#440 Primitive Lamb with Blueberry Sauce

Here’s the second of the two recipes in English Food that uses primitive lamb. Regular followers will know that I acquired two legs of Hebridean hogget earlier this year. A hogget is a sheep that’s too old to be lamb, but not yet considered mutton. It was wonderful to go to the farm and chat with Helen, the farmer who works so hard to keep this rare and primitive breed alive and kicking. Here’s a link to my interview with her that made up the last episode of my recent podcast series all about Lent. Primitive breeds such as the Hebridean need help: help from specialist farmers and help from us, because they won’t survive if there is no demand. Primitive breeds are excellent for the smallholder – they are small and easy lambers, meaning their husbandry is much less stressful than large commercial breeds with their giant lambs! They have great character too: they are brighter and are excellent foragers that display more natural behaviours. If I ever get a bit of land, I will definitely be getting myself a little flock.

In that episode we focus on the one breed, but I thought I’d give a mention to the other primitive breeds just in case you are thinking about getting hold of some. Aside from the Hebridean there are the Soay, Manx Loaghtan, Shetland, Boreray and North Ronaldsay. They all belong to the Northern European short-tailed group, and they were probably brought to the Outer Hebridean islands by Norse settlers. They are small, very woolly and extremely hardy sheep. The islands upon which they were found were the St Kilda archipelago, and had been there since the Iron Age. Some moved and adapted, the Manx Loaghtan obviously went to the Isle of Man, but some remained on the islands and adapted too. The North Ronaldsay, for example, lives on the small rocky northernmost islands and has become a seaweed-grazing specialist.

Of all the breeds, the Soay sheep are considered to be the most like their ancestors, and it is found on several islands in the archipelago. On the island of Herta, a feral population of around 1500 was discovered; their name is befitting because Soay is Norse for sheep island.

A plane’s view of the islands (pic: Flying Fish World)

This recipe is exactly the same as the other one except the lamb is served with a blueberry sauce rather than a gravy. Although we are at the tail-end of the blog, I actually made this sauce for my first ever pop up restaurant all the way back in 2013 which took place in my little terraced house – a lot has happened since then, that’s for sure! It sounded so delicious I couldn’t wait until I found some primitive lamb. The usual fruit to serve with lamb is of course the tart redcurrant, usually in jelly form. Blueberries are usually sweeter than currants, but Jane is not daft and makes up for it with the addition of a vinegar syrup.

And, if you are thinking this is some kind of American abomination, don’t be so sure: although all of the blueberries we buy in  shops are undoubtably American varieties, don’t forget its close relative, the more humble blaeberry, which I suspect is what the lamb would have been served with. It’s appeared in the blog before, and scored full marks: #xxx Blaeberry Pie

Anyway, enough waffle: here’s what to do:

Roast the lamb or hogget as described for #438 Plain Roast Primitive Lamb with Gravy, but instead of making the gravy start to make this blueberry sauce as it roasts:

In a saucepan simmer eight ounces of blueberries with ¼ pint of dry white wine, ¼ pint of lamb stock and a tablespoon of caster sugar. Remove a couple of dozen of the best berries for the garnish and blitz the remainder in a blender and pass through a sieve.

Dissolve 2 teaspoons of sugar in 6 tablespoons of white wine vinegar in a small saucepan and boil down until quite syrupy, then add to the blended berries along with some finely chopped mint or rosemary. Set aside and return to it when the roast had been taken out of the oven.

Skim any fat from the meat juices and pour them into the blueberry sauce. Reheat and add some lemon juice – I used a little shy of half a lemon here – and then season with salt and pepper, and even sugar if needed. When ready pour into a sauce boat, not forgetting to add in the reserved berries.

#440 Primitive Lamb with Blueberry Sauce. Well you won’t be surprised that this was, again, delicious, how could it not be? I did a better job of roasting it this time I feel. I really enjoyed the blueberry sauce and it went very well with the slightly gamey meat. I think I may have preferred the plain gravy to the blueberries though, but there’s not much in it. Because of this doubt, I am scoring it a very solid 9.5/10

P.S. The leftovers made an excellent #84 Shepherd’s Pie.

