Wednesday 2 December 2020

week 46 - Fire Island - Eleanor Ford

Of the (literally) thousands of things I have cooked for the Ewing, there is only one she hasn't eaten; my beef rendang. Describing it as 'gritty' (I wasn't allowed to use her coffee grinder to grind the spices...) and 'too hot'. She actually cried. Firstly because of all the chillis and secondly as she didn't want to miss out on dinner. 

I must admit, I actually thought it was pretty good and bravely managed to eat my way through it - alongside a large glass of water - but rendang has always been a favourite of mine. I would say since the days of visiting Bali as a child (my Dad was a freight forwarder in the 80s, and worked with Garuda Airlines) but I can't say I actually remember eating it when we were there. Perhaps because it's a Sumatran dish, or perhaps because I was too busy drinking green Fanta and eating banana fritters.

While this disappointing dinner happened years ago, I've never let the Ewing forget it. Mostly by randomly bringing it up out the blue, while dramatically exclaiming that I wouldn't make it for her again while she retorted with 'well, that's hardly a threat'. Of course, I always wanted to make it again - if only to prove to my wife I could make a version she would would like (and yes, of course, because I like it too...).

Enter Fire Islands, another book I accidentally somehow bought while browsing the internet. A purchase I quickly justified at the idea of recreating the foodie memories of my youth, as the book contains familiar satay, roast pork (a Balinese speciality) and a chicken and coconut curry from Lombok - a neighbouring Indonesian island we flew to in a tiny little turbo prop which I remember for the white sands and tropical fish and getting sick and hallucinating in bed while watching a lizard climbing the wall -  that I also wanted to try.

Rendang is slightly unusual as you make it in reverse to the way you most slow-cooked stews. Here you braise the beef (something that benefits from slow cooking, like brisket or shin) in coconut milk and spices until the liquid has completely reduced and the meat begins to fry in it's own fat plus the oil from the coconut milk and the intensely flavoured sauce has become wonderfully fragrant and sticky. 

It isn't hard to make - you could even do the first part in a slow cooker or in the oven, and then finish off reducing on the hob - but you do have to watch over it for the last 20/30 minutes or so - it always takes a little longer than you think - so the meat doesn't catch and start to burn.

The slow cooking means that, if prepared properly until the sauce is very thick, the rendang will last for a week or so in the fridge. Although, I have to report, this was wolfed down greedily by both of us Despite it's richness, we could of happily finished it all in one go but I did manage to stretch it out over two nights, served with turmeric rice and tenderstem broccoli. I think I've finally redeemed myself.

Beef Rendang
Adapted from Fire Island by Eleanor Ford 

2 tins full-fat coconut milk
1kg beef brisket or shin, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon dark palm sugar or brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 lime leaves
1 lemongrass stick, trimmed, bruised and tied in a knot
1 cinnamon stick
spice paste
8 small red Asian shallots, peeled (I used one red onion)
5 large red chillies, seeded
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2.5 cm galangal, skin scrubbed (I used more ginger)
2.5 cm ginger, peeled
2.5 cm turmeric, peeled, or 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 nutmeg, grated
pinch of ground cloves

Roughly chop all the ingredients for the spice baste and whizz to a paste in a food processor or Nutribullet. Add a good splash of the coconut milk to help the blades do their work. Once smooth, transfer to a large wok or large, shallow casserole pan.

Add all the other ingredients to the wok, making sure there is enough liquid to submerge the meat – add a splash of water if needed. Bring to the boil, stirring to stop the coconut milk splitting. Lower the heat and cook at a slow-medium bubble, more lively than a simmer as the liquid needs to reduce. 
Cook uncovered for about 2 hours, stirring from time to time. The meat should be tender, most of the liquid evaporated and the oil will have separated from the coconut milk. Remove the lemongrass and cinnamon.

