6 January 2013

Slow cooked leg of lamb


I RECEIVED a number of kitchen gifts over Christmas; most notably a Kenwood mixer and a slow cooker.  I had always been a bit sceptical about the later, mainly because I am a cook that actually likes to cook… if that makes sense.

My mum always raves about her slow cooker, ‘I just pop the ingredients in, turn it on, go to work and it’s ready for your dad and I coming in’ she says. Where’s the fun in that?

A couple of days after Christmas, my mum and I were discussing why it’s sad so many people don’t have a proper dinner on New Year’s day nowadays, when Dad walked in and presented me with a leg of lamb and a neck of lamb joint from his friend’s farm just a couple of miles down the road.

The quality of the meat was stunning; lovely creamy white fat, a rich ruby red coloured meat and a beautiful scent of fresh lamb.  You could just tell it had been reared properly and was a far cry from custom-bred crap you get in the supermarket. This was perfect for the occasion… and my slow cooker.

I was a little surprised there wasn’t a great range of slow cooker recipes online and although I was tempted to purchase the new James Martin slow cooking book, I decided it was best to trust my instincts and knowledge.

I love rosemary and we grow it in the garden, so that was always going into the recipe.  I thought I’d keep it pretty classic and cook the lamb in red wine with the rosemary and a lot of garlic, which would also become stunning gravy whilst the leg rests.

I didn’t really jot down a proper recipe for this but I’ll explain my method and allow readers to take it from there.

Firstly, I removed any excess fat from the leg of lamb, then pierced little holes all over and studded them with rosemary and garlic.  I then marinated it in soy sauce for about four hours to season the meat.

The beauty of this was I prepared it a day in advance in order to celebrate on Hogmanay and not have much to do on the day itself (crucial in the event of a bad hangover!).

To cook I simply turned the base of the cooker to ‘low’, placed the removable pot onto the hob, added a dash of oil then (it is designed to go on a hob, don’t put a ceramic pot on a naked hob but simply sear it in a frying pan and deglaze with the wine before adding to the slow cooker) seared the lamb all over.  Removed it and set aside.

I then put an onion, stick of celery and a carrot (classic mirepoix) into the slow cooker, after the lamb and allow them to colour slightly, throwing in a whole bulb of garlic, split in half, three sprigs of rosemary and a good twist of pepper.  I gave that another minute or two then pour in a whole bottle of wine.

I brought that to the boil and popped the lamb back into the slow cooker and topped up with fresh lamb stock, just below the maximum capacity stated in the instructions. Finally, I put in about 75ml of Worcester sauce and a good squeeze of tomato puree.

Then transferred the dish back into the slow cooker unit and popped the lid on. The i turned the setting to ‘high’ until I could see the liquid bubble slightly, then popped it back too low to start the cooking. Turning the lamb every hour or so would ensure all those flavours were absorbed into the meat and i repeated this for about eight hours.

So, with that out of the way, I was left to enjoy some fine wine, a little bit of bubbly and the fireworks in the good company of friends and family.

On New Year’s Day itself, i simply put the pot onto the hob and brought the liquid back to the boil.  Transferred it back into the base, going through the motions of watching for bubbles as before, and then turning to low.  A good 40mins to an hour to reheated the meat, then I set it aside to rest, covering it in tin foil before making the gravy.

For this i strained the liquid into a clean pot and brought to a rapid boil to reduce it down to a gravy consistency ready to serve.

The lamb just fell from the bone, it was so tender - justice done to this lovely meat.  My REAL gravy went down a treat as well, which makes me wonder why so many people resort to packet rubbish, especially when it's so simple to make.

The great thing about slow cooking in this instance was it allowed me to focus on the other parts of the meal, safe in the knowledge the meat course was ‘boxed’, as we say in the kitchen. You can never really over cook pieces of meat like leg of lamb in a slow cooker; it’ll always stay moist and you can make the wonderful gravy while the meat rests.

You can get a decent slow cooker for around £20-25 so it’s a pretty cheap and cheerful addition to any kitchen if you ask me!

1 comment:

  1. Nice post!!
    Have slow cooked lamb shoulder. Great cut, with a lot more meat than most folks realise. Added Moroccan spice, dates, mixed other fruits and red wine. When ready, shred and serve with yoghurt, pomegranate seeds, pistachios, mint and couscous...bloody hell, now I'm really hungry...
    Regards,
    McNic.

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