Roast mutton with lentils and polenta

Roast mutton with lentils and polenta

This is what we did with the leftover roast mutton from yesterday. For about 300g of meat:

1. Roughly chopped a small onion, a stick of celery, two cloves of garlic and two rashers of streaky smoked bacon (Cornish of course).

2. Gently fry in a dash of olive oil until very lightly golden.

3. Add slices of mutton.

4. Add a tin of green ‘bijoux vert’ lentils (drained) or a similar quantity of par boiled green or brown lentils. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Add a healthy dash of white wine or vermouth. Simmer hard until the alcohol has burned off.

6. Turn down the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

7. Make a quantity of quick cook polenta. Add a dash of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

8. To serve spread a base of the wet polenta onto warmed plates, dollop the mutton and lentils on top. Eat.


Cornish mutton with London apples

Nancarrow Farm mutton

Nancarrow Farm mutton

It was with some anticipation that we returned to Truro Farmers Market after a long gap since the Jubilee Farmers Market in June. We had heard on Twitter that Nancarrow Farmhad started to supply mutton. In previous towns we have lived we were only able to obtain mutton from Halal butchers and even many of them are starting shun mutton in favour of lambs (sheep under 1 year old). In any case I have been eating mutton all my life and I would choose it over lamb if given the choice every time. It’s struggled to become a chefy ingredient, mainly because modern chefing is about speed and precision and mutton doesn’t afford either luxury if you want to eat it right.

Having already enjoyed Nancarrow lamb and beef I eagerly cast my eye over the stall. I was delighted to be proffered a handsome blade of mutton of about 1.3kg. The blade is from the sheep’s shoulder comprising part of the scapula and ‘arm’ bone. This bone, depending on the length you get will contain some excellent marrow too. I first cut off just over a third of the joint for the freezer. This will be used another time for a dry Sri Lankan curry called mutton fry. For now I was keen to do something with a bowl full of delicious bright red apples my parents brought us down from the garden of the house I grew up in, in the middle of London. Sweet and tart, like a cox but more crisp.

Mutton and apples ready for the roaster

Mutton and apples ready for the roaster

We got the Ironheart going mid-Afternoon and while the oven was getting up to temperature I prepared the meat:

1. Mutton of about 1kg. Score the skin and the fat with a sharp knife in criss-cross pattern (do not pierce the flesh).
2. To make an edible trivet for the joint, scatter in the base of an enamel or cast iron roaster/casserole add:

  • 2 small onions cubed
  • 3 medium red, firm fleshed apples
  • season with salt and pepper

3. Insert slices of garlic (I used Cornish Smokehouse garlic) liberally into the slits.
4. Insert roughly chopped fresh sage leaves into the slits.
5. Season with salt and pepper and cover with lid.
6. If you like onions, place a whole, peeled onion in the pot, it will bake beautifully.

Mutton requires long slow cooking or pressurised cooking, steaming or boiling in order for the flesh to become tender. If you are roasting it in a range cooker place it in the hot oven for three hours or a cooler oven for more. Remember that you want the entire layer of fat at the top to render out and moisturise the meat so a good blast of heat at the beginning is a good idea. A tight fitting, heavy lid will also ensure all the moisture is retained. I did this in an enamel poultry roaster as I haven’t yet procured a cast iron casserole. The result was excellent but I would try this again in a heavier pot for an even better result. If you are roasting in a conventional oven, go for a medium temperature or gas mark for 3 hours and then test for tenderness. In an electric oven be sure you roast in a really heavy pot with a thick lid as more water escapes from cooking in an electric oven than in other types.

Mutton prepared for the oven

Mutton prepared for the oven

The Esse Ironheart is a multi-fuel stove, range cooker and boiler rolled into one. We fired it on wood and kept the oven between the Hot and Very Hot setting throughout cooking.

The mutton will be ready when it pulls away easily from the bone. You must let it rest for at least 20-30 mins in a warm place before carving. Keep the lid on the pot.

In the meantime cook your veg.

I boiled and mashed half a small pumpkin, kindly given to us by our neighbour. A couple of knobs of butter, seasoning and a grate or two of nutmeg. And simple roast potatoes. The mutton with the apples and onion will provide a thin but luxurious gravy. The apples bring out the natural sweetness of the mutton and the smoked garlic was so good that it stood up to all that roasting and intensified the heady aromas of the roasted meat.

Remember to heat your plates before serving as lamb and mutton fat will congeal quickly on a cold surface.

Carving the mutton after resting

Carving the mutton after resting

Eat, and then have second helpings. We had enough left over for sandwiches or something else this coming week. While shredding every last morsel off the bone I enjoyed the cook’s treat of the roasted marrow from the bone. Yum!


Slow cooked mixed meat ragu


Yesterday we stocked up on some tasty meat from Vivian Olds, the organic butcher in St Just. Lots of tasty beef skirt, pork ribs, belly pork and a shoulder of lamb. All local, Cornish meat, from West Penwith. They have the best tasting meat we’ve ever had. After portioning the meat yesterday for the freezer, we kept a little aside for today’s meal.

