Friday, February 6, 2015

#404 Lamb (or Mutton) to Eat as Venison


All the way back in November, I was asked to cater for a dinner party; a very special one because it had the most interesting brief. A seven-course dinner was required where each course represented a different time in history.

For the Georgian course, I went straight to my favourite book from that time period The Experienced Housekeeper by Elizabeth Raffald (1769). Flicking through the pages, I happened upon a recipe To dress a Leg of Mutton to eat like Venison. It required you to ‘[g]et the largest and fattest leg of mutton you can get cut out like a haunch of venison as soon as it is killed, whilst it is still warm.’ It then goes on to tell you to ‘remove the bloody vein’ and then marinade the thing in wine, dry it, and to roast it in pastry. I was intrigued, but it was obviously unachievable. Looking in other books, I found many versions of it, sometimes roasted, sometimes braised, but always marinated in red wine (and often in the blood of the beast too!). I knew the recipe looked familiar, and it finally dawned on me that a recipe for it appeared in good old English Food by good old Jane Grigson.

There’s a 4 day marinating time for this recipe, so plan ahead if you fancy making it – and I really suggest you do; see my review of the recipe below.

Start off by making the marinade: dice up 5 ounces each of onion, carrot and celery, chop 3 cloves of garlic and brown them in a couple of tablespoons of oil, such as sunflower or rapeseed. Take your time over this and get them good and brown; the veg won’t be in the final dish, but its flavour will be. Let it cool.



Now mix the cooled, browned vegetables with the following:
1 bay leaf
2 good sprigs of thyme
4 sprigs of parsley
2 sprigs of rosemary
8 crushed juniper berries
8 crushed coriander seeds
10 crushed black peppercorns
3 tsp salt
1 (UK) pint red or dry white wine, or dry cider
¼ (UK) pint of red or white wine vinegar (and, though not on the ingredients list, cider vinegar, if going down the cider route)



Now tackle the meat. Use a full leg of lamb or mutton, I went for the latter. It was huge, so I increased all the above values by a half. All you need to do it score the fat into a diamond pattern, like you would do for a ham. Find a large, deep dish or pot and place the lamb inside and pour over the marinade. Make sure the whole leg gets the marinade on it, so turn it over a few times. Keep the leg somewhere cool – a fridge, or a nice cool cellar or pantry – and cover it with foil. Turn it twice a day for four days.

When the four days is up, get a new set of vegetables ready. Slice 2 onions, 2 carrots, 2 leeks and chop 2 sticks of celery. Also chop up 8 ounces of unsmoked (‘green’) streaky bacon. Brown all of these in a couple of ounces of butter



Spread the vegetables over the base of a deep roasting tin, place the leg on top and strain the marinade over it. Top up the marinade liquid with veal stock so that it comes up two-thirds of the way up the tin. You don’t actually need to use veal stock; chicken stock or water would do, I am sure. However, if you want to make your own, look here for my recipe for it from the other blog). Cover with more foil.



You have two choices now: either bring the whole thing slowly to boil and simmer gently for 2 hours on the hob, or bring to simmer and pop it in a cool oven instead, 150⁰C will do it. If you are using mutton, you need to cook the leg for another hour or even 90 minutes. Turn the joint over after one hour and in the final thirty minutes, ladle out 2 pints of the cooking liquid and boil it down hard to make a concentrated, richly flavoured stock.

When the cooking time is up, remove the leg and put it into another roasting tin and turn the oven up to 220⁰C. Roast for a good 20 minutes and baste well with the concentrated stock to achieve a nice glaze.



Jane suggests serving with gravy made with the pan juices and reduce stock and the usual lamb/mutton accoutrements. See here for a post all about that. I actually served it with a 'Lenten Pie', from Raffald's book. At some point I will blog each course on the other blog.

Jane points out that you do this recipe with a leg or pork and magically transform it into wild boar.

