Thursday, November 24, 2011

Seven hour slow cooked lamb

7 hour leg of lamb. Photo by Steve Shanahan
First published Canberra Times 23 November 2011. 
One of the delights of spring is the tender, sweet lamb meat available from markets and good butchers around Canberra. Many of the good lamb producers are breeding especially for meat, with the milk-fed lamb market now targeted towards restaurant menus.
Unlike Europe, Australian lamb is classified by the emergence of teeth. When a lamb starts losing its baby teeth it becomes hogget and after about two years it becomes mutton.
Although there is nothing like sweet and tender spring lamb, lightly cooked and still pink, I’m also partial to the deep, full flavour of mutton, especially when cooked in a home-style slow roasted way.
For lunch at our restaurant, we often cooked wood-fired roast lamb topped with anchovies, layered top and bottom with branches of rosemary and studded with garlic.  When cooking lamb or mutton on the bone, make small slits in the meat along the bone and stuff with garlic slivers or herbs. This is a great way of enhancing the flavour of the meat.
For my version of slow cooked lamb, I use mutton or hogget as the more intense flavour works well in this dish. If making this for a summer meal, I serve it with spring vegetables such as peas, broadbeans, butter beans and small chat potatoes. For  winter, I serve it with more robust vegetables such as, swedes, carrots, onions and potatoes. 
If serving it with lighter vegetables, add them later in the cooking process so they retain their structure, and you don’t end up with a mushy mess at the bottom of the cooking pot.
Because this dish takes seven hours to cook, when served, it is so meltingly tender it just falls away from the bone, creating the most beautiful and deceptively simple meal. To ensure the meat doesn’t fall apart during cooking, make sure you tie the meat well with kitchen string before it goes into the pot.
I made this classic French dish again for a recent gathering of friends and as always, is a hit for it’s intense flavours. It’s perfect for group catering as it will survive the rigours of a party with much of the preparation done early in the day ready for the evening. This quantity easily serves eight people.
a leg of mature lamb or mutton (or you can use a regular leg of lamb)
3 large garlic cloves, cut into slivers for inserting along the bone
a bunch each of rosemary and thyme and 6 bay leaves, tied together
salt and pepper
4 litres of water
3 carrots
3 leeks
2 cups of peas
2 cups of beans
3 onions
12 garlic cloves, chopped
Preheat the oven to 140C. Trim the lamb of excess fat and insert the slivers of garlic into the meat by first poking small holes in the outside along the bone. Tie the meat tightly with string and place in a large deep pot, with enough water to cover three quarters of the depth of the meat.
Bring the water to a boil and skim the scum off the top.
Cover the pot and transfer it to the oven, and cook it for 2 hours. Keep the meat poaching gently, making sure it doesn’t boil and turn the oven down if needed. After 3 hours, turn the meat over carefully and continue cooking for another 2 hours. Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables, trim, peel and cut the peas and beans and chop the peeled onions, carrots and leeks into 1 centimetre slices. Mix all the vegetables with the chopped  garlic.
Lift out the meat, add the vegetables and herbs and replace the meat on the top. You may need to add more water so the meat is half covered. Replace the lid and continue cooking until the meat is very tender for 1 to 1 ½ hours longer.
Remove the meat to a warm place and cover it loosely with foil. If the vegetables are not very tender, continue simmering them, uncovered, on top of the stove until they almost collapse. Transfer them with a slotted spoon to a deep platter, throwing away the tied herbs. Increase the heat so the cooking liquid boils and reduces to an intense flavour.
Remove the meat to a platter and remove the strings from the lamb. Cover with foil and return to the warm oven. Continue reducing the cooking liquid to a concentrated sauce to be served as a gravy. Taste for seasoning, and serve it alongside the lamb and vegetables. The lamb can be served with a spoon as it will just fall apart.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Lamb and Feta Gözleme

Photos by Steve Shanahan
Ceramics by Handmad Emporium

First published Canberra Times 9 November 2011

Compared to other varieties of food you regularly find in street markets, the longest queues of people are often lined up for Turkish Gözleme. This street food specialty is essentially a filled pocket bread, which can be adapted by changing the fillings.

Gözleme is a classic Turkish pastry prepared for breakfast and lunch or as a treat for guests. It is based on a very thin pastry called yufka, which is a basic of Turkish baking. The name derives from the Turkish word göz meaning “eye”.

I first tried Gözleme at the Subiaco Saturday markets in Perth, where the line up of people waiting to buy them snaked right through the centre of the market and out the other side. I was told this is a regular Saturday event and that people come from near and far to feast on these celebrated Gözleme.

Although it’s only 6.00am, the smell of roasting spices coming from the stall makes my stomach growl.  It appears that even at this early hour there is no shortage of willing participants to relish the combination of lamb, cumin, lemon and feta.

If you don’t have the equipment to make your own pizza, these are a great alternative and dead easy to make. They can be cooked on the hotplate of a barbeque and the burnt umami bits found on a barbeque hotplate, only add to their rustic flavour.  They should be cooked until quite crisp and dotted with burnt bits.  You can even cook them in a large frying pan.

I prefer to make my own pastry, as it only takes half an hour, but you can buy Turkish style flatbread and fold it over a couple of times to seal in the filling.  You can also omit the preserved lemon from the filling and sprinkle fresh squeezed lemon over the top of the Gözleme  when cooked.

I serve this with a tomato, garlic and red wine vinegar salsa seasoned with salt and pepper.

Photo by Steve Shanahan
Ceramics by Handmad Emporium
Quantity makes 4 large Gözlemes.