Refs:

‘British Rare & Traditional Sheep Breeds’ The Accidental Smallholder website: www.accidentalsmallholder.net/livestock/sheep/british-rare-and-traditional-sheep-breeds/

‘Soay’ RBST website www.rbst.org.uk/soay

‘Manx Loaghtan’ RBST website www.rbst.org.uk/manx-loaghtan

‘Hebridean Sheep Characteristics & Breeding Information’ Roy’s Farm website: www.roysfarm.com/hebridean-sheep

‘About Shetlands’ North American Shetland Sheepbreeders’ Association website: www.shetland-sheep.org/about-shetlands/

‘The Origins of Registered Boreray Sheep’, Sheep of St Kilda website: www.soayandboreraysheep.com/

‘Boreray’ RBST website: www.rbst.org.uk/boreray-sheep-25

‘North Ronaldsay’ RBST website: www.rbst.org.uk/north-ronaldsay

#438 Plain Roast Primitive Lamb with Gravy

This is a recipe I have been waiting over a decade to make, but patience is a virtue and I have finally been able to cook it; after years of searching farmers’ markets and emailing farmers’ websites, I finally found someone who farms primitive sheep breeds. Here’s what happened.

If you don’t follow the other blog, you might not realise that I have been making a podcast about Lent and for the final episode, I wanted to cook some lamb as it would be in keeping with the Lenten theme. So, I got it into my head that it had to be from a primitive breed of sheep. After a surprisingly short internet search and some inquiring emails, I found Helen Arthan, a farmer of rare breed sheep and cattle, and she kindly agreed to take part in the podcast, so off I went to her beautiful farm in the Cheshire countryside.

There are several primitive breeds of sheep still being farmed, and Helen kept one of the oldest – Hebridean sheep – which descend from Viking stocks. Rather than tell you about these beautiful and characterful animals here, I am going to send you in the direction of the podcast episode to hear about it yourself instead; so here it is.

There are two recipes that use primitive lamb in English Food, there’s this one where it is roasted and served with a simple gravy and the other is the same but served with a blueberry sauce. I had my heart set on the latter, but then thought I should cook it plain and simple the first time, so I could really appreciate the flavour of the meat. Luckily for me, Helen gave me two legs, so I shall be posting the other recipe soon. It’s just like buses isn’t it? You wait ten years for primitive lamb legs and then two come along at once.

I cooked up the hogget for my friends Kate and Pete who both helped me out in the first two episodes of the podcast and are long-time Grigson blog supporters. It seemed only right I should make it for them.

In Jane’s recipe, she roasts two lamb legs together because they are rather small. However, Helen gave me hogget – a slightly older and therefore larger animal – which is similar in weight to a regular lamb leg. In fact, one stocky hogget leg weighed more than Jane said two lamb legs would weigh.

I’m going to give two methods for cooking the meat: the lamb version that Jane gives for roasting two small lamb gigots (legs) weighing a total of 6 or 7 pounds, and another that I use for one large leg that is more typical in size, like you would get from a regular butcher.

Before you start, set the oven to 230°C and prepare the leg or legs – this stage is the same for either method.  Take a clove of garlic for each leg, peel and slice as thinly as possible. Then, using a small pointed knife, stab the legs, placing a slice of garlic in each one. If garlic isn’t your thing, you could just sit a sprig of rosemary on it. There’s nothing stopping you doing both of course.

Rub in plenty of coarse sea salt and black pepper, sit the leg or legs on a trivet sat inside a roasting pan. Allow to sit for 30 minutes before roasting.

If cooking two small legs: place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 180°C and cook for 20 minutes more. Remove the lamb legs and check they are done by inserting a skewer or a temperature probe. The temperature should feel warm, around 55°C. Allow the meat to rest.

If cooking one larger hogget (or regular lamb) leg: weigh it before placing in the oven and calculate the cooking time. 12 minutes per pound/450 grams is what you want if you want rare meat, and 14 minutes per pound/450 grams if you want just pink, medium meat. Place in the oven and roast for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 160°C for the remainder of the cooking time. Remove the meat and allow to rest.

To make the gravy: skim off the fat from the pan juices; you don’t have to be too fastidious. Put the pan over a hob and scatter two teaspoons of plain flour or cornflour and stir in using a wooden spoon or small whisk, making sure you get the crusty bits from the bottom. You don’t have to add the flour if you prefer a thin gravy. Pour in a glass of wine – either red or white wine go well with lamb. If using red add half a pint of lamb (or beef) stock, if using white add the same amount of chicken stock. Allow to cook for a couple of minutes before straining into a gravy jug.