#404 Lamb (or Mutton) to Eat as Venison. Oh my goodness, this may simply be the single most delicious thing I have ever cooked! First of all, it tasted exactly like venison; beautifully gamey, but with the moist succulence you would expect from lamb or mutton. It was transformed! There must be some kind of witchcraft afoot. I was amazed, and luckily so were my diners! I cannot recommend this more highly, absolutely bloody brilliant. 10/10.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

#403 Raised Mutton Pies


Just a quickie from the Meat Pies &Puddings part of the Meat, Poultry & Game Chapter:
This is the last of the raised pie recipes in English Food. It’s a little different in that you don’t need to make a jellied stock like the others, but a gravy made from mutton bones.

If you can’t get hold of mutton, then lamb will do just as well.

To make the pie, you will need to make a batch of hot water pastry – have a look at the post #282 Raised Pies. It also goes through the process of making the pies themselves. In this case, the pies are to be made small. To do this you can use wooden pie dollies or jam jars and raise the pastry around them. Alternatively, and much easier, is to use muffin tins and roll pastry to fit.

For the filling, you need a whole best end of neck of mutton, or a pound of fillet meat. Make sure the butcher give you the bones of the sheep. Chop the meat finely, including some fat. Finely chop 3 shallots or 4 ounces of onion along with 4 ounces of mushrooms and a tablespoon of parsley. Mix all of these together with the meat and a teaspoon of dried thyme and salt and pepper. Place in a pan with ¼  pint of water, bring to a simmer and let it tick over for 5 minutes. Cool.

Fill your pastry cases, however you have constructed them, with the mixture and bake for 25-45 minutes at 200⁰C, depending on size.



Once whipped out of the oven, pour in gravy made from the bones. There is no instruction from Jane as to how to make this, but it’s pretty easy. Make a stock from bones, trimmings and some stock veg. Reduce it and mix into a roux of butter and flour to thicken it up.



#403 Raised Mutton Pies. These were great – I must admit I was a little dubious of the watery filling, but it really was delicious, the vegetables and herbs made the water into a delicious stock, which reduced during baking. They were so good, I added them to one of pop-up restaurant menus. 8/10.



Thursday, January 15, 2015

#402 Blaeberry or Blackcurrant Pie


Wild blaeberries (from berryworks.com)


The flitterin faces come doun the brae
And the baskets gowd and green;
And nane but a blindie wud speer the day
Whaur a’ the bairns hae been.

The lift is blue, and the hills are blue,
And the lochan in atween;
But nane sae blue as the blaeberry mou’
That needna tell whaur it’s been.
Blaeberry Mou, William Soutar


Here’s recipe from English Food that I have found extremely difficult to cook; blaeberries and blackcurrants simply don’t crop up in greengrocers. Almost all of the blackcurrants grown in this country are snatched up and turned into Ribena, the leftovers being very expensive, assuming you can track them down. Blaeberries are not commercially grown and therefore you have to rely on happening upon bushes - many bushes; you’ll need between 1 ½ and pounds for this recipe!

But then I came across some huge punnets of them at a greengrocer called Elloits in Chorlton, Manchester. I couldn’t believe my luck so I bought a couple and skipped away clutching my precious bounty back home.

 So – and I know you are quite likely to be thinking this – what the heck are blaeberries!? They have many aliases: tayberries, bilberries, whortleberries, whimberries, wild blueberries….the list goes on. Blaeberries are very commonly found in the very north of England, Scotland and Ireland. They are quite popular in France – where they are called myrtles – and are generally used to make liqueurs.

 Jane Grigson tells us of a rather disturbing song she used to sing at school as a child where a young mother is left distraught when her baby is stolen by faeries whilst she picks blaeberries:

I went to gather blaeberries, blaeberries, blaeberries,
I went to gather blaeberries, and left my darling baby-O.
I found the track of the swan in the mist,
The swan in the mist, the swan in the mist,
I found the track of the swan in the mist,
But ne’er a trace of my baby-O.

