Braised Lamb Shank

Perfect Slow-cooked Lamb Shanks

Spring is not so far away from the Channel Islands, honestly, Jersey Royal potatoes are growing under vast fields of plastic sheeting and soon the Narcissus will be blooming and we can start to look forward to fresh Lamb. Not so long ago frozen New Zealand lamb was a much cheaper option than home reared produce but now you can source delicious Welsh and Dorset Lamb at really keen prices. In the Channel Islands, the sort after lamb is from Sark, eating a rich diet of coastal grasses and sea herbs which helps flavour the meat. One of my favourite cuts of lamb, it used to be one of the cheaper cuts too, alas not now, are lamb shanks, simple to cook well, and more versatile than you think.

Braised Lamb Shank

Slow-cooked Lamb Shank

Lamb shanks are best cooked, up to a couple days in advance and then slowly reheated, I have successfully slow cooked them with lots of coriander, cumin and garlic then reheated them the next day smothered in spiced yoghurt over the dying embers of a charcoal barbecue. The rich charred succulent meat was mouth-watering, tender and flavoursome. I have braised lamb shanks in red wine flavoured with liquorish and fennel for a rich, sweet, slightly anise flavoured sauce. Today’s recipe is perhaps the most satisfying, a one-pot casserole with lots of red wine and vegetables, ideal after a good long walk on the cliff tops in Jersey.

There is a substantial amount of meat on a large shank enough for the largest of appetites and I would say ample for two average dinners with the addition of a selection of vegetables. While the price of all lamb has risen quite substantially there can still be bargains to be had in the freezer section of your local supermarket and frozen lamb shanks are a great product to use as you are really going to drive flavour into the meat with your intensely flavoured cooking liquor and slow-cooking.

Slow cooked Lamb Shanks with Red Wine and Vegetables

Lamb Shanks with Red Wine and Vegetables

Braised Lamb Shanks  with Vegetables                        serves 4 large appetites

For the shanks

4 Lamb Shanks

1 medium Onion, peeled and finely chopped

4 Garlic cloves, peeled and crushed in a little salt

A bottle of good quality Red Wine like a Cabernet or Merlot

A pint of homemade Beef or Veal stock

4 tablespoons of good Olive Oil

2 tablespoons of Plain Flour

1 tablespoon of Tomato Purée

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

 

For the Bouquet garni

2 large sticks of Celery, washed and cut in half

A generous sprig of fresh Rosemary

A few sprigs of Thyme

A small handful of Parsley

3 fresh Bay leaves

Butchers string

 

For the Vegetables

12 smallish Waxy Potatoes, washed and peeled

6 medium Carrots, washed and peeled and cut into chunks

12 small Shallots, peeled

12 Baby Button or small Chestnut Mushrooms, wiped with damp kitchen towel

8 Baby Turnips, washed and trimmed

 

Pre-heat your oven to 200 C / fan 380 F / Gas Mark 6. Heat the olive oil in a large, solid bottomed frying pan, a big cast iron one with a thick base is ideal and add the lamb shanks. Over a medium heat brown the shanks for around ten minutes, turning regularly with a pair of tongues, for an even colour. Searing the meat will give the shanks a lovely appealing colour at the end of the finished dish. Remove the lamb shanks and add the onion. Cook for around ten minutes, until the onions are soft and starting to caramelise, stirring occasionally, then add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Turn down the heat a little as we do not want the next ingredients to stick to the pan and burn. Stir in the flour and tomato purée, cook for two or three more minutes stirring all the time, to cook out the flour mix then add the wine. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a large wooden spoon to release any sticky meat pieces and mix until the wine is combined with the flour and tomato paste.

Place the lamb shanks into a deep sided casserole and season very well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover with the wine mixture and the stock and add your bouquet garni. To make your bouquet garni fill the two sides of the celery stalk with the herbs push together and tie up with butcher’s string. ( Ask your butcher for a few meters or better still if he will sell you a ball ). Leave a few extra inches of string to secure the bouquet garni to the casserole handle. Bring the dish to a simmer, cover with a lid or tightly with foil and place in the oven. Cook for one hour and in the meantime you can wash, peel and chop your vegetables. Using a pair of oven gloves carefully remove the shanks from the oven. Loosen and remove the foil, allowing the steam to safely escape. Sprinkle with the prepared vegetables and reseal with the foil. Replace in the oven and cook for another hour until the lamb is cooked and wonderfully tender. Carefully remove the dish from the oven and place on a heatproof surface.

Carefully pour out the cooking liquid into a medium-sized pan and bring up to a vigorous boil. Keep the lamb and vegetables covered with the foil, in a warm oven, alongside some large deep sided serving bowls. Reduce the cooking liquid by around a third until thick and glossy, straining off any excess fat with a small ladle. You can serve immediately in the deep sided bowls garnished with a sprig of rosemary and an extra jug of sauce, or if you want you can quickly cool and reheat the next day.