Serve the lamb with #306 Mint Sauce or #422 Peppered Redcurrant Jelly, says Jane. I decided on the former (because her recipe is excellent) as well as some roast potatoes, roast parsnips and some purple sprouting broccoli. For more guidance as to what is traditionally served with roast lamb, follow this link.

#438 Plain Roast Primitive Lamb with Gravy. This was sublime…the meat was so tender and well-flavoured, though not strong in lamby flavour as one might expect. The meat was so tender and was delicately flavoured from the garlic. I’m very glad I decided to cook it with just a gravy made from its own juices and some stock – I really got to appreciate the hogget without any blueberry distraction. As per usual when a dish is this good and I’m with friends, I completely forget to take decent photographs! I will make sure I do when I make the blueberry version. I cannot recommend highly enough, if you ever see some, buy it. 10/10.

#434 To Pot Ham with Chicken

This is a fairly straight-forward recipe from the book that I have only just got around to making as I have never had a situation where I had left over ham and chicken at the same time! In fact, I ran out of patience with myself and manufactured the situation.

This recipe is one of several taken from Elizabeth Raffauld’s 1769 classic The Experienced English Housekeeper. Back then, and right up to the early 20th Century, in more well-to-do houses, cold roast meats were served up for luncheon. The meat was left over from the previous evening’s roast. If the meats had to be kept longer, or eked out, they would be potted, i.e. made into a pâté. Follow this link to see all the potted meat & fish recipes cooked thus far (this is the tenth!).

Jane only gives an abridged version of the receipt, but here it is in full:
Take as much lean of a boiled ham as you please and half the quantity of fat. Cut it as thin as possible, beat it very fine in a mortar with a little oiled butter, beaten mace, pepper and salt, put part of it in a china pot. Then beat the white part of a fowl with a very little seasoning, it is to qualify the ham. Put a lay of chicken, then one of ham, then chicken at the top, press hard down, and when it is cold pour clarified butter over it. When you send it to the table cut out a thin slice in the form of half a diamond and lay it round the edge of your pot.


Jane also updates the recipe: she allows us to use an electric food processor, and she uses already ground mace. She also uses clarified butter to make the pâté, not just to seal it. 


She also suggests letting it sit for a few days before eating it, so that the flavours can develop.


If you’ve never potted your own meat or fish, this recipe is a good place to start. In fact, it more of a system than a recipe, and can be adapted easily for other meats. I’d just add that a smoked ham would work best here – I used a smoked ham hock – and that you should over-season everything ever-so-slightly. If you are using cold meats, add a tablespoon or two of boiling water when blending to produce a nice smooth paste.

At Christmastime, you’re more likely to have left over turkey than chicken and I think it would work just as well.
#434 To Pot Ham with Chicken. Rather a subtle one this one, but no worse for it. Many of the other recipes are quite strongly flavoured, so this is a good introduction. The combination of salty ham and bland chicken is a good one, and it was great spread on toast with a little medlar jelly. As mentioned above, a great way to use up left-over meat at Christmastime. 7/10


5.3: Pork – Completed!

Pigs and pork were – and still are – fundamental to life in Britain, Europe and many other places around the world. So easy they are to look after, and so unchoosy they are in what they eat, that most households kept a pig of their own for food. The family pig would be fed kitchen and table scraps and garden waste, quickly fattening ready for slaughter in early winter.

So dependent were people upon pork, that when folk moved into the cities, they brought with them their pigs to rear. There wasn’t enough space for absolutely everyone to keep a pig, many simply had to get their fix of pork from one of the many city piggeries.

Mediaeval pig slaugher
Pigs were often let out of their pens to have a good old rummage around the vicinity of the household, gobbling up scraps of food and other garbage; very useful in a time when waste wasn’t collected up and taken away like it is today. Inevitably, pigs escaped, and they could be seen on the city streets eating anything and everything they came across. It became a huge problem – they didn’t just eat rotting food, but also human excrement from gutters, as well as the blood and pus collected in barber-surgeons’ buckets. They became feral and ferocious, with reports of errant hogs eating babies! London’s Shepherd’s Bush was particularly overrun.