At this stage, the meat and spices that have been braising will start to fry in the hot oil. At this point take care than the meat doesn't start to stick and burn. For about 105 minutes, you will need to stir gently but frequently over a medium heat until the coconut oil becomes thick and brown. The stir-frying then needs to be continuous for the final 15 minutes or so, until the oil has been absorbed by the meat, which will be a dark brown.

Leave to rest (overnight if possible). Rendang keeps well in the fridge and the flavours only improve.

Monday 30 November 2020

week 45 - New British Classics - Gary Rhodes

A neighbour of my Mum's gives her a brace of pheasants every Christmas. The first time she drove by and offered her some, my Mum enthusiastically agreed, peered into the car boot and was greeted by two beaks and lots of feathers. Luckily she's made of pretty stern stuff, and soon after they were plucked and drawn and had become pheasant casserole. Which has become our traditional Christmas Eve supper (probably replaced by KFC on the way back from the pub this year, as the Ewing and I are staying home. I can deal with that; as long as there's hot wings and extra gravy).

While nothing is quite the same in 2020, I didn't want to miss out on game season completely, so I turned to the late, great Gary Rhodes' New British Classics - a tome that celebrates and reinvents archetypal dishes from haggis to hotpot - in search of some inspiration. 

While Rhodes' style is a little too precise for my 'chuck it in and give it a stir' philosophy, it's a great book - enthusiastically written and researched at a time when it was most needed - in 1988 Rhodes appeared on Floyd on Britain and Island, cooking his signature oxtail dish but by the time British Classics was published, a little over a decade later, British beef on the bone had been banned due to vCJD. He still included the recipe and, thankfully, it's now safely available again. Although I wonder if the boost he have it also accounts for the eye-watering cost of buying what once was a cheap cut.

Unlike my Mum, I don't live near a shoot. I'm also more than happy for someone to do the hard work for me. Luckily Waitrose came to the rescue, with the bonus that their pheasants are not only- oven ready, but are are also bacon-topped to protect the white meat that's prone to dryness. Of course you could easily use chicken in this recipe - whole or jointed - or a guinea fowl or a couple of partridge, which should be pretty easy to source at this time of year. 

Gary roasts his pheasant while the barley is cooking but, in the absence of a main oven, I pot-roasted mine in the top oven with the lid on, sitting on the part-cooked barley, to keep the delicate meat stayed moist. I also used smoked bacon, not green, from the great Orchard View Farm shop, deep in the Buckinghamshire countryside, as I the smokiness matched the whisky. 

Finally I chucked in some celery, a great match with pheasant. Some diced carrot or mushrooms, added to the pot with the barley, would also work well and boost the veg quota. A perfect autumnal Sunday lunch after a long walk through a misty wood. Follow with a nip of the same whisky that went into the sauce.

Pot roasted pheasant with bacon and pearl barley
Adapted from Gary Rhodes New British Classics

1 oven-ready hen pheasant
175g smoked bacon lardons
2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2tbsp vegetable oil or rapeseed oil
600ml chicken stock
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

For the sauce
4 tbsp Scotch whisky
200ml chicken stock
100ml double cream

Rinse the barley under a cold tap. Heat 1tbsp of the oil in a casserole dish (with a lid) add the bacon, celery and onion and cook until onion is translucent. Add the barley, cover with stock, put the lid the pan and cook on low for 30 mins until the barley is nearly done.
Pre-heat the oven to 180c
While the barley is cooking heat a tbsp of oil in a pan and place the pheasant, breast side down, in the pan. Brown both sides and then place, breast side up, on top of the barley. Cover with a lid, place in the oven and cook for 25/30 minutes or until the juices run clear when you pierce the thigh.
While the pheasant is roasting, place the pan used to brown the pheasant back on the hob and add the whisky to deglaze. Add the chicken stock, reduce by half and add the cream. Simmer for another five minutes and then add add another splash of neat whisky.
Cut the legs off the birds and carve the breasts. Place the meat on a bed of the bacon and barley, serve with veg and the cream sauce poured over the pheasant.
Finish with chopped parsley.