Allergens in this recipe are;

Celery  Flour

Please see the Allergens Page


A pan of Seafood Paella

How to make the best Paella de marisco

Like many recipes, the following for an authentic paella de marisco, may at first glance seem pretty daunting, please just keep in mind it is basically rice. I love rice and it is very easy to cook if you follow some simple rules. The principle behind making a good paella de marisco is very simple one, much like a risotto, you want to drive as many of the flavours from the stock and other ingredients into the rice, but unlike a risotto, you do not stir during the entire duration of cooking. There is a myriad of varieties of paella and a huge number of ingredients that go into different regional recipes, some call for chicken, rabbit or snails.  This is my recipe is for a great, authentic paella de marisco or seafood paella, packed with tasty mussels and prawns and with a rich, full flavour from the garlic, Chorizo and smoked paprika.

A pan of Seafood Paella

A large Seafood Paella

It is really important when making your paella de marisco to use the right rice, many Spanish people use a short grain variety called Bahia, grown in South & South-eastern Spain. It requires around two times its own volume in cooking liquor. For that extra special paella, there is a variety of rice called Bomba – this is a slow growing rice that absorbs three times its own volume when cooked without falling apart. As paella is primarily about the flavours of the stock being absorbed into the rice this is a particularly excellent variety, although it can be quite expensive. About a 100g of rice per person Bomba or standard paella rice will give a good main-course size portion, which means 1Kg of rice will make about a 10 person paella

Your paella pan, the name paella is a Catalan derivative of an old French word for pan, should be a sturdy and made of polished steel, to care for it follow the technique in my early post for looking after your wok or any cast iron pan. The reason there are so many different sizes of paella pan is that it is important not to create a paella that is too deep. Your final paella needs to be a “dry” rice and having the dish too full will not allow any excess cooking liquor to evaporate out once cooked. As a basic rule of thumb, a paella should not be deeper than the rivets for the handles on the paella pans. Traditionally paella is cooked over an open fire as you may have seen in Spanish fiestas or festivals. The way to achieve an authentic paella is to allow me to introduce Sofrito and Socorat.

The Sofrito and the Socorat

The Sofrito and the Socorat are not characters or events in Don Quixote. They are the key to you making an outstanding classic paella de marisco . The sofrito is a fried tomato paste, do not worry if you don’t like tomato – you will never know it’s there. It adds a rich sweet note to the finished paella. The socorat is perhaps the most highly prized part of a paella. It is the dark caramalised rice that sticks to the bottom of the pan.

Paella de marisco or Seafood paella

Paella de marisco


Seafood Paella – serves 4 to 6 

200 gr Monkfish Fillet

150 gr Squid

125 gr good quality Smoked Chorizo Sausage, very finely diced

12 Prawns, the bigger the better, peeled and de-veined

4 King Prawns or Gambas , as big or bigger than the prawns

500 gr approximately Mussels, washed and scrubbed

Sweet Paprika (Pimentón Dulce)

100 gr cooked Butter Beans

2 Red Peppers, thinly sliced

Saffron

Paella Rice, one cupful per person

Chicken or Fish Stock approximately twice as much as the rice

1 large Spanish onion, peeled and very finely chopped

4 cloves of Garlic, peeled and very finely chopped

1 small tin of chopped Tomatoes

Peas (as many as you like)

A glass of good dry White Wine

Good quality Olive Oil

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

Freshly chopped Parsley

A large 6 person Paella pan

In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan place the diced chorizo sausage and generously cover with olive oil, heat until the oil just starts to bubble then turn down to lowest setting and keep on the lowest possible simmer for thirty minutes. Be careful not to have the sausage on a high heat and burn the chorizo, the aim is to slowly confit the meat in the oil to release the delicious flavours. Remove from heat and cool, then store in airtight container in the fridge. This can be made up to a week ahead of time. This braised chorizo is great gently re-heated in stews, casseroles, with chicken, as a garnish to monkfish, sea bass and oysters. As with many recipes, some people are probably shaking their heads at the addition of chorizo ( They don’t do that in Spain you know ) to a seafood paella but once you smell the heavily flavoured oil sizzling in your pan I think you will be convinced.

Score and cut the squid into cubes about two centimetres each and then slice the monkfish fillet into finger thick escallops. Heat a generous serving spoon of the flavoured chorizo oil in the paella pan, when the oil is smoking add the prawns and crayfish, sauté for a minute or two then remove and put to one side. Next, put the squid in the pan and fry until light golden brown. Remove and add to the prawns.