Saint Anthony
This problem was compounded by the fact that in many cities, pigs came under the protection of St Anthony, Patron Saint of pigs and swineherds. If you were unlucky enough to live in a city where Antonine monks also dwelled, it must have felt it was the pigs’ city not yours. In many households, the runt of the family pig’s litter was named St Anthony’s pig.
It didn’t take people long to realise that if pigs were eating diseased and rotten matter, then the pork from the pigs that we ate in turn would be very poor. Indeed, pork was teeming with parasites such as tapeworm and trichinosis. Parasites love pigs, it seems, and even with our modern hyper-strict food regulations, we have only recently been able to sell pork that can be cooked a little underdone safely.
When Jane wrote English Food in the 1970s, she complained bitterly of the state of pork products in the UK; sludgy sausages made from mechanically-retrieved meat and inert rusk, and grey pork pies were (and still are) standard fayre. However, these foods can be some of the most delicious produce in Britain, and when made properly, we excel. Luckily there are small-scale local butchers everywhere who make their own sausages and pork pies to a high standard, we just have to root them out like any self-respecting hog would.

Making Cumblerland Sausage
Although as a nation we consume a lot of pork, there are just eight recipes in the Porksection of the Meat, Poultry and Game chapter of the book, but this is not because Jane was shirking her responsibilities but because most of the pork we consume is in pie form is cured in some way, therefore most porcine recipes appear in other sections of the book. The mean score for the section is an impressive 8.1 – the second highest score so far – her recipe for #415 Cumberland Sausage is sublime and scored full marks from me, and she introduced me to the delights of #373 Faggots and #336 Brawn

Wrapping faggots in pig’s caul
Jane managed to cover quite a lot of ground in just eight recipes, but it did mean that a few were missed out. If the book were to be reprinted, I’d like to see a few more cuts represented; pork belly, hand of pork, cheeks, chitterlings and pigs’ ears don’t get the look-in they deserve. What’s more, there are no recipes for sausage casserole, pork in cider, pulled pork (a British, not a U.S., invention!), Scotch eggs, pork scratchings, hog’s pudding or a good quality country pâté such as a nice pâté de campagne.

The gruesome initial step of brawn-making
As mentioned already, this section is a very high scorer with a mean score of 8.1 (and a median and mode of 7.5 and 7 respectively). There were no disasters, the lowest score being a 7, with classics such as #415 Cumberland Sausage (which scored full points), #290 Roast Pork with Crackling and #82 Toad-in-the-Hole driving up the final mark.
As usual I have listed the recipes ordered as they appear in the book, along with the scores I gave them and hyperlinks to the original posts.

#433 Stuffed Pork Tenderloin


I hardly ever buy or eat prime cuts these days, going instead for the underused bits and bobs of cows, sheep and pigs, so it’s nice to have the excuse to indulge myself for this blog entry. The tenderloin is the fillet cut of a pig and runs down the length of the spine. These fillet cuts are very tender because the muscle controls the posture of the animal and is not used in high stress activities such as locomotion, toughening it up.

The pork tenderloin is less used in English cookery compared to its cow and sheep equivalents, but I think it is the best value of the three, they are pretty substantial, cheaper by the pound and not as prone to drying out in the cooking process these days now that British pork can officially be served medium.

Jane reckons that the best way to eat this cut is to roast or braise it, so here is her recipe which also involves ham and bacon! A porky trinity and no mistake. There’s also the unusual inclusion of crumbly Lancashire cheese. Pork, ham, bacon and cheese; that’s all of the major food groups, right?
Take two pork tenderloins and trim away any fat and sinew with a sharp knife, should there be any, then slit them lengthways, but not all the way through, so that you can open them out. Now beat them with a tenderiser or a rolling pin until they are much wider and flatter.
Next prepare the ingredients for the stuffing: take two large slices of ham and shred them finely, thinly slice three ounces of Lancashire cheese, then blanch eight sage leaves in boiling water for one minute, then half them. If you prefer, you could strip some thyme leaves and use those instead of the thyme, the bonus there being that no blanching is required.

Scatter the two opened tenderloins with the ham, then the cheese and sage (or thyme). Close and then tie with string and brown them quickly in a little butter.
Now, slice two large onions and scatter them on the base of an ovenproof dish and lie the tenderloins on top. Adorn them with two rashers of streaky bacon each, then pour over a quarter of a pint of brown sherry, Madeira or port.


Roast for 45 minutes at 190C.

Remove the tenderloins and keep them warm. Strain the juices and reduce them in a pan if you wish – I found there was no need, but it did need a seasoning with salt and pepper.
Remove the string from the tenderloins and serve immediately with the sauce and some seasonal vegetables.