Saturday 28 November 2020

week 44 - River Cottage Everyday - Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall

I remember borrowing a copy of River Cottage Everyday from the library over a decade ago, when when it first came out, and excitedly poring over the lunch ideas, such as the mackerel with puy lentils, leftover lamb with lemon and mint, or the green bean and chicken salad with almonds. And then picking up a Boots meal deal (chicken and stuffing on malted bread, Innocent juice - one without kiwi - and a packet of salt and vinegar squares) on the way to work. 

Being stuck at home a lot this year, and rapidly running out of inspiration for easy dinners and wfh lunches, I decided to order a second-hand copy (again, ignoring my own advice to use the books I already have, now piling up in heaps on the floor, as they won't fit on the shelves) 

Predictably, I haven't made any of the recipes that I have bookmarked but I have made the one recipe that takes the longest; the overnight bacon chops (to be fair, it is hands off for 23 and a half hours of the prep time). I actually used a couple of king ribs for this, and you can even cure a piece of belly in the same way. It won't have the pink colour of commercial bacon (due to lack of nitrites) and you can't get rashers without a meat slicer, but you can cut into chunks and use in all the things you'd normally put bacon in (pretty much everything).

Unusually, this #cookbookchallenge actually started with the sides first; in this case because I found a solitary turk's turban squash growing in the front garden on return from our holiday - between all the green tomatoes and the unfertilised tomatillo plant. After spotting it growing from from the rapidly withering vine that trailed across the lawn, I was determined to give it a fitting send off.

As it wasn't a prize-winning size, and I wasn't quite sure how the flesh would taste, I also bought a medium crown prince squash (for a quid in Morrison's as part of their Halloween display. A bargain when I had bough one for nearly four times as much from Waitrose earlier in the year for my Thai pork rib and pumpkin curry).

The result was Hugh's 'mushy squash'. So called as he recommends it as a autumnal replacement for the traditional peas, to accompany fried fish among many other things. The mix of squash worked very well, making a sweet and nutty mash flavoured with a little nutmeg and sage and plenty of butter. It was especially good against the saltiness of the cured pork rib.

Mushy Squash
Adapted from River Cottage Everyday

1 tablespoon rapeseed or olive oil
About 600g butternut or Crown Prince squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into small cubes
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
3–4 sage leaves, finely chopped
50g unsalted butter

Heat the oil in a pan, add the squash and fry gently for a few minutes. Add the garlic and sage, season with salt and pepper and cook until the garlic just begins to colour. Immediately add 2–3 tablespoons of water to stop the garlic browning any more. 
Cover the pan with a lid and let the squash finish cooking; it should be tender within about 10/15 minutes; add a little more water if the pan becomes dry.
Blend the squash along with the the butter, until you have a thick puree. Add a dash of milk or water if needed. Season to taste.

Overnight-cured bacon chops
Adapted from River Cottage Everyday

4 large free-range pork chops or 2 king ribs
2 tbsp sunflower or groundnut oil

50g fine sea salt
25g caster sugar or soft brown sugar
3 bay leaves, finely shredded
12 juniper berries, crushed
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Combine all the ingredients for the cure and put them into a plastic container or ceramic dish (a metal one is liable to react with the cure). Add the pork chops and rub the cure lightly all over the meat with your fingers.
 Cover the container and leave in a cool place (a cool larder or fridge) overnight or for at least 12 hours, or 24 hours for extra-large or thick-cut pork chops, but no longer....
Turn the chops once or twice, if you remember. Then rinse them well and pat dry.
Your pork is now cured, your chops are now bacon. 
Use immediately or keep in a sealed container in the fridge for five to six days, and the flavour will improve. They also freeze well.
To cook the chops, heat the oil in a large frying pan over a high heat and brown them on both sides then place on a baking sheet in an oven, preheated at 180c, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until cooked through. Rest for five minutes before serving with squash squash, or mash and greens.