For the sofrito

In a little further oil gently sauté the onion for five minutes without colouring. Add the tin of chopped tomatoes. Turn up the heat and cook the tomatoes with the onion until it reduced into a very thick dark red paste. Stir continuously to prevent the sofrito from sticking and burning, but reduce it right down.
Add the garlic, saffron, and paprika and stir everything around before adding the rice. Pour in the fish stock, wine, pepper slices, around a ½ teaspoon of salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper and bring it up to the boil and simmer. After ten minutes of cooking add the butter beans, peas, prawns, the crayfish and the mussels. Cook for an extra five minutes until almost all the liquid has been absorbed. Occasionally gently shake the pan to prevent the large ingredients from sticking to the bottom of the pan, DO NOT STIR.

For the socorat

Turn up the heat to full for no more than a minute or so. You will hear the rice start to “pop”. After a short time, “popping” (thirty seconds or so) turn off the heat completely. Interestingly this is how popped rice cereals made without the fish flavouring!

Resting is important for the final flavours to develop and the rice to finish cooking. If you want to decorate your paella with extra pre-cooked prawns and mussels on the half shell, then this is a good time to add them so they can warm through. Cover with a double layer of foil and leave it to rest for ten minutes. Serve with lemon wedges and parsley straight from the pan.

Allergens in this recipe are;

Celery    Raw Fish Milk Oyster Crab

Please see the Allergens Page


Mouclade - Curried Mussels

My Mouclade

Who knows why food or for that matter anything goes out of fashion? I understand the immense commercial pressures that drive constant changing styles as a means to generate more sales but classics are, well exactly that, and need to be cooked and promoted and certainly not overlooked and left in dusty recipe books on cobwebbed shelves. Please don’t get me wrong I am not a culinary Luddite ( I have a food blog ! ) but from previous posts, you will see I am somewhat of a classic recipe champion. I guess today’s dish was overtaken by the wave of fusion cooking combining Asian style ingredients with traditional western cooking techniques. A Thai green curry of some description almost became ubiquitous on every restaurant menu and Thai style mussels were no exception. The precursor of the Thai curried mussel was the traditional French dish Mouclade.

Mouclade - Curried Mussels

Mouclade – Curried Mussels

My memories of back street family run bistros with Formica tables and BYO drinking ( Bring Your Own, normally from the off licence just down the street ) was that the dining was strictly hit and miss. Of course, the memory of the successes carries on, I remember eating a simple pan-fried cod’s roe with lemon, parsley, and brown butter in a Greek style taverna in Charing Cross that really hit the spot and Mouclade in a tiny two storey French café/bar just behind my student accommodation in Huddersfield*. You cannot really get any further from the sea than Huddersfield or perhaps anywhere less Gallic than a Yorkshire mill town but oh those mussels. And what’s not to like with Mouclade, plump, salty, full of flavour mussels in a bowl of creamy lightly spiced sauce with mountains of crusty bread.

The following recipe for Mouclade is my adaptation of the classic recipe, the fish stock adding depth and richness to the finished sauce and the mango chutney a touch of sweetness. You can use white wine, but I think the finished result with the cider adding a touch of necessary acidity is I believe more in keeping with the Brittany origins of the dish. The saffron may seem a little extravagant but the resulting colour is glorious. If you wish to make a somewhat simpler version of Mouclade, you can omit the egg yolks just add the cream and boil to reduce the sauce before returning to the mussels and serving.

*I have eaten the dish since in France and it was just as good, well almost!

 

Mouclade                 serves  up to 6 people

Around 2 kilos fresh Mussels ( about 400 gr to 650 gr of mussels per person )

A good sized nugget of Butter

A slug of quality Olive Oil

6 large Leeks, washed, trimmed and finely diced

6 cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

200 ml of quality Fish Stock

125 ml of Strong Dry Cider

125 ml Thick Cream

1 heaped tablespoon good quality mild Curry Powder

1 tablespoon Mango Chutney

¼ teaspoon fresh Thyme

A generous pinch of Saffron threads

2 Fresh free-range Egg Yolks

A good handful of Coriander, washed, dried and roughly chopped

Juice of 2 freshly squeezed lemons

Freshly ground Black Pepper

In a very large heavy bottomed pan melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the leeks, garlic, and thyme and sauté for at least ten minutes to soften them. Turn up the heat and add the fish stock, cider, curry powder, mango chutney and a good few turns of the pepper mill. Bring to a simmer and cook for ten more minutes, stirring regularly. Then tip in the mussels and cover with tight-fitting lid. Steam the mussels for five minutes shaking the pan occasionally until the mussels are all open. Meanwhile in a small bowl whisk together the egg yolks, lemon juice, saffron, and cream.