#433 Stuffed Pork Tenderloins. Well this was a good one, though I did mess up a little bit as I forgot to beat out the tenderloins, and to tie them, AND to brown them in butter. Nevertheless, it was still delicious, though a little dry (probably because they weren’t tied up). Oh well, I can’t be expected to be perfect all the time, now can I? I’d certainly recommend you give it a go, though I’d check them after 30-35 minutes to see if they are done. The sauce – like most of Jane’s – was delicious. I give it a solid 7/10.

#432 White Devil Sauce

I have made and experimented with many a devil sauce in my time, but this recipe was always annoyingly elusive due to the inclusion of a tricky-to-find ingredient called Harvey’s sauce. Up until the last couple of decades or so, Harvey’s sauce was widely available, but after searching both delis and the internet for years, I gave up. I managed to find recipes for Harvey’s sauce in Victorian cook books, but it was quite an effort and it is required to sit and mature for years before it is ready. The annoying thing is, only half a teaspoon is required to make this devil sauce! However, it used to be so popular in the 19th Century, I didn’t want to omit or substitute it (plus I would be going against the rules of the blog!).

Just a couple of weeks ago I did one final internet search and Bingo! I found what I was looking for. The reason it was so difficult was that it had had a name change. The original company that produced it – Lazenby’s – was bought out by iconic brand Crosse & Blackwell, which, in turn, was partially-bought out by Premier Foods, who sold it as Worcestershire sauce! Although it was no longer for general sale in the UK, it was still very popular in South Africa; and so, a few minutes and a few mouse clicks later I had ordered a bottle and it was getting shipped over to me. All I had to was wait one week for it to arrive.
In the end, Harvey’s sauce does taste pretty similar to Worcestershire sauce, so if you want to make it, just substitute it for the Lee & Perrins.
In a bowl or small jug mix together 1 teaspoon each of French mustard (Dijon or Moutarde de Meaux), anchovy sauce, wine vinegar, salt and sugar, along with ½ teaspoon each of Harvey’s sauce and Worcestershire sauce.
If you are using the sauce cold to go with cold meats, whip ¼ pint of double cream and fold in the above mixture.
Jane suggests spreading the pieces of cold meat with a little more mustard and pour over the sauce using unwhipped cream and pop into a hot oven until everything has heated through and is lightly browned.


I did neither, instead using the sauce to make devilled chicken livers. For this, get a frying pan or skillet very hot and thrown in a good knob of butter. As soon as the butter stops frothing, place the livers in the pan and leave undisturbed for 2 minutes before turning over and cooking 2 minutes more. Pour over the sauce and turn the livers over in it so that they get a good coating. Have some slices of toast ready and place the livers on top. If necessary, boil down the sauce to an appropriately delicious thickness and pour over the livers. Serve at once.

#432 White Devil Sauce. This was delicious, as devil sauces always are, it was highly seasoned but there wasn’t enough devil in it for my tastes; I think it could have done with either a good pinch of Cayenne pepper or a good slug of Tabasco sauce. That said, it was horsed down, so it still gets a good score! 8/10.

#427 Roast Guineafowl


Guineafowl originate in Africa and were first bred for meat by the Ancient Egyptians and was very popular in the ancient world – there is an infamous Greek dish called mattye where a guineahen would be killed by a knife plunged into its head via the beak. It would then be poached with lots of herbs, and its own chicks! They seemed to fall out of favour for a good while before being reintroduced by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century.

These days, guineafowl are more popular in France than the UK, being a popular ornamental fowl in farms, small holdings and rural households. They double as an excellent guard dog; getting very vocal at any approaching fox or indeed, postman. ‘The first time I saw guineafowl, they were humped along the roof ridge of a French farmhouse’, says Jane in her introduction to this recipe. I have similar memories from my science days when I would go on the annual field trip with the zoology undergraduates of Manchester University to the foothills of the French Alps, where guineafowl would toddle about decoratively with their black-and-white suits, blue combs bobbing, like a little fat harlequin.

I think guineafowl are delicious, they have a mild gamey flavour, lying somewhere between chicken and pheasant. It’s often braised as it has a tendency to dry out when roasted. In this recipe however, dryness is skilfully averted by covering the fowls with bacon or strips of pork back fat and the use of a good sausagemeat stuffing. Because of its gaminess, it is often served with the trimmings associated with roast game, such as game chips, #123 Bread Sauce and #114 Quince Jelly. See #122 Roast Pheasant for more on the subject.