Sunday 22 November 2020

week 43 - Falling Cloudberries - Tessa Kiros

In lockdown part one, back when we couldn't leave the house without 'a reasonable excuse', our Saturday routine mainly consisted of watching Saturday Kitchen and then hiking up the hill to the butchers to buy ingredients to recreate what we had just seen. I had even prepared my 'Matt Tebbutt made me do it' excuse, ready for if we were stopped by any policemen.

One of the recipes we watched was from a clip of a Rick Stein Venice to Istanbul, where he was in a kitchen in the Greek Peloponnese watching a very jolly lady make a moussaka. As she was merrily cooking it, in between questioning Rick on why his shirt was so sodden (to be fair, in 40 plus degree heat I would have melted), making it the voice over advised that the secret to making the secret to a good moussaka was to fry all the vegetable in olive oil first. Even the site of Rick sweating profusely in the background wasn't enough to put the Ewing off.

In those early summer summer, when we actually enjoyed a run of glorious weather, the idea of standing over a hot stove, frying things and dousing them in bechamel, seemed far less appealing. Despite the temperatures being far more clement in the Chilterns than the Greek Islands.

Still, I hadn't forgotten that that I had promised to make it, and so when the weather turned a bit cooler I turned to Falling Cloudberries - a book that traverses continents to bring together family recipes and has a big Greek and Cypriot chapter, based on food cooked by her paternal grandparents - for a recipe.

This time the meat (I always thought moussaka was made with lamb but apparently beef is more traditional and Kiros uses a mixture of pork and beef) wasn't from the butcher, but instead from the Knepp Estate, bought from our camping trip back in August. Coming from longhorn cattle, raised on the estate, it was the perfect base for a rich tomatoey sauce with wine and onions and infused with bay leaves and cinnamon.

Many recipes only include a layer aubergines, but Kiros uses both aubergine and potato (my mother made a very 80s version with potato and aubergine, that I was never particularly a fan of. Sorry Mum), While the lady on Rick Stein also used courgettes in her version. Personally, I think the layer of spuds are what makes this dish a bit different, but go with what ever floats your boat.

I also grilled the aubergines and baked the potato slices - both brushed with oil - before layering. Not only does it make the dish a bit healthier (this is always going to be a bit of a rib-sticker) it's also far easier than having to fry everything in batches. I was also very impressed with how the potatoes came out and, cooked a little longer, would have made a great side dish on their own.

Finally, the becahamel. Just a thick white sauce made with a simple roux of butter and flour and flavoured with a little freshly grated nutmeg. A blanket of comforting bliss. Just remember that the moussaka needs to stand for a while after the final cook, so that it doesn't collapse when you cut it. It is often served lukewarm, or even cold, which is not as strange as it seems, which also helps highlight all the individual layers of flavour. And always make more than you think you can eat, as the leftovers are even better the next day.

Moussaka - adapted from Tessa Kiros

2 large aubergines
100ml light olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
500g minced beef (or a  ix of beef and pork)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp dried oregano
1 bay leaf
125 ml white wine
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
500g potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1cm slices

100 g butter
120 g plain flour
1 litre warm milk
freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 180c and turn the grill to high.
Trim the sends off the aubergine and slice length ways into 5 mm. place on a baking sheet, brush with oil on both sides and grill until golden on both sides.
Toss the potato slices in oil, salt and place on a baking tray, cook for about 25 minutes, turning halfway, until they have softened and are starting to colour.
Place the aubergine and potatoes on a plate to cool.

