#188 Ragout of Lamb

Another bargain from Orton Farmers’ market – a nice leg of lamb for a tenner. I love lamb, I do. Griggers actually half-inched this one from a chap called Michael Smith. I don’t know who he is. Anyway, I wanted to do this one because I got to use to use up a massive punnet of tomatoes that I also got from the market. This recipe is not worth making with those crappy old chlorosed supermarket thingies. Get some proper ones; if you grow them yourself, alls the better. It’s a nice recipe this one, a nice summery stew.

You need 2 pounds of leg of lamb that has been cubed for this recipe. If you get the butcher to bone it, don’t forget to ask for the bone – you’ve paid for it, make some stock out of it! Shake the cubed meat in a bag along with two tablespoons of well-seasoned flour. Brown them in a pan with a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil. Place the browned lamb in a casserole and then brown 2 diced carrots and half a head of celery that has also been diced in the pan. When done add those to the casserole. If you have a casserole that can go straight onto the hob, then you can do it all in one. Now add ½ teaspoon of Cayenne pepper, 2 crushed garlic cloves, a sprig of rosemary and the grated rind of a lemon to the meat and vegetables and pour over 1 ¼ pints of chicken stock. Bake in the oven for 1 ½ hours at 190⁰C.

At the mid-way point, you need to add around 18 caramelised spring or pickling onions. To make them prepare the onions: leave about 2 or 3 inches of green stalk on the spring onions. If it’s pickling onions, you are using, just peel them. Melt ½ an ounce of butter in a pan and add the onions, plus 1 ½ teaspoons of sugar. Cook until caramelised, making sure they all get coated and browned evenly.

The final stage of this recipe is to cook the tomatoes lightly – they are used as a topping: peel the tomatoes, halve them, scoop out the seeds and dice them up. Melt ½ an ounce of butter in a saucepan and cook the tomatoes lightly. Take the ragout out of the oven, skim it of fat, check for seasoning, place it in a bowl and place the tomatoes on top. Scatter with chopped basil. Serve with a baked potato.

#188 Ragout of Lamb. A really nice stew this one; the meat was beautifully tender and the chicken stock, tomatoes and basil really lifted and made it light and summery – it’s a shame we have no actual summer to speak of. The onions collapse into sweet, sweet mush too. Great stuff – 7.5/10.

#172 Cucumber Ragout

I chose this unusual recipe as the accompaniment to roast chicken – Griggers really bigs this “delicious” and “piquant” dish up and suggests eating it with chicken, veal or lamb. I had never eaten cucumber as a cooked vegetable before and was not feeling too hopeful about it (she bigged up the Mocha Cake and that was total crap!). However, a quick look in Larousse Gastronomique showed me that we English are missing out on something – there are loads of cooked cucumber recipes! Still dubious, I made it in advance so that if it did become watery pap, I could cook some peas and carrots to go with the chicken!

FYI: the word ragoût can mean two things: a stew (usually poultry or meat), or something usually a bit boring, tarted up into something delicious (from the French ragoûter, to revive the taste), which generally applies to vegetables, particularly if you are French.

Peel and slice two cucumbers and brown them in a wide saucepan with some butter. In a separate pan, brown two medium onions and brown those in some butter too. Place them to a saucepan and add 8 tablespoons of chicken stock and 3 tablespoons of dry white wine. Cover the pan and simmer until the cucumber is tender. Mash together 2 rounded teaspoons each of flour and butter and add it bit by bit into the cucumber mixture until it thickens into a sauce. Season well with salt, pepper and ground mace.

#172 Cucumber Ragoût. A revelation. I can’t believe how transformed the cucumber becomes once it is cooked. It is like an extra-tasty courgette. Why on Earth do we not as a nation cook with cucumbers? The same I suppose goes with lettuce, which is used extensively in French and Italian cookery. I say we should try and revive it. Give it a go, you shall not be disappointed.