I don’t know where my life went but I always meant to have more on the blog about cooking, music and other things that matter to me – you know, like cocktails.
Anyway, Saturday morning, went up to the mighty city of Bangor to cash in at the bank after a heavy day’s baking, under instructions to buy some lamb while I was there. We still have an independent butcher, Williams, on Bangor High Street, the longest (and most boring) High Street in Wales. No one would know what you were talking about if you said you bought your meat at Williams the butchers* – he is Johnny Six, short for sixpence, which is the amount his Great-Great-(Great?) Grandfather is reputed to have tipped the drovers who swam the cattle across the Menai Straits from Anglesey en route for England before bridges were invented. I’ve never quite understood if that made him stingy or very generous.
Johnny Six has to be well into his eighties having retired on several occasions and got bored. His hair is a lower slung version of Ronnie Regan’s, black and shellacked like a funeral director’s cycle helmet.
“Shoulder of lamb please”. Weighed a nice looking one. “£12.38 – I’ll make it £12 to you.” Ah, the personal touch.
So recipe number one – Saturday. This is a sort of Greek recipe I “invented” years ago based on any number of long lamb braises. The main difference is keeping the joint whole. “Recipe” is a bit of an exaggeration. You need a shallow, lidded, fireproof vessel into which the shoulder will fit snugly. I used a squat Le Creuset. Add a little olive oil and lightly seal the meat on both sides just to give it a little colour. Salt and pepper, juice of a lemon, few sprigs of rosemary and thyme or oregano, drop of water, put on the lid and cook a gently as possible to 2½-3 hours, turning each hour. When it’s very tender, cut the meat off the bone in big chunks, and return to the pan having removed the herbs. Throw in a couple of handfuls of black olives. Serve with chunky chips and maybe a Greek salad. Little variation this time. Instead of juicing the lemon I added it to the pan sliced thinly. Delicious simplicity – bit like meself.
Recipe number two – Sunday. I am amazed to have a friend who doesn’t like buying joints of lamb because there’s nothing you can do with the leftovers. What can you say? One thing you can say is “shepherd’s pie” and we were in a shepherd’s pie mood. Any number of variations but this one was shallow and a bit sloppy (bit like yerself, I hear you say), cooked in the base of a tagine. You don’t really need the recipe, do you? Finely chopped onions, celery, garlic gently fried in the tagine. Then sliced mushrooms and diced cooked lamb, parsley, salt, pepper. Then stock from the Greek lamb, some left-over tomato sauce from the fridge, a shake of Worcestershire and Tabasco. Instead of smash I topped it with thinly sliced potato, lightly sprinkled with paprika and dotted with butter. Baked for about half an hour served with carrots sweated in butter with a few peas and a bit of prosciuttto.
There was still some meat left over. Recipe number three – Monday. A sort of Lebanese pizza inspired by some lamb-topped flatbreads Martin made at last year’s Dales Dough Do and various recipes from that part of the world. Martin’s flat breads were rolled out thin and topped with a herby/spicy mix of raw minced lamb. These were an altogether fatter affair.
I started with my usual pizza dough (it’s in the book). Chopped an aubergine and baked it in the oven on a tray sprinkled with olive oil until lightly browned. Made a tomato sauce with a little onion and a lot of garlic, flavoured with cinnamon. Cooked it until well thickened, stirred in the aubergine and cooled.
Pressed out individual bread bases leaving them quite thick with good rims. I usually scale individual pizza bases at 150-200g depending on how thick I want them. These were 300g – right thickness but rather too much for one person. Spread the last of the lamb in reasonable chunks over the bases, spread the tomato/aubergine over the meat, spread yoghurt over the sauce, topped this with pine nuts. Baked at about 180C (not pizza temperatures) for half an hour. Sprinkled with parsley and served with additional yoghurt. I was pretty pleased with the result.
So, six servings of quality Welsh Lamb at two quid a go.