Heat 1 tablespoons of the oil in a wide non-stick saucepan. soften the onion, then add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes, being careful not to let the garlic burn
Add the mince and cook over medium-high heat until the meat loses its water and begins to brown, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Add the cinnamon, oregano and bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. When the mince is golden, add the wine let most of it evaporate, stirring up any bits from the bottom of the pan.
Add the tinned tomato and leave it to simmer for about 30 minutes, uncovered, stirring now and then.
Remove the slices to a plate lined with kitchen paper to absorb some of the oil while you finish the next lot, adding only a tablespoon of oil if possible between batches.

To finish - preheat the oven to 180c.
Arrange half the aubergine over the base of your oven dish. Then add half the meat. Add all the potatoes in the next layer, followed by a second layer of aubergine and a second layer of meat.
Finally, the bechamel should be made just before you bake the moussaka. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly, then begin adding the warm milk, whisking constantly to stop lumps. Add salt, pepper and a grating of nutmeg and continue cooking on medium heat, for 5 minutes or so, stirring all the time, until you have a thcik, mooth sauce. Taste for seasoning and spoon over the mince.
Bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour with a baking sheet underneath to catch any spills, until the moussaka begins to bubble up and the top is golden in parts. Leave it in the oven to cool slightly before serving. Cut into traditional square slices to serve.

Tuesday 17 November 2020

week 42 - Lakeland Cookery

The last part of the Cumbrian Trilogy was, unlike many final instalments, a stone cold classic; the cheese scone. It's not a spoiler to reveal that I am currently sans a main oven at home (mainly as I have written about it almost constantly since the fan finally gave up the ghost), and so I made good use of the well-equipped kitchen we had in the Lakes. We even baked a bloody Christmas cake, which the Ewing has been feeding religiously with cherry brandy weekly since we got back home.

The recipe was given a Cumbrian twist by the fact it came from my latest purchase - Lakeland Cookery 'compiled from recipes supplied by readers of Cumbria'. While the original point of #cookbookchallenge was to utilise the many cookbooks I already possess, inevitably I have bought several (exact number unknown. Not that I'd disclose anyway, in case my wife is reading this...) since the challenge has begun. 

I saw this gem in a charity book shop in Kendal, so how could I refuse. And we picked up two St Michael cook books; the height of 80s dependability which adorned the bookshelves in both our mother's kitchens as we were growing up.

The scones received a further local boost by being filled with not one, not two, no not three, but four different types of Cumbrian cheese. The Holbrook (goat) and Fellstone (cow) came from Cartmel Cheeses (picked up after our visit to L'Enclume). While the Thornby Cumbrian Farmhouse (cow) was made down the road from where we were staying, and was left for us by our hosts. The final cheese was a gooey Eden Valley brie, that added some welcome ooze.

Cumbrian Cheese Scones - adapted from Lakeland Cookery

225g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
pinch of salt
1 tbsp finely chopped chives
1 tsp baking powder
55g chilled butter, cut into cubes (you can also grate if you put into the freezer for half an hour before you need it)
120g hard cheese, grated
30g brie or similar soft cheese, chopped into small chunks
90-100ml milk, plus 1 tbsp for glazing

Heat the oven to 180c with a baking tray inside. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl.
Add the butter to the bowl and lightly rub in with your fingertips to make breadcrumbs. Add 100g of the hard cheese and all the soft cheese and gently stir in.
Make a well in the centre of the mixture and slowly pour in the milk it comes together into a dough.
Flour a surface and shape into a round. Place on baking parchment, cut into six wedges, glaze with milk and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. 
Place the baking parchment onto the hot oven tray and bake in the oven for 15-20 mins or until golden brown and cooked through.

I also made a bonus batch of Buttermere biscuits, and gave some to our hosts next door to say thank you for their hospitality. I was originally drawn to the recipe as they sounded very similar to a Shrewsbury biscuit - a crisp buttery biscuit flavoured with currants and lemon zest - which is one of may faves. When I Googled it afterwards I released the a Buttermere biscuit is a Shrewsbury biscuit. What's in a name? That which we call a cookie by any other name would smell as sweet.

