Sunday, 17 May 2009

Mutton dressed as mutton

It's in the nature of revolutions to reject what is and sweep all before them. That was the fate of British cooking as the UK began it's foodie revolution. Instead, in turn, the cooking of just about every other country was eulogized. Even Delia forced a nod to foreign shores.

We were food sluts, happy to try anyones once, globe trotting pick-ups bringing back more than we'd bargained for. Poor old 'British' sat cuckold while we flung our affections across the globe. Then, by the millennium, having had every available dish, and just to prove we really were up for anything, we started coming on to our own grub.
But you can't undo what's been done.... and we'd done a lot. The temptation to elaborate is now too great. Does steak and kidney pudding really just have steak and kidney in it? Surely it should be browned first? What about frying a star anise with some onion too? A little red wine? Some soy sauce? Some thyme?

Boring old British was going to need a serious makeover if we were to be seen about town together.

This is the downside of embracing everything. Where do you draw the line? Food that has evolved over eons being tarted up beyond recognition. "Mutton dressed as mutton", that's my new motto! But it's a hard habit to kick, I'm taking it one stage at a time.....

So when friends came to dinner on Saturday I didn't all together hold back on my leg of Scottish spring lamb.

Three cloves of garlic crushed to a paste with salt. That was rubbed into the meat which I'd scored all over with a diamond pattern. Next chopped rosemary was rubbed in- from the garden, lots of it, it grows well in Glasgow but is nowhere near as intense as that grown in warmer climes. I grated the zest from a lemon, set aside, and squeezed the juice over the lamb. Finally a good rub of olive oil and black pepper. With it, Herefordshire asparagus and Cornish 'anya' potatoes in their skins, both roasted in olive oil.

This is a really good tip I picked up from Heston of Fat Duck fame. Soak anything green in water for as long as you can before cooking. It rehydrates it and makes an incredible difference.
The lamb weighed 2.3 kg and got 20 mins at 220c then another 80 mins at 160c, it was on a rack above the grill tray which I'd filled with water. A technique the Chinese use a lot that combines roasting with steaming and stops lots of smoke! After cooking it was wrapped in foil and rested for an hour. Then I made a gravy from the tray's juice filled water, a teaspoon of dashi stock powder and some cornflour.

The lemon rind was combined with olive oil, salt, the juice of another lemon and then poured over the lamb and potatoes.
This will sound like showing off, actually it is, but the effect was sublime. There's enough going on.... but not too much. In the past I'd have been smearing all sorts on it... cumin, smoked paprika, other herbs... so this was progress of a sorts. These were the wines....

The Pinot Bianco I've blogged about before. It's now just £5.99 in M&S and at that price is a serious bargain.
The Sancerre Rose, made from pinot noir grapes, was very summery, but not worth the normal price of £10.99... though it's on offer at £7.99 just now.
Mikey brought the Chateauneuf du Pape, Les Closiers, 2006, also from M&S. Really nice peppery, sweet grenache fruit and quite structured too. It went really well with the lamb.
Niven and Sabeen brought the Chianti Reserva 2003, it was very good, quite oaky but with a lot of ripe fruit to balance it out.
And finally, nearly the last of my delicious Leitz Auslese also mentioned in a previous blog. We drank that with Eton Mess - a mix of strawberries, meringue and cream- simple but delicious. By now things were getting a little hazy...

We finished the night off around the corner at Uisge Beatha. I think it's brewery owned these days but they've kept the eclectic interior of the woman who first furnished it. She combed sales rooms for cast offs from country houses that had been stuffed with souvenirs of colonial adventures... old paintings of men in uniform, antelope heads and other oddities.

Nowadays it's seen as a quintessentially Scottish experience, a tourist 'must see' on any visit to Glasgow.

236-242 Woodlands Road
0141 564 1596

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