 So the blaeberry is steeped in the history of the northern climes of the British Isles, but people are trying to get this wild, rather niche, delicacy cultivated and into our shops. Susan McCallum of the Hutton Institute is asking for people to keep an eye out for blaeberry hotspots so that the most productive plants can be bred. This is because they match the American blueberry for their health benefits, and sales of blueberries are on the increase. Here's the post all about the project.

In this recipe, Jane says we can use blaeberries or blackcurrants in this recipe; I assume because they are both found in Britain, but I think that you should use blueberries as alternative fruit because their flavour is so very close to that of the blaeberry. Jane also uses the Yorkshire trick of spiking the tart with some freshly chopped mint.


Pick over 1 ½ to 2 pounds of fresh blaeberries or blackcurrants, removing leaves and stalks. Weigh out 8 ounces of caster sugar and mix it with a heaped tablespoon of cornflour and a level tablespoon of chopped mint leaves. Layer the fruit and sugar mixture alternately in a pie dish, making sure the fruit is humps up in the centre and cover with some sweet shortcrust pastry. Brush the pie with water or egg white and sprinkle more sugar on top. Bake at 220⁰C for 15 minutes, and then turn the heat down to 190⁰C and bake for a further 20-30 minutes. Serve with cream.


It’s worth mentioning that it can be made as a double crust pie too.

 #402 Blaeberry or Blackcurrant Pie. I decided to make this pie for one of my Pud Clubs, and not only did it go down very well, but won – pitched against six other puds! It was so delicious; a deep jammy and tart filling that was so intensely flavoured it was almost a shock, and the aromatic mint took it to another level. This might be up for the award of best pud in English Food! 10/10

Friday, January 9, 2015

#401 Plum Bread


I made this bread (the penultimate recipe in the Bread part of the Teatime chapter) all the way back last autumn when plums were in season. It has taken me only four months to pull my finger out and tell you about it.

This is a recipe from a book called British Cooking by Theodora Fitzgibbon published all the way back in 1965. I just a quick search of her back catalogue and she has written a huge series of books on British and Irish cookery. (I ordered a load off that evil website that rhymes with Schlamzon, don’t judge me.)

Jane points out that raisins can replace plums out of season. Here’s what to do:

This is an old school recipe and so it starts with an ounce of fresh yeast creamed in 3 tablespoons of warm milk. Leave it to do its stuff for 10 minutes and in the meantime mix together 8 ounces of strong white flour, 2 tablespoons of sugar and the grated zest of a lemon in a bowl.

Make a well in the centre and plop in a large beaten egg, 2 ounces of melted, but tepid, butter and the yeast. Now mix to form the dough. What Jane does not mention is that this dough is so stiff it couldn’t possibly make a decent loaf of bread. Nevertheless, once the dough is (somehow) kneaded to make a smooth dough, place it in an oiled bowl with some clingfilm over it.

Next stone and chop enough plums to make 8 ounces and knead these into the bread. This was quite simply an impossible task, the dough was so stiff that the plums just squashed and made a pulpy mess. This required the food mixer.

“Mix in the plums, this makes the dough sticky”, says Jane. Well the Kitchen Aid made it into a big old sloppy mess, and I was not feeling hopeful.

Pour this mixture into a buttered and lined 9 inch loaf tin and leave it prove until the dough comes to the top of the tin. Bake for an hour at 190⁰C, remove and see if it sounds hollow, if not, pop it back in for another 15 minutes.

#401 Plum Bread. Of all the hundreds of bread recipes in England, why did Jane pick this one? It was so difficult to make and really was not worth the effort. Although the plums were delicious and sweet, the final bread had a strange sour taste. Its texture was very close and cakey. I am wondering if there was a typo or something somewhere in the recipe (I have spotted quite a few in other recipes). Disappointing and took up far too much of my time. 3/10.