Buttermere Biscuits - adapted Lakeland Cookery 

220g plain flour
110g butter
90g caster sugar, plus more to sprinkle on top
80g currants
½ tsp baking powder
1 large egg
Grated zest of one lemon

Rub the butter into the flour until you have fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the flour, currants, baking powder and zest.
Beat the egg in a bowl and add to the dry ingredients, cutting in with a knife. 
Bring the dough together with your hands. If it's dry, add a little milk or water.
Roll out to the thickness of a pound coin and cut into circles.
Brush the tops with milk and sprinkle a little sugar over the top. 
Place on lined baking sheets and bake for 15-20 minutes at 180c, or until a pale golden.

Saturday 14 November 2020

week 41 - Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook


After roast lamb shoulder with onion sauce the previous Sunday, this week it was roast pork. And, again keeping with the theme of local ingredients, the meat - a piece of rolled loin - was bought from W Lindsay in Cockermouth. And it was roasted with apples from the one of the two apple trees in the back garden of the holiday cottage we were staying in. 

The other apple tree was weighted down with cookers, so I also rustled up a Scandinavian apple charlotte for pudding. Like a proper domestic goddess. Served in what a subsequently realised was probably a crystal fruit bowl, found hidden in the back of a cupboard.

The recipes were from the wonderful Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook, also found in the back of a cupboard. First published in 1970, it features such wonders as chicken in aspic and turkey in aspic.  Never too much of a good thing. The most fascinating chapter, and certainly the one ltat has aged the least well, is based around pasta, rice and noodles; with recipes for noodles with a kidney sauce, with added tinned sweetcorn; cold rice salad with tongue and oranges; and , for desert, chocolate shell pudding (pasta shells in a sauce made of cocoa powder); and apple macaroni pudding (yes, apple puree with macaroni).

I have included pictures of both dishes I cooked, just to show the glorious wonder of technicolor. Lord alone knows how they made the food look quite so radioactive, but I would hazard a guess plenty of - subsequently banned - e numbers were involved. Luckily our dishes were artificial colour-free. Still garnished with plenty of curly parsley, though.

Celebration pork - adapted from the Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook

2kg pork loin - rolled or on the bone
Vegetable oil
8 eating apples - cored if you'd like- I couldn't find a corer, so didn't bother
curly parsley

Pre-heat the oven to 220c
Dry the pork skin and score, if it hasn't already been done by the butcher.
Rub a little vegetable oil in the skin, salt generously and roast for 25 minutes
turn the heat down and roast for another 40 minutes
Place the apples around the pork and cook for a further 40 minutes
If after this time you don’t have tooth-scattering crackling, carefully remove the apples, turn the heat up again and check every 5 mins until the skin has crackled.

I served it with carrots, lashings of gravy and colcannon - shredded leeks and cabbage cooked in butter and mixed through creamy mashed potatoes. And a baked apple per person. Three if you're the Ewing.

Scandinavian Apple Charlotte - adapted from the Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook

2½ cups cooking apples, peeled and cored
2-3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp butter
1-1½ tbsp brown sugar
1 cup bread crumbs
½ cup fresh whipping cream
grated chocolate to decorate

Roughly chop the apples and place in a pan with the sugar and a tbsp of water. 
Cover the pan with a lid and place it over low heat.
Cook apples until they break down into a lumpy puree, stirring occasionally. Add a splash more water if needed
Let the cooked apples cool down completely.
Gently heat butter in a frying pan over low heat.
Add the bread crumbs and mix.
Increase the heat to medium and the breadcrumbs and stir constantly till they become golden brown and are crispy. This takes longer than you think, as you want them to be very crisp, but be careful they don't burn.
Add sugar and mix well. Let the mixture cool down.
Whip the cream in a large bowl until it reaches soft peak consistency. 
Place a layer of apples in the bottom of a serving bowl (or four individual glasses)
Add a layer of crumbs, followed by another layer of apple puree and then another layer of crumbs.
Top with the whipped cream and decorate with chocolate shavings.
Refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours before serving.

