good thing to encourage the return of our native red squirrel which has sadly been almost wiped out by the American grey impostor.

I grew up in Hong Kong where we ate things like chicken feet, intestines and trotters with gusto and you picked your seafood from a tank to be whisked away to the kitchen only to return minutes later cooked to perfection and served on a platter.  I was asked on Twitter if, seeing as I was happy to eat squirrel, would I also eat cat?  Well, no I wouldn’t but apart from the fact that I prefer not to eat my pets, it’s is also because I like my meat to have dined on a vegetarian diet (although I do eat chickens that have been running around fields snaffling slugs and worms).  My partner refuses to eat octopus as he says they are far too intelligent to eat, I on the other hand love octopus and eat it with relish.  Everyone has their own views over what animals they do or don’t eat and why, and for those who love game I cannot recommend squirrel enough.  I for one will be making this dish many times over, and if you do decide to give it a go then please do let me know how you get on. Happy cooking!