Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Jamie Oliver's slow roast shoulder of lamb with root mash and two sauces

This was our Christmas Eve meal. And what a meal. It's one of those recipes that, like the Brisket Chili, you will cook again and again.

I was cooking for 5 on Christmas Eve and our butcher suggested a whole shoulder would be required. At £10 this seemed like good value and an affordable way to feed a few people. It was certainly a lot more affordable than using a leg of lamb - less than half price in fact.

The original recipe calls for rosemary and garlic to be added to the lamb for roasting, but I didn't bother. I simply browned it in the roasting pan then covered it tightly with tin foil and put it in a very hot oven. As soon as it goes into the oven the heat gets turned down low, to about 170, lower if you've got a hot oven.

After an hour or so you can start to smell the lamb cooking, which certainly doesn't hurt the appetite!

With about half an hour to go I prepared 2 large carrots, 1 large celeriac and a few potatoes. They all went into big pot of cold water and then went on to boil. A few recipes I've read suggest cooking root veg from cold to ensure proper cooking throughout. Whether it is important or not, the veg always end up very tender.

Once cooked, the veg is drained and allowed to steam for a few minutes to help reduce any excess moisture. Then it's mashed with as much butter as you like, ideally quite a bit, and some salt and pepper. You can go for a smooth, uniform texture if you want, or leave it chunky which I think is more visually appealing.

When the lamb is ready, after about 4 hours, take it out of the oven and rest it on a clean chopping board covered with tin foil and a tea towel or two. Use the roasting pan juices to make a great gravy. You can either do this the English way and add some browning and thickening agents. Or go French/Italian and just reduce the juices slightly for a sauce that is thinner but just as tasty.

To go with the lamb I made a couple of sauces. Well, one sauce and one dry seasoning. I made a simple fresh mint sauce using a little water, some sugar, lots of fresh, chopped mint and some white wine vinegar.

I also made some Dukkah, an Egyptian dish of various seeds (cumin, coriander, sesame) and almonds which are roasted then crushed and spiced with paprika. The result is a wonderfully nutty, crunchy and spicy tasting seasoning which works with just about everything. It's great with oily/fatty foods like lamb and fish such as mackerel and herring. It also works very nicely with bread dipped in oil.

If success is clean plates, then this was a success. There was nothing left. The meat could be 'carved' with a spoon and just about fell off the bones and was devoured by everyone. The root mash was a similar hit, and everyone seemed to enjoy the dukkah as well.

What can I say? Give it a go. You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, 18 December 2011


What a great name for a Turkish patisserie and bakery - Bristanbul. And what a great place for lunch or a snack. Me and the missus grabbed a bite to eat there yesterday whilst we were shopping on Gloucester Road for steaks (from Murray's).

We had these very tasty pastry rolls. Well, actually we shared a mince and parsley 'roll' first. This was a roll of filo like flaky pastry rather than bread. The pastry was crisp and covered in sesame seeds so it had a lovely nutty taste, with a nicely spiced filling which was a bargain at £1.60. The missus then went back in for a potato and onion roll which was, if anything, even tastier. (I stuck with the burger from Murray's, but it was a tough decision).

You can eat in as well as takeaway, and I suspect they do amazing coffee. It's a shame that Bristanbul is a little bit too far up Gloucester Road for me to be able to make it up there and back in a lunch break or I'd be there every lunchtime.

Thinking of eating out in Bristol, read more reviews of Bristol Restaurants.

Sunday, 4 December 2011


Demuths has been around for, ooh, about as long as I can remember. It's not a place I have eaten at often, largely because it is a vegetarian restaurant. But that was exactly the reason why I went there today.

It was the missus' birthday on Monday, and she has been becoming increasingly keen on exploring the idea of vegetarianism. I think that anyone who thinks a lot about the food that they eat will at some point examine the way the feel about eating meat. Some may end up thinking it's unnatural and stop eating meat, others may simply have a greater respect about where it comes from and what it means to eat meat. Which is the camp I'm in. The missus is still undecided.

With that in mind, and with the thought that we both want to expand our repertoire of vegetarian dishes and try to have better ideas about preparing vegetarian meals, I thought I'd take her out to lunch to one of the best vegetarian restaurants in the area.

I had been considering going to a vegetarian restaurant in Bristol - Cafe Maitreya - but the lunch menu at Demuths looked a bit more interesting. And I was also taking the missus along to the Field of Lights at the Holburne Museum.

A small restaurant, Demuths is probably best described as intimate. Although booking ahead and mentioning that it was for a birthday did mean we got a secluded alcove which helped it feel more private.

When we sat down, at about 2.30pm, we seemed to have arrived about 5 minutes after quite a few other tables who all ordered before us. I was dreading a long wait until we would get our meals. But the kitchen is obviously well run (by Head Chef, Richard Buckley) and we didn't notice any delay. Full marks for service.

I chose the Blue Vinny Tart with potatoes and salad. On reflection exactly the sort of uninspired stuff that I wanted to try and avoid - quiche. But that doesn't do it justice. Although it lacked a real punch of blue cheese the quality of the tart and the skill that had gone into making it were obvious. The portion was, for me, a little small. But I enjoyed eating it, and didn't feel like I hadn't had enough. The preserved lemon oil used to dress the salad was delicious.

The missus went for Port Poached Pear with ewe's milk cheese, hazelnuts, spelt and fennel seeds and was very, very pleased. We seem to have gorged on pears this year. I've lost count of the number of times we've made Pear, Beetroot and Feta Salad. I didn't taste any due to the hazelnuts (I've got a nut allergy). But she loved it and she has a great palate, so I trust her judgement.

Meat free certainly feels like a nicer way to eat sometimes, and though this meal may not have provided a great deal of inspiration for home cooking it has made me more inclined to consider eating at other vegetarian restaurants. Cafe Maitreya next on the list I shouldn't wonder.