Get hold of two guineafowl, both weighing 1 ½ to 2 pounds. Sit them on the board to get to room temperature as you get on with the stuffing.

Remove the skin from four ounces of good quality sausages (go to butcher who makes his or her own or make your own: see #415 Cumberland Sausages). Break up the meat and add the rest of the ingredients: a heaped tablespoon of breadcrumbs, one tablespoon each of brandy and port, a heaped tablespoon of chopped parsley, a crushed clove of garlicand salt and pepper.  If you are lucky enough to find fowl with their giblets, find the liver, remove the gall, chop and add to the stuffing.

Mix everything well but keep things quite loose – you don’t want to compress the stuffing, as it will turn out stodgy. Divide it loosely between the two birds.

Now prepare the birds themselves by laying six rashers of unsmoked streaky bacon over the breasts and legs. This stops the birds from drying out in the oven. Again, buy good quality dry-cured bacon, not the cheap stuff that shrinks shedding its added water as white milky froth. Instead of bacon, you could use thin slices of pork back fat; it’s certainly cheaper, and it probably keeps the birds more moist, but doesn’t taste half as good. Pros and cons innit?

Put them in a roasting tray and pop them in an oven preheated to 220°C. Fifteen minutes later, turn down the heat to 200°C, and leave the birds roasting for 30 minutes. At this point, remove them from the oven, take off their little porky jackets and dust them with well-seasoned flour. Baste and pop back into the oven for a final 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove the birds and keep them under foil on a board whilst you make the gravy in the tin they were roasted.

Get the roasting tin over a medium heat and pour in a glass of port (2 to 3 fluid ounces, approx.). Use a wooden spoon to scrape the delicious dark-brown almost burned bits from base of the tin. Add ½ pint of stock – again, if there were giblets in the birds, you could make giblet stock, otherwise use chicken stock. Reduce this mixture down until you have a small volume of intensely-flavoured gravy. Don’t strain it and lose all those nice burnt bits!

Carve the guineafowl and serve with the gravy and bacon. Jane recommends serving it with #262 Chestnuts as a Vegetable. We served it with the food that was in the house: roast carrots, quinoa and some lovely indigo-dark purple kale.

#427 Roast Guineafowl. I feel so lucky to have things like this just hanging about in the freezer! The cooking method laid out by Jane was spot-on, as she usually is when it comes to roasting (however, see #359 Rabbit and #393 Hare); meat was lovely and moist. The gravy too was delicious, and the stuffing well-seasoned with a good garlic hit, making it taste very un-English; it must be based on a French farcemeat from one of Jane’s many trips to the country. Very, very good: 9/10

#418 Snipe


Sometimes…walking home across a boggy area where heather gave way to rushes and reed grasses, I would be startled by an eerie throbbing, bleating sound rising to a soft fluting crescendo…I have heard it hundreds of times and it never ceases to make the hairs stir on the back of my neck. This beautiful wind music is a cock snipe ‘drumming’…This hauntingly lovely sound…is the first promise of spring.

Clarissa Dickson Wright & Johnny Scott, The Game Cookbook

The snipe is our smallest game bird, and with its shy and secretive nature and dappled brown plumage, it is probably the most difficult of the game birds to shoot. It is for this reason that you won’t come across many of these unless you are a hunter or you know one very well. It’s a good job that they are difficult to hunt because they are considered the most delicious of the game birds! Conservation is always a priority with these indigenous game species, but their elusiveness is almost self-managing, keeping a highly-fluctuating population safe.

Sorry for the massive gap between posts folks, but I’ve only gone and opened up a restaurant! News of this will follow very soon. Needless to say, I’ve been pretty busy, but finally I’m writing up some of my recipe backlog.

Jane’s recipe for roast snipe is brief in the extreme:

Snipe

(August 12 – January 31)

roast: 15 minutes, mark 8, 230⁰C (450⁰F)

inside: as woodcock

serve with: fried bread soaked in cooking juices, spread with trail as woodcock. Plus redcurrant jelly, orange salad, game chips; or simply with lemon quarters and watercress.

Recipes for redcurrant jelly can be found hereand a recipe for game chips makes up part of #122 Roast Pheasants, cooked many moons ago

Woodcock and snipe are pretty much identical except in size, so snipe too can be cooked with their innards or ‘trail’ intact. This is because they defecate when they take off for flight. The trail can be scooped out at table and spread on the slice of toast the bird was cooked on. You can, of course, remove the innards before you roast your snipe, if this notion is repellent to you. I would encourage you to try it, as it is delicious; like gamey Marmite. The heads are also left on, and sliced lengthways so that the brain can be eaten.