220g plain yoghurt
2 cups plain flour
a pinch of salt
olive oil

400g minced lamb
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
a pinch of ground cumin
a pinch of ground cinnamon
1 chopped chilli
2 tbsp preserved lemon, sliced
50g baby spinach leaves
150g feta cheese
6 mint leaves, torn
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

3 ripe tomatoes, diced
2 mint leave, torn
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
1 tsp olive oil

Mix the yoghurt and salt together in a large bowl, add the flour until you have a stiff dough. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead until all the flour is incorporated. You should have a slightly sticky textured dough and roll into a large ball. Transfer to an oiled bowl and leave, covered for 30 minutes.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the lamb until browned and separated. Turn the heat down to low and add the garlic, cumin, cinnamon, preserved lemon, chilli and tomato paste. Cook for two minutes or until dry. Remove from the heat and drain any accumulated fat.

On a floured surface, divide the dough into four balls. Roll each ball into a 30cm circle. Place a layer of the spinach over half of each circle, then sprinkle with the feta, then add the lamb mince and some torn mint leaves. Season with salt and pepper and fold over the dough to form a pocket.  Seal the edges by pressing down with a fork.

Preheat a barbecue hotplate or large frying pan. Brush each side of the Gözleme  with olive oil and cook each side until dark brown, pressing down while cooking.

For the Salsa, combine all ingredients in a bowl and serve with the Gözleme. 

Photos by Steve Shanahan; Ceramics by Handmad Emporium 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Strawberry mousse with rhubarb compote

First published Canberra Times 2 November2011
A sure sign that summer is on its way is the arrival of the berry sellers at the Capital Region Farmer’s Markets.  Although you can buy strawberries in Canberra all year round from supermarkets, they are generally not from our local area and surrounds.
I prefer the smaller, more compact, sweet strawberries, to the large misshapen and watery ones. Call me suspicious, but it looks as if they’ve been force-fed with growth hormones. The other thing I love is buying them in a brown paper bag, rather than a plastic punnet, because the strawberry smell leaks through the bag.
On my last trip to France, I discovered the name of the amazingly perfumed little berries that are so prolific over there. They are called Gariguettes, and famously hail from the southwest of France. The first taste is a revelation. The beautiful thing about French strawberries is that you will smell them before you see them, so just follow your nose. It’s a complete sensory experience.
In France, strawberries are mostly grown on slopes and hand picked. It takes three years to train a picker to cut the fruit at the right place and at the peak of its ripeness. Interestingly, women do the bulk of the picking. Perhaps, as a female neighbor in Chatenois suggested, it’s because it’s a work of patience and rigor?
The work-day begins at 7:00am with an obligatory café-au-lait and stops for lunch at midday. The berry gathering ends around 4:00pm to get the fruit to the market as quickly as possible.
During my cooking classes in Beaune earlier this year, we made mountains of Gariguette strawberry jam. The strawberries were bought from the berry seller’s market stall earlier that morning, right outside the door. We made jam all day, using the traditional French method. I left there smelling of sweet, sticky, strawberry jam that was still lingered in my clothes and hair well into the night.
The classic French way to eat a bowl of these gorgeous globes is in salade de fraises - just a bowl of these luscious Gariguettes with sugar and a little lemon juice. Nothing else is needed, although, maybe sitting in a little café on the streets of Paris wouldn’t go astray.
One of my all time favourite summer desserts is Strawberry Mousse. It’s an easy family classic from the 1980’s and comes from my sister Sue Barben, who often served it at summertime dinner parties. I’m not sure where she sourced this recipe from, but it’s worked its way into my favourites’ list.
There’s no cooking required here, so it’s a no fuss dessert for summer or Christmas time. Because this recipe is prepared in advance and set in individual ramekins, it’s ready to go when you need it. All you will need is a blender or food processor. The individual mousses will keep covered in the fridge for 4 to 5 days.  One regular punnet of strawberries will make a quantity to serve 4 to 5 people.
I’ve given this recipe a re-vamp and added a rhubarb vino cotto compote with just a hint of cracked pepper, to serve with the mousse. This does need cooking, but, like the mousse, can also be prepared in advance. Any left over compote goes beautifully with Greek yoghurt, honey and roasted almonds for brekky.
If you don’t feel like cooking the compote, serve the mousse with a dollop of honey-sweetened mascarpone or yoghurt.
1 punnet ripe strawberries
½ cup castor sugar
1 ¼ cups fresh cream
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup boiling water
2 tspn powdered gelatin
2 egg whites
1 vanilla bean, scraped or ¼ tspn vanilla paste
Strawberry mousse
Wash and hull the strawberries. Place the strawberries, lemon juice, sugar, vanilla paste and cream into a blender or food processor.
Place the boiling water into a small bowl, add the gelatine, stirring until dissolved.
Add the gelatine to the blender, and mix on medium speed until combined. This should only take a few seconds.
Whisk the egg whites in a separate and clean bowl until peaks form. Fold the strawberry mixture gently into the whites until combined.
Pour into 4 to 5 ramkeins and chill until set. This should take a 3 hours or so.
Rhubarb compote
6 stalks of rhubarb, washed and chopped (no leaves)
3 tbsp icing sugar
2 tbsp of vino cotto, (you could use 1 ½  tbsp balsamic vinegar instead, just increase the sugar content)
¼ cup boiling water
cracked black pepper
Preheat the oven to 180C. Prepare a baking tray lined with baking paper. Spread the rhubarb in one layer on the tray and dust with 2 tbsp of icing sugar. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes.
Remove the rhubarb from the oven and place in a small saucepan. Add the remaining icing sugar, boiling water and vino cotto (or balsamic vinegar and extra sugar) and a good pinch of cracked black pepper. Taste for sweetness, you may need to add a little more sugar.
Heat on medium heat, uncovered for a few minutes until the mixture turns syrupy.
The flavour balance should be piquant, but slightly sweet. Serve the compote on top of the strawberry mousse.
Photos by Steve Shanahan