The run-up to Christmas and those big meals is often a bit of an odd time and a hearty stew is one way to make something you can eat for a couple of days at least and keep out the cold!
This week I made this dish using half a leg of mutton from the Thoroughly Wild Meat Company. Andrew Moore raises lambs on the salt marsh and produces exquisite lamb. He is incredibly knowledgeable and helpful. You can find him at the farmers’ markets in Bristol and Bath which is where we met him.
When Andrew told me he was having mutton from his sheep this autumn in addition to the lamb, I shared a box with Gill the Painter, an event involving a meeting in Gloucester Cathedral and a shopping bag on wheels…. felt like we had escaped from an Alan Bennett short story. Here is Gill’s balsamic leg of lamb recipe which she used on her mutton.
Here are my notes – easy to do if you have time and plan a little ahead.
Brown your lightly seasoned meat in a little oil in a large casserole on the hob. Once nicely browned add as much stock as you need to come at least three-quarters up the meat. I used a mixture of vegetable stock and some lamb stock that I had saved in the freezer. Fresh thyme is a good herb to use with this dish.
Squeeze two lemons and add the juice to the stock. We also threw in a jar of home-made fruit chutney . We weren’t quite sure what was in it, as it hadn’t been labelled, but probably it was raisins, apples, pears and onions in cider vinegar and spices, to give you an idea of what you might use. Maybe a little wine if you have any opened bottles could find its way in there too.
Bring to a gentle simmer on the hob. Cover and place in a warm oven for 3 hours. You will need to check the meat every hour or so and turn it over. Someone turned the oven down at some point, so we ended up cooking the dish for nearer five hours but you will know your own oven best. Once the meat has cooked and softened, add small whole onions and return to the oven for another 45 minutes or so. Then add 50 grams of spelt (farro) per person, check seasoning, cook for another 30 minutes. If you don’t have spelt, then try barley.
Serve with carrots, Brussels sprout tops or any tender green cabbage. You can either take the casserole to the hob and steam the vegetables on top of the stew, or steam them separately.
You can eat this one pot meal as it is, or serve with some fabulous bread to mop up the rich citrussy juices. Watch out for the onions as they explode when you bite them!
If you want to reduce the fat content of this meal, (and mutton can be fatty if you are used to eating very lean meat) the best thing is to cook the meat the day before, and allow the whole dish to cool so that the fat can be taken off the top. Add the onions and the spelt (farro) the following day.