It’s worth mentioning, however, the very short hanging time required for birds eaten in this way – anything over 36 hours I find too gamey. I remember well once wretching over the kitchen sink after eating a far too ripe woodcock; delicious gaminess merging into dead, rotten animal all too quickly in these little birds. It’s a glamourous life I lead.

I managed to find some snipe this year at my favourite butchers shop, WH Frost in Chorlton, Manchester. Unfortunately their trails and heads had been removed so I couldn’t roast them in the traditional manner.

I simply seasoned them inside and out and popped a tiny knob of butter into their cavities and onto their breasts with a sprinkling of smoked paprika and roasted them for just 8 minutes at 230⁰C. I served them with some Morrocan-style buckwheat. Not very English, but there you go.


#418 Snipe. Even though I couldn’t cook them in the traditional manner, they were still very delicious birds. I expected them to be stronger in flavour compared to woodcock, but they were actually more delicate. I can see why so many people prize them above all others. Little did I know that when I cooked these, way back in December, they would appear on my Valentine’s Day menu in February! If you see some in your butcher’s shop, snap some up. 8/10.

#416 Cumbrian Tatie Pot

I recently made to visit to my friends in their 18th century house in Mallerstang, Cumbria and have been meaning to bring the ingredients up with me to make this dish. It’s one of those lamb, onion and potato based meals you find in the North of England such as Lancashire Hot Pot and Lobscouse, or indeed Irish stew and Scotch broth. It mysteriously appears in the Meat Pies & Puddings section of the Meat, Poultry & Game Chapter.

Mallerstang is a beautiful, slightly bleak, hamlet close to Kirkby Stephen. It sits at the foot of Wild Boar Fell, and there are the remains of a mediaeval castle which is flanked by the sparkling River Eden. It’s an amazing place that is seemingly trapped in time; I recommend a visit.

Cumbrian Tatie Pot is one of those rare dishes in England that mixes its meats, something more common on Continental Europe. “The recipe in slightly different form appears in various books of Lakeland cookery”, says Jane, “and often the beef is described as ‘optional’ – which it most definitely is not. It makes the character of the dish. So resist the national tendency to leave it out.” You have been told.  I found several recipes on the Internet, and none of themhad beef on their ingredient lists.

“Tatie Pot”, she goes on to say, “is very much a dish of communal eating, at village get-togethers, or at society beanos…There is always a certain rivalry to see whose version is the best.” Well I was driving up for a get-together and it was Cumbrian and it looked like the perfect dish to cook in a kitchen equipped with an Aga. What could possibly go wrong?

The first thing you need to do is get hold of the meat; you’ll need 2 pounds of either scrag end (often called round of lamb/mutton these days) or best end of neck off the bone and 2 pounds of shin of beef. Make sure you ask for the bones as well as some extra ones, if the butcher has some. Whilst you’re in the butcher’s shop get yourself a nice black pudding.

When you get home, use the bones and some stock vegetables and herbs, plus a little wine if you have it, to make a good stock. As I was cooking on an Aga, I could get it simmering on the hot plate before popping it in the cool oven overnight. Here’s a post from the other blog on stock-making, if you’re not used to making them.

Cut the meats into good-sized pieces and coat them in some well-seasoned flourand arrange the pieces in a wide roasting pan. Scatter over the meat six level tablespoons of mixed, dried pulses(e.g. split peas, pearl barley, red lentils). In the original recipe, Jane says to soak them overnight, but with today’s dried pulses there is no need for this step. Chop two large onions and slice the black pudding into half-inch slices and disperse these evenly, tucking the black pudding between pieces of meat. Season.

Next, peel around three pounds of potatoes and quarter them lengthways. Arrange them on top with their rounded sides pointing upwards. Season well.

Skim the stock of fat and warm it up then pour it over so that it comes halfway up the spuds. Bake at 200⁰C for four hours, topping up the stock with more stock or water, so that the potatoes get a good, dark, crunchy top. As I was cooking on an Aga, I put the tatie pot in the hot oven for two hours and then in the cool oven until everything was nicely cooked and unctuous. The hot oven was rather hotter than expected and the potatoes were perhaps a little darker and crunchier than expected, but never mind, this is country cooking.