Thursday, January 1, 2015

#400 Crown Roast of Lamb


Well, well, well. Here we are at #400! Who would have thought I’d get this far?

I’ve chosen this classic piece of meat sculpture for this milestone as it is such a special thing, and hardly seen these days. Plus, doing it Jane’s way means you don’t simply pop to the butcher’s shop and ask for the roast assembled and oven-ready. No, Jane’s way means constructing it yourself; something I really could not have done at the beginning of this project. This saves you a lot of money, and earns you plenty of kudos with your friends.

I did a quick look through some old books and it is odd that this classic and ancient and slightly macabre dish does not seem to appear before the 20th Century. I must be wrong here – can anyone shed any light on it?

To make your own rack of lamb, you will need three things: your lamb, stuffing and a trussing needle & thread.

First, the stuffing: go for any of the stuffing recipes in the Stuffings section of the last chapter, or go with the stuffing recipe from #175 Shoulder of Lamb with Rice and Apricot Stuffing. I chose the latter.

Ok, now the tricky bit. Go to your butcher and ask for a whole best end of neck; it is from this that you will get your two, perfectly symmetrical, racks. You should get 7-8 cutlets from each rack. Here’s what you ask the butcher to do (in Jane’s own words):

  1. to divide in two down backbone so you have two symmetrical pieces,
  2. to chine it [this means to remove the backbone],
  3. to make small cuts between the cutlet bones [this is quite simple to do yourself].

The butcher will desperately try to chop off the long bones and you must insist he does not! At home, you can get the racks prepped by French trimming the thin ends; scraping away the fat from the ribs, just like #305 Guard of Honour. It’s quite laborious at first, but you’ll soon get the knack.

Sit the two racks back-to-back with the fatty sides touching. Take your trussing needle and sew the ends together with two stiches, making sure the thread is tied good and tight.

Stand it up and shape it into a crown using your fist – this is where those little cuts the butcher made are important.  Cover the ends with foil and sit the whole thing on a rack in a foil-lined roasting pan. Season the meat (especially the fat) and fill the centre with your chosen stuffing.

Roast for 75 minutes  at 190⁰C. Remove from the oven, cover with foil and let the meat rest for 20 minutes or so. If you want to be posh remove the foil from the ribs and replace with paper ruffles.

But what to serve with roast lamb? Don’t fear, Grigson has it all covered for us in this post.

#400 Crown Roast of Lamb. What a spectacle this was! I loved the way it looked; not all nice and neat with each rib the same length, but instead the bones were their natural varied lengths, making it look even  more like a real crown. The stuffing was, of course, great and the meat itself wonderfully tender and medium rare. A surprising thing bearing in mind it had been a roasting for what seemed like a long time. The only minor thing is that the stuffing began to char, so I would recommend covering it with some foil for the first half of the roasting. Nevertheless, still marvellous. 10/10.



Wednesday, September 10, 2014

50 recipes to go!


Well who would have thought I would make it to this landmark!?

I am three hundred and ninety-nine recipes in, and there is but fifty more to go before I complete the project. I’ve always found it a little annoying that there is 449 recipes and not 450, but then, Ms Grigson wasn’t counting them as she wrote.

My approach to food now is really a world away compared to when I wrote my first post #1 Smoked Finnan Haddock Soup all the way back in September 2007. I can now bake bread and cure meat, roast a woodcock and make a good stock. The blog has travelled two continents, and inspired me to start up my own food business. At the moment – and this explains why the number of posts have decreased of late – I am writing the business plan with will hopefully result in me opening a little restaurant next year. Fingers crossed on that one!

