After a long break it’s good to be back at college. I have a new Chef, I’m in a much bigger kitchen, the pace is much faster, there are greater expectations of my work performance and the presentation of my finished dishes. Pre-work is essential; workflow needs to be completed for each dish and research needs to be done on presentation. My focus needs to extend beyond simply cooking a good plate of food; I will be measured on presentation, time management (service times must be met), organisation & cleanliness, as well as team work. Yes indeed folks, I have arrived in the major league, so deep breath and positive thoughts!
The first week of ‘Meat’ was focused on lamb, an Australian favourite hence the title. As a child I was served lamb once if not twice a week, but now it is quite expensive, so any wastage must be minimised. The lesson included identifying the types of lamb cuts, the best cooking method for each cut, the different types of lamb by age and you guessed it, some butchering (apologies to my vegetarian friends). There were three recipes using meat from a full lamb leg.
There are four ages of lamb; Young or ‘Spring Lamb’, which is up to 7months, the ubiquitous ‘Lamb’, which is under 12 months, ‘Hogget’, which is between 12 and 18 months and ‘Mutton’, which is over 2 years (it’s a bit on the nose so it lends itself to a dish like curry to mask the smell). We worked with ‘Lamb’ – a whole leg with the shank attached. The first job was to break the leg down to arrive at the 3 cuts needed for the recipes; shank, silverside and the muscle. It was quite physical, especially sawing the bone, but I was pleasantly surprised at how relatively easy it was to break down, simply follow the bone structure and continue to separate the meat from the muscle as you work. After the fat has been trimmed, a cut was made through the joint/knuckle, and the shank was removed, cleaned and ‘frenched’ (clean scrape the bone). The other cuts of meat were diced.
The first dish was Lamb Shank and Puree Potato. It needed to be put on quickly as it takes minimum of 3.5 hours in the oven. Where as it was the first dish in the oven, it was the last dish out, and only Chef had time to plate– all of ours went straight into containers to sell at the college kitchen shop. Chef chose to plate his dish in what I would refer to as ‘cave man’ style but as my meat fell off the bone, had I got to plate it wouldn’t have been the same. Regardless of the plating, the dish was absolutely delicious.
The second dish up was a Lamb Navarin (recipe below), a slow cooked lamb stew made with the tougher muscle cut. It needs to cook in the oven under a cartouche and lid until tender, which will take a minimum of 1 hour. Notice on this one we channel cut the sides of the carrots…. very fancy!
The third and final dish was the first we plated, Salad of Marinated Lamb, Roasted Baby Beetroot, Spinach and Feta. After marinating the meat for an hour in olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic and fresh oregano, it was cooked on a French Grill. The best cut for this type of cooking is a primary tender cut of the short leg, we used the silverside. Whilst the meat was cooking, the roasted beetroots were skinned, the walnuts finely chopped, the feta cut, and the vinaigrette made. Once plated a final flourish of grated Feta was dusted over the top before presenting the dish to Chef. Now, here is a good tip, to successfully grate Feta, freeze it first…it works like a dream!
As you can tell by the photos, there was little time to take ‘good’ ones, in fact the 6 hour class went by so quickly it was a blur. I will continue to try to at least get photos of the finished plate, as my focus will be just that – the finished plate. As I said to Bell as we exited Kitchen 11 at the end of the lesson, ‘buckle up, it’s going to be a wild ride’!
Finally, I wanted to say thank you for the kind comments to my last post regarding Mum’s and my birthday. As you can see from these few photos, she had a wonderful time, and whereas it would have been lovely had all the Grand-children been there, with my Bella in L.A and my sister’s children in another state, it was not to be.
A delicious Lamb Stew.
- 250 gm Lamb – muscle cut
- 40 ml Olive Oil
- 20 gm Unsalted butter
- Pepper – white to taste
- Salt – to taste
- 1 Carrot (medium)
- 1 Garlic clove
- 25 gm Plain Flour
- 35 gm Tomato Paste
- 150 ml Red Wine
- 500 ml Brown Stock (veal or beef)
- 1 Bouquet Garni (Parsley, Bay leaf, Thyme)
- 60 gm Frozen Peas
- 10 gm Parsley, fresh
- 3 sprigs Thyme, fresh
Heat oven to 185C
Trim the fat from the lamb and cut into 2cm dice
Heat the oil in a heavy based fry pan, when hot add butter and the cubed, floured and seasoned meat. Do this in stages to ensure all meat browns. Remove the meat from the pan.
Add the diced onion, carrot and garlic and brown.
Drain the surplus fat and and add the browned meat and vegetables to a suitable sized casserole pot.
Add the remaining flour to the pan in which the meat was browned, add the tomato paste and the red wine. Mix to combine and allow alcohol to cook out before adding to the casserole.
Add the heated stock to the casserole whilst stirring with wooden spoon.
Bring the stew to the boil on the stove top, skim and add the bouquet Garni.
Placed a cartouche and lid on the casserole and cook for minimum 1 hour or until the meat becomes tender.
Add the thawed frozen peas, adjust the consistency and seasoning as required and finish dish with chopped herbs