Remove the mussels from the heat and strain off the cooking liquor, replace the lid and keep warm. Heat the liquor in a smaller pan until it starts to simmer and add the cream and egg mix, continuously stirring and cook for two more minutes. Do not boil as the sauce will curdle, just gently simmer until it starts to thicken and goes glossy. Add the sauce back to the mussels, stir to coat all the mussels, finish with the chopped coriander and serve.

Allergens in this recipe are;

Celery    Raw Fish Milk Oyster

Please see the Allergens Page


Whole cooked Lobster

Clarissa Dickson Wright – Cooking with a Legend

Or how to poach a Lobster with Clarissa Dickson Wright

When I was working as a chef for the Tresco Estate everyone discovered we were to be the focus of an episode of ‘Clarissa and the Countryman‘, a series on some of the great landed estates of the English aristocracy. As the island was in winter mode with many of the staff on holiday I was very fortunate to be given the chance to chauffeur the two stars around the island in a golf buggy and help with the final days filming. It was an amazing encounter and Clarissa and Johnny Scott were formidable, fascinating and charming guests.

Fresh Lobster

Fresh Lobster

It was eye-opening to see the work that goes into even the shortest of TV clips and in particular the last shot of the program where Clarissa and Johnny sat in the middle of one of the longest beaches on Tresco, Appletree Bay, and boiled a fresh Scillonian lobster over a fire of roaring driftwood. The camera and operator were placed in a small boat and zoomed in from the sea to film a close up of the chatting stars. All this would be perfectly easy in the height of summer but in March with a blustery sea breeze a little more complicated.

All the necessary ingredients and equipment was procured including two glorious lobsters, a large pan and the one single juicy lemon growing in the world-famous garden. Runners for the program and willing volunteers were drafted in to block off any entrances to the beach, patiently explaining to bird watchers and dog walkers the presence of the film crew. A pit was dug in the sand, and dry wood piled insufficient to heat the large pan of sea water. All very authentic and excellent, apart from the increasingly gusty breeze. Despite the best efforts of former scouts, producers, locals, and Uncle Tom Cobbley the fire would not take and the light was dying as the sun set over the next island. There was only one solution dear reader.

A quick trip to the island store, known as the Harrods of the Islands, an armful of firelighters later the fire was roaring ( the lighter fuel helped too ). The pan was filled with boiling water from the kitchen at The New Inn and a backup, precooked lobster dropped in the now steaming pan. The last touch to ensure a brilliant shot of flames licking up the side of the pan, involved yours truly laid in the sand, arms outstretched waterproof jacket acting as a windbreak. A bright pink lobster was duly removed from the boiling water and cut open on the beach. The result, a great piece of film. I will always cherish the memories of this day.

Whole cooked Lobster

Freshly cooked Lobster

I am at heart a big fan of enjoying the sweet delicate flavour of lobster as unadorned as possible and simply poached and served with a little melted butter and lemon. This, however, is not a simple matter, the purist would have you boil the lobster in seawater and this is not always easy or even safe. The alternative is fresh water with added sea salt ( add thirty grammes of natural sea salt per litre of water ).

My own choice is in a light court-bullion which is an ideal cooking medium for poaching fish, seafood, and chicken. I have adopted my recipe from Richard Onley’s, The French Menu Cookbook, a recently reprinted classic and thoroughly good read. Today’s top tip is when poaching lobsters place them in your freezer ten minutes prior to cooking, this will sedate the lobsters sufficiently to allow you to easily drop them in your boiling pan without the lobsters thrashing about and splashing you with scalding hot liquid.

Fruits de Mare

Fruits de Mare with cooked Lobster

To poach 1 or 2 1 ½ lb Lobsters or a whole poached Salmon

4 litres of freshly drawn cold Water

350 ml quality White Wine

3 large Shallots, peeled and chopped

4 sticks of Celery, washed and chopped

2 medium Carrots, peeled and chopped

1 Leek, thoroughly washed and sliced

½ bulb of Fennel, washed and sliced

1 Bay Leaf

1 sprig fresh Thyme

1 sprig Tarragon

8 fresh Parsley stems

½ teaspoon Black Peppercorns, crushed

1 fresh Lemon, halved

Place in a very large pan, cover and bring to the boil. Add the lobsters and bring back to the boil and simmer for eight to ten minutes. Using a spider remove the lobsters and plunge in lots of iced water to arrest any further cooking.

For a medium poached salmon, place the washed salmon in a fish kettle or deep tray on a triple folded piece of foil. This will allow you to lift the cooked salmon out later. Cover with cold court bullion and a tight-fitting lid. Bring to the boil, simmer for four minutes and remove from heat. Leave in cooking liquor until total cold. Lift out and drain.

The French Menu Cookbook

Richard Olney

Random House

ISBN 978-1-60774-002-5

Allergens in this recipe are;

Celery   Crab

Please see the Allergens Page