Monday, February 12, 2007

Lamb Stuffed with Spinach and Mushrooms

Last week's butchery class at the Ginger Pig was a fascinating evening. Chris and Carl, both New Zealanders who trained in their home country, could reasonably be expected to know a thing or two about lamb given that sheep outnumber people twelve to one in the land of the long white cloud. Their skill is always a pleasure to observe. In the space of half an hour Chris had turned the carcass of a whole Swaledale lamb into its constituent parts, leg, steaks, barnsley chops, loin, ribs - very good barbecued - a crown roast neatly trimmed and ready for display in the chiller cabinet, with the best of the trimmings set to one side for dicing and the rest separated out for mincing or sausages. He explained each of the cuts as he demonstrated them and told of the way each piece would commonly be cooked and what sort of price each piece would fetch.

They knew the age of the animal and where it was raised on the Ginger Pig farm in Yorkshire. It was a big animal - about 35kg - with fine lean meat from a life well lived outdoors. The Ginger Pig could never be thought of as cheap but what I buy from them is the very best quality meat that comes from animals that have been well treated during their life, properly fed and with space to roam. Tim, the owner of the whole enterprise, used to come to Borough every week. He told me once that he never sells live animals because he believes he has a duty of care to them to be sure they are well treated for their entire lifespan, including being humanely slaughtered. When the meat is raised with such care it can only inspire you to cook it as well as is possible.

After this demonstration we were each given a shoulder of lamb and, over the next hour, tought step by step how to bone it, trim it and roll it into an oven ready roast. So now I had a perfect piece of meat that I had invested more into than usual and I needed something special to do with it to celebrate. We decided to share it with the man's parents at dinner on Saturday night.

This recipe comes from Gordon Ramsay's Secrets. He is a good source of inspiration in the kitchen as he too starts from a point of wanting food to be as good as it can be. The final meal was magnificent.

Lamb Stuffed with Spinach and Mushrooms

1 boned shoulder of lamb
2 tbsp double cream
250g mushrooms, wild or cultivated
70g butter
1 shallot or ½ onion, finely chopped
1 fat garlic clove, finely chopped
250g baby leaf spinach
1 tbspn tarragon, chopped
300ml well flavoured reduced lamb stock
150ml red wine
rosemary sprigs
salt and pepper

Trim away 150g flesh. Put through a food processor and whizz to a puree. Add the cream, ½ tspn salt and some pepper and blend briefly until smooth. Turn into a bwol, cover and refrigerate, with the boned joint.

Chop the mushrooms very very finely into tiny little dice. Heat the butter in a frying pan and saute the shallot or onion and garlic for about 3 minutes till softened. Add the mushrooms and fry, stirring, over a high heat until softened and browned, about 7 minutes. Season well, and allow to cool.

Blanch the spinach in boiling water for 1 minute then drain and plunge into a bowl of iced water to refresh. Drain thoroughly, squeeze dry, then chop finely and mix with the mushrooms and tarragon. The mixture should be quite dry. Add the spinach and mushrooms to the lamb puree, mix well and check the seasoning.

Lay the lamb flat on a work surface and spread the stuffing evenly over the inside, then rollup firmly and tie at intervals with kitchen string. Roll the neat stuffed joint tightly in cling film and refrigerate for a couple of hours to help set the shape.

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Weigh the meat and calculate the cooking time. Allow 50 minutes per kilo for medium rare, 55 for medium. Add 12 minutes for each additional 250g. Place the joint in a raosting pan, drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning. Lay a butter paper on top to prevent over-browning. Roast the lamb for the calculated time – 1 ½ - 2 hours – basting every 30 minutes.

Transfer the meat to a platter and rest in a warm place for 15 minutes or so. Strain the juices into a small saucepan, add the stock, wine and rosemary and bubble down for a few minutes to reduce down, then strain into a jug.

Carve the meat into thick slices, tipping any thick juices that seep out into the jug. Serve the meat with gravy and veg.

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