#416 Cumbrian Tatie Pot. Even though those potatoes were a little on the burnt side, they did not detract from the fact this was an absolutely delicious dish. The long and slow cooked meat was as soft as butter, the pulses gave body and nuttiness and it was a delight to discover a piece of melting black pudding every now and again. This is definitely going to appear on a future menu; simple and excellent food that sticks to your ribs: 9.5/10

#415 Cumberland Sausage

Unlike other sausages, Cumberland sausages are not made into links, but are allowed to form large coils. You can buy whole coils to fry or bake for a family dinner, or buy lengths of it.  In Richard Woodall’s butcher shop in Waberthwaite, he would measure out yards of sausage using two drawing pins stuck on his counter. Amazingly the shop is still going strong over eight generations!

For me, the Cumberland is the quintessential English sausage; highly seasoned with salt, black pepper, herbs and spices. It shouldn’t have much else added to it, other than a little rusk or bread to soak up the fat. They have been made like this for centuries. Indeed, all sausages were made as one long coiled piece, until the addition of links was introduced in the early seventeenth century. The meat should be coarsely chopped or minced, not like your typical bizarre and homogenous cheap supermarket sausages that are ‘a bland, pink disgrace’, as Jane puts it.

A Cumberland ring is fried or baked, often secured in shape with two skewers before cooking.  It is commonly served as part of a breakfast. Jane mentions that at Rothay Manor, it is served with bacon, tomato, fried egg on fried bread, apple, black pudding and mushrooms; surely the breakfast of champions! It can be served with mashed potatoes and peas, or with a stew of green lentils and bacon cooked in red wine.

To make sausages, you need some natural sausage casings, which you can buy very cheaply from any butcher who makes his own sausages. Often he’ll give you them for free. They are very easy to prepare. All you need to do is soak the in cold water for an hour to remove any salt, find an end (this is quite tricky, as they are very long and not too dissimilar to tapeworms!) and carefully fit a funnel into it to rinse out the insides of the skins with more cold water. Once the water as run all the way through, the skins are ready to use, so pop them in the fridge until needed. Any unused skins can be kept in the fridge for four weeks. For these sausages you’ll need hog casings.

First of all, prepare your meat ready for the mincer by cutting the following into strips: one pound of boned shoulder of pork, 6 ounces of pork back fat and half (yes, half!) a rasher of smoked bacon.

Pass all of these through the mincer using the coarse blade, then again using the medium blade. (I have no medium blade, so just used the coarse one again.)

Using your hands, mix all of these together in a bowl along with an ounce of white breadcrumbsand a quarter teaspoon each of ground nutmegand mace. Season with salt and pepper. I used a teaspoon of salt in all and was pretty heavy on the pepper too. Curiously, Jane does not add any herbs to the mixture, but if you wanted to, dried sage or marjoram are typical.

Now it is time for the fun and games: filling the sausage skins. To do this, I used the sausage stuffer attachment for my Kitchen Aid. The amount of sausagemeat made here easily filled a single hog casing (each one is at least 3 yards/metres long, I reckon).

Prepare the sausage skins as described above. Take one and slide it over the funnel of the stuffer, tying a knot in the end. Now feed the sausagemeat through the machine and into the casings. Here, you need to grasp the sausage as it comes out so that it fills the skin properly making no major air bubbles. This is tricky to do if you are simultaneously feeding the machine with sausagemeat, so an extra pair of hands will come in useful.

As you make more and more sausage, let it land upon a plate to form the characteristic coil. When all the meat has been stuffed into the skin, cut and knot it, leaving some slack for expansion when cooking. Chill the sausage overnight (which I forgot to do, in my eagerness, making it rise up in the centre when in the oven).

Now you can fry the sausage in a pan, turning it over at half time. Alternatively, bake in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes at 180⁰C, pricking the skin before it goes in. Of course, you don’t have to cook the whole thing at once; you can cut lengths off it and fry those up instead.

#415 Cumberland Sausage. This was absolutely delicious, and quite simply the best sausage I have ever eaten! With something simple like this, it is all in the seasoning and the half-rasher of bacon worked wonders in that department. Who’d have thunk it, a real bona fide secret ingredient!? This, along with the freshly-ground pepper and the warming mace and nutmeg, made such a winning combination, that I have been making vast amounts of sausages, sometimes for frying up, or sometimes for sausage rolls. I cannot gush any more than this: 10/10