Thursday 12 November 2020

week 40 What to Eat Now - Valentine Warner

You think you go on holiday to get away from routine, but somehow - after fortuitously managed to escape to Cumbria for a fortnight between lockdowns - we still ended up cooking a roast in our cottage on both the Sundays we were there. The only day of the week it feels completely normal to eat a big plate of meat and potatoes in the middle of the afternoon, even if the rest of your regular routine has gone temporarily out of the window.

We didn't actually eat our roast at lunch time when I was growing up, but at dinner time (in the Southern sense). As well as the appropriate accoutrements to go with what ever meat was being   - yorkies, stuffing, mint sauce, apple sauce etc - there's was almost always a white sauce of some type. Either with cheese and baked with cauliflower (or broccoli, or leeks, or shredded white cabbage, which is surprisingly good) or with onion.

The onion sauce always started as a finely chopped onion, that would be prepared on a Sunday morning and then placed in a Pyrex measuring jug and covered with water until later. A becahamel would then be whisked up and the onion added. Reassuringly comforting and, even back in the 80s, rather old fashioned. But, while it might be outmoded, it's also bloody tasty and after seeing a recipe in Valentine Warner's What to Eat Now (yes, I did take cookbooks on holiday with me) it seemed time for a revival.

Sharing in the staring role alongside the revived onion sauce was a rolled shoulder of sweet salt marsh lamb. Reared on the marshlands on the Solway Firth Estuary, a few miles from where we were staying - you could see the estuary from the bedroom window - it was purchased from Cranstons Cumbrian food hall in Penrith. We also picked up some buttercup-coloured Lancashire whey cream butter in Booths to make the sauce.

As an added (and unknown, as I also bought my own onions) bonus the couple we let the cottage from were also our neighbours, and they invited us to help our selves to as many of the homegrown onions in the shed that we needed. I soon realised one would be more than enough...

Roast lamb with roasted roots and onion sauce
adapted from Valentine Warner 

3 big sprigs of rosemary 
1.75kg shoulder of lamb
4 carrots
4 parsnips
1/2 swede
olive oil

onions 3 medium (or one giant)
25 g butter
200ml dry white wine
1 tsp caster sugar
splash of white wine vinegar
1 tbsp plain flour 
450ml milk

Heat the oven to 220c. Strip the rosemary from its stems, combining the leaves with 1 tbsp salt and a plenty of black pepper. Rub into the lamb shoulder and leave to one side.
Peel the carrots, swede and parsnips, splitting the parsnips and carrots in half and schppi ng the swede into large chunks. Put them straight into salted boiling water and parboil them 6 minutes. Toss them in a bowl in a little olive oil, black pepper and salt.
Tip the vegetables in a baking dish and and place the lamb on top. Cook it for approximately 45 minutes. Remove when the lamb is still a little pink in the middle.
Meanwhile, peel the onions, and finely dice. Melt the butter in a pan. Add the onion, season, and sweat for about 10 minutes. Pour in the wine, sprinkle in the sugar and cook until the onion is soft, about another 20 -30 minutes (this step always takes longer than you think it should).
Add the vinegar and keep on cooking until all the liquid has evaporated. The onions should not be coloured. Sprinkle over the flour and whisk in thoroughly. 
Start adding the milk slowly, whisking all the time. When all the milk has been used, cook the sauce very gently for a further 10 minutes. The consistency of the sauce should be that of double cream.
Remove the lamb and put it on a board to rest, place the vegetables back in the oven and cook for a further 10 minutes if needed. Remove the vegetables and put on a platter.
Slice the lamb and lay over the vegetables. Pour any additional juices from the joint into the sauce, and pour the sauce into a jug. In Valentine's words, this is one heck of a lunch.