Roast Lamb – France Meets England in Wales
Once upon a time the British not only ruled the waves, but also the world wide motorbike market. BSA, Royal Enfield, Norton, Triumph – these were names that made a biker’s heart turn a few revolutions faster. And these bikes had character, though not always a good one. A Norton Commando without its oil stain under the belly was as perverse as continental breakfast; the vibrations of the BSA Lighting made you either addictive or aggressive, and the Triumph Trident, the quintessential British superbike of the early 70s, loved her workshop more than her biker.
But then in 1974 the socialists took over Downing Street and that was the end of it.
Ahem … the end? Not quite. The socialists couldn’t mess with British cuisine. British cuisine was already a culinary shambles. No wonder the British lived mostly on sandwiches and shepperd’s pie before the arrival of spaghetti bolognese, pizza hats or the Tandoori Chicken.
But let us be fair. There was also the Roast Lamb, and that indeed is a serious challenge for the French or Italian cuisine – especially when given a continental polish. And this polish went like this.
Malcolm jumped on the kick starter of his good old Matchless G12 in Tregaron with the full force of his 13 odd stones and the pistons made the 650cc crash. There was joy in the air. Also for Gwenny, who had carefully spread her sweeping Welsh curves in the narrow sidecar, whose sheet metal dress gave itself over to the tingling vibrations with pleasure. Then the trio roared merrily swaying towards Llanbadarn Fawr just next to Aberystwyth.
At the same time, Irène from Brest slipped a Gitane between her French lips, lifted her not-always-easy-to-take honey bunch into the Deux Chevaux and swept breakneck from Machynlleth through the Welsh mountains.
Where to? To Llanbadarn, too.
There René from Brussels and Frank from Hamburg were waiting in their little rented cottage with garden. Frank’s status? Totally between the tides. Assistant teacher at Ardwyn Grammar School, four semesters of study behind him and five still ahead. The DKW RT 250 S with broken front legs disposed of shortly before departure, the BMW 51/3 still with Chris on the assembly rack. So no motorbike, but a fresh woman – though not here, but in Hamburg.
Believe me, it was a confusing time. Only one thing helped: activity. So we got a proper roast lamb from the Czech butcher in Aberaeron, four bottles of Red Bordeaux from Jones’s Off Licence in Aberystwyth for all of us, a six-pack of Pale Ale for the cooks, a set of Gitane for Irène and a bag of marshmallows for her little ruffian.
And then we got down to business under Irène’s direction.
René and Frank had already gathered the ingredients – which I’ll now count down to four people – on the ancient kitchen table.
For the roast
– 1 leg of lamb, 1000-1200g depending on bone size
– 2 medium-sized tomatoes
– 3-4 cloves of garlic
For the potatoes
– 800 g potatoes
– 1 tbsp sweet paprika powder
– 3 tbsp olive oil,
– 1 tsp lemon juice,
– 1 tsp rosemary, ground
– 2 cloves garlic
For the stuffing
In Wales, roast lamb was pushed over the meat counter rolled and stuffed with a „Sage and Onion Stuffing“. You can get a sage and onion stuffing from Paxo on the internet. But with a little experimentation you can also make it yourself, for example with
– 100 g (about 3 slices) of stale brown bread
– 1 small onion
– 1 tsp sage (finely chopped; thyme is also possible)
– ½ lemon
– 30g butter
– 0.15 l (=one cup) meat stock
And this is how Irène proceeded:
While she slowly set the kitchen under smoke, she made us work.
1. The stuffing: Gwenny cut the bread into small cubes, mixed the sage, grated the onion, put the piece of butter on top and slowly poured the hot broth over everything. Ginny knew from her grandmother: the cup of broth is a guideline. You have to be careful to get the right amount and bear in mind that everything will still swell. At the end, Irène carefully refined the whole thing with lemon juice.
Then the stuffing was allowed to rest for half an hour.
2. In the meantime, René had carved the peeled garlic cloves into sharp sticks, skinned the tomatoes, halved them and dusted them with rosemary powder, while Frank scalped the potatoes, halved them, rinsed them and dried them with a (clean?) cloth, mixed olive oil, paprika powder, crushed garlic, rosemary and lemon juice in a bowl, threw the potatoes into the mixture and tossed them vigorously in it. Again, a resting time of 30 minutes.
3. In this time Malcolm was already on the second beer and tore the bone out of the meat, grabbed the stuffing, massaged it into the meat and tied everything together.
4 Irène’s little ruffian came running from the garden into the kitchen, enthusiastically waving a grinning rat by the tail and knocked the dead animal onto the kitchen table.
No one wanted it. Irene smacked the short one around the ears (that did us all good) and gave the mutton roll several small deep cuