We had the last of the Christmas 2012 family meals last night with my son and daughter-in-law back from Wales and coming over to supper – with Zeph their Yorkshire terrier puppy! – to see my mother. I didn’t want to do any kind of Christmas meal though and decided instead on a simple roast and apple pie for dessert (to come in my next post). We started with a plate of canapes and some amazing focaccia – possibly the best I’ve ever had – that I’d bought earlier in the A Cena on the Hill deli. (That place is so amazing that whenever I go in and see the display of freshly cooked dishes, ready to be packed up to take home, I think that if I lived near enough I’d never cook myself!) I tasked Jonathan with peeling the quails’ eggs I’d boiled earlier – haha! He’d not done it before and it’s a fiddly job! And I have to say, he made a better job of it than I did on Christmas Eve. His effort was worthwhile. They are so delicious. And we had champagne too. Great way to start the meal!
My daughter had left a swede in the fridge from the remains of her Riverford veg box she’d brought down over Christmas. There was one lone sweet potato, too. I therefore decided that a mix of roasted root vegetables would be a good thing to do with some lovely lamb from – as always when I want really good meat for a special meal – The Village Butcher, part of A Cena on the Hill. I chose half a leg of lamb from Matt and he boned it for me.
Once I was ready to cook I gathered some fresh herbs: rosemary from the garden, basil from my windowsill – and fresh mint and flat leaf parsley from supermarket!
I chopped them fairly finely then opened out the lamb and put the herbs into the centre with some salt and freshly ground black pepper, then added the zest from about half a lemon. I’d probably normally have added some garlic too – so good with lamb! – but my mother doesn’t like it so I decided to be mother-friendly!
I folded it all together and tied string round it to stop it falling apart as it cooked. I rubbed some olive oil over the top and seasoned with more salt and pepper and then it was ready to go into a hot oven.
I’d heated the oven to 220 Fan but turned it down immediately to 180 Fan as I put the meat in. This seals it but then cooks the meat more gently.
I’d prepared the vegetables ahead of time so they could go into the oven to roast at the same time as the meat as I judged they would all take about the same time to cook; in the end the meat was ready in about 45 mins and the vegetables took a little longer, and I moved them to the top of the oven to brown once I’d removed the lamb – which anyway needed a little time to ‘rest’ before being carved. I’d cut the vegetables into chunks and parboiled them – putting in the Maris Piper first as I thought they’d need the most cooking; then adding more vegetable chunks as I went to the boiling pan: sweet potato, half a large swede and carrots.
I boiled them for about 5 minutes so a knife only just pierced the surface of the chunks to show they were starting to cook through. I drained them well then tipped into a large roasting dish with 2 medium red onions cut into chunks. I drizzled over some olive oil, turned it all with my hands to coat the vegetables, then seasoned with salt and pepper.
During the cooking I basted the lamb a few times and turned the vegetables. When it was all done, and the lamb nicely rested, my son carved it while I transferred the vegetables to serving dish and made some gravy.
I added a little flour to the juices in the pan to make a roux then thinned with chicken stock and finally added some Marsala wine to sweeten and flavour the gravy (I don’t keep sherry or madeira these days but have often used them in the past). I like this sweet wine with lamb rather than a white or red wine – but the choice is yours!
My gastronomic creative skills didn’t get past frozen petit pois for the accompanying green veg! But it was a lovely supper. The meat was fantastic: so tender and full of flavour with the fresh herbs and lemon zest adding a wonderful fresh zing to the whole thing. And the earthy mix of root vegetables, roasted to a caramelised tenderness, was a gorgeous accompaniment to the lamb. It all made a great break away from Christmas food and the start of returning to ‘normality’.