In order for me to complete the book, I need to track down some tricky-to-find ingredients, and so I’m going to list them below and if you per chance know how I can get hold of them, do please let me know. Here goes:

  • ptarmigan
  • calves’ brains
  • Harvey’s sauce
  • snipe
  • elvers (baby eels, sometimes called glass eels)
  • sea kale
  • roach (the freshwater fish, not the creepy-crawly)
  • a goose, capon or turkey with the head still on (surprisingly tricky to find!)
  • a cold-smoked chicken
  • gigots of primitive-breed lambs

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

#399 Duck Braised with Green Peas


This was one of the recipes in English Food that I had been looking forward to making, but never seemed to around to making it. I had a bounty of garden peas on my allotment plot, so it was silly not to try it. I am very glad that I did make it; it was so delicious, I made it for the main course at my pop-up restaurant I run every now and again from my house.


There are very few ingredients in this dish and it is very easy, except for the very end where an egg yolk based sauce is required – easy if you make your own custard regularly, tricky if not.


Jane writes no introduction for this recipe but it strikes me as a very French one; peas are not the only vegetable braised with the duck, because there is some lettuce in there too. In fact, take the duck away, and you are essentially left with French pea soup.

This recipe serves 4 to 5 people.

Jane starts off with the rather vague instruction: ‘Use the duck giblets to make the stock in advance. Boil it down to 300 ml (1/2 pt) or a little more.’

In brief, here’s what I did: Get a couple of tablespoons of sunflower or rapeseed oil really hot in a saucepan and toss in the neck, heart and gizzard of the bird, which have been cut into pieces (no need for the liver, fry it in butter, eat it on toast). Let the giblets get nice and brown. Add some chopped stock vegetables (trimmings are good here) such as carrot, leek, onion, celery; some herbs like thyme or lemon thyme, a bay leaf, a rosemary sprig and some parsley stalks; and some spices like peppercorns, cloves and some pared orange or lemon rind. Add some water to just cover the giblets and vegetables. Bring very slowly to a bare simmer and let it tick over for a good three or four hours. Strain and skim it, then boil down. Season lightly with salt.

Okay, duck stock made, what next? Take your duck, which should weigh 4 or 5 pounds, and prick it all over with a fork, focussing your pricking around the very fatty thighs. Make a massive bouquet garni using bay, parsley, thyme and rosemary and stuff it into the cavity of the duck. Heat a little more oil in a frying pan and slowly brown the duck all over, so that the fat can run out.

Take your richly-browned duck and pop it, breast down, in a deep ovenproof pot, pour over the stock, bring to a simmer and let it bubble very gently for 1 ¼ hours.

When the time is up, turn ducky the right way round and add a pound of freshly shelled peas and a large shredded lettuce. Pop the lid of the saucepan back on and simmer for a further 45 minutes.

Carefully remove the duck and prepare it as you like, I prefer to carve the breast meat and to divide the legs into thighs and drumsticks. On a serving dish, spoon the peas and lettuce, and then place the pieces of duck meat on top. Cover with foil and keep warm whilst you get on with the sauce.

Strain the stock and skim if need be. Give it a taste, and if it seems a little insipid, reduce it. Beat together two egg yolks and four tablespoons of double cream. Pour in around half of the stock, whisking the eggs and cream all the time. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and stir it over a low heat until it thickens slightly. Don’t let it boil, otherwise, you’ll get scrambled eggs. Season with salt and pepper and sharpen it with a little lemon juice. Pour some sauce over the duck and the remainder of it in a sauceboat.

#399 Duck Stewed with Green Peas. This was a great recipe. The trick to get nice and juicy duck is to simmer the duck extremely gently; the merest gurgle of a bubble is all that is required. It’s worth noting that the cooking times Jane gives are far too long. When I repeated the recipe for the pop-up I simmered the duck for an hour, added the peas and lettuce, and then simmered for 20-30 minutes. For the pop-up, I trebled the recipe and then had to make three batches over the three nights, i.e. nine times Jane’s recipe. This means I had to shell a lot of peas – around 15 pounds to get the nine pounds required in all. It was a bloody nightmare. Anyway, the peas and lettuce were good and sweet after the braising, producing succulent duck and a really delicious silky sauce. Lovely. 9/10.