Slow cooked mixed meat ragu, a recipe based upon one we found in the Two Greedy Italians book. Pork ribs and beef skirt with red wine, onions, and rich tomato sauce, browned then cooked slowly for a whole afternoon in the slow cooker. I can smell it now, and despite being quite full after an invented Italian-themed lunch, it makes my mouth water.

This photo was taken just after the meat and sauce were transferred to the slow cooker. We’ll have this with some fresh bread this evening after we have had a nice long walk into the countryside north of Penzance.

Dinner will be ready when we get back – perfect!


How to make Cornish ghee

Things for Cornish ghee (clarified butter)

Things for Cornish ghee (clarified butter)

Here is how I made ghee, or clarified butter, from good quality unsalted Cornish butter made by Trewithen Dairy, near Lostwithiel in Cornwall. Sometimes mass-produced ghee that you get in those vicious cans taste a little rancid and top-quality ghee can cost a lot of money. For example, a small jar (less than 1lb or 450g) at my local health shop cost £9.53 ! I bought the butter for this ghee for £3.18 (£1.59 a pack).

As well as Indian cookery you can use ghee in breads, cakes, as a base for sauces (particularly for shellfish) and more, so the ideal condiment to those gorgeous Cornish lobsters, shrimps, prawns and crawfish.

It is a very simple process that just requires a close eye to ensure you reach the clarification stage and don’t over boil the butter. In all it took less than 40 minutes from start to jarring up.

This slide show explains the process (as I did it) but the basic principle is to boil butter gently in a heavy-based pan over a medium heat.

  1. 500g of unsalted butter (2x 250g packs).
  2. As it melts and then begins to simmer a foam or scum will float to the top. Use a clean metal spoon to skim this off.
  3. Milk solids will form and sink to the bottom. It is at the stage that no more milk solids are sinking to the bottom and the butter oil is glossy and gives a beautiful scent of butterscotch that it is ready.
  4. Take off the heat and heave a couple of thorough clean and dry jars ready.
  5. Line a metal strainer with muslin. It might be useful to get someone to help you at this stage. I placed a jam funnel in the jar first and the strainer on top and got someone to hold it steady. Gently pour in the ghee.
  6. The milk solids and residue will be trapped in the strainer.
  7. Wipe up any spills and leave to cool. The golden butter oil will slowly set solid.
  8. When set after a few hours, seal jars with a moistened cellophane disc (used in jam preserving–moist side UP) and a rubber band and screw on the lid tight.

Store in a cool dark place. It will last a few months if kept in these conditions. If you don’t have a cool place in your house, store in the fridge.


How to make Cornish paneer

Paneer, a strained cottage cheese

Paneer, a strained cottage cheese

Last week I attempted my first home cheese by making paneer (Indian cottage cheese) from Cornish whole milk from Rodda’s Dairy.

3 litres whole Cornish milk
c.80ml lemon juice
1 square muslin or cheese cloth (c.30cm sq.)

  1. In a heavy-bottomed non-stick pan gently bring the milk to a boil.
  2. As it starts to break bubbles on the surface, stir gently and gradually add the lemon juice. Stir to incorporate the lemon juice into the milk as it continues to boil.
  3. The bright white curds and greenish whey should start separating. When this has happened take it off the heat.
  4. Place the muslin over a colander in a clean sink or large bowl, or use a large sieve like I did.
  5. Carefully pour the curds into the muslin. Beware of the steam as it can scald you.
  6. Draw the muslin together by bringing the corners of the square together and twist so the curds form a ball in the cloth. At this stage I tied it tightly with string and let it rest in the sieve to drain further. The key is to lose as much of the whey as possible.
  7. To drain it further you need to place the cheese under pressure. There are several ways you can do this. I placed the ball in a tray with a piece of greaseproof paper/baking parchment on top to keep it clean when placing weights on top. I used a heavy stoneware bowl into which I placed a tub of baking beans and a few bags of rice. To ensure good drainage you could also place the cheese on top of a flat surface with holes in it like a steamer accessory or oven pizza tray and then place weights on top. Marble or stone mortars are also good as heavy weights. Anything that will place even pressure over the ball.
  8. Leave under pressure for 2-3 hours. Then chill in the fridge or use straight away by cutting it into cubes.

I made mutter paneer from some of the cheese by marinated in chilli, garlic and ginger and tandoor masala and lightly frying with onions, tomatoes and peas. Serving with brown basmati rice and a bit of yoghurt. The rest I grilled with the same masala and ate them on their own as tasty morsels.

Often homemade paneer falls apart on cooking so I think it will take a few attempts to make sure that all the excess moisture is removed from the cheese during the draining and pressing stages.

Making this simple cheese was a fun and really satisfying experience. Not only does it make much tastier paneer than you get in shops but you will be really pleased with yourself that you managed to convert milk and lemon juice into something so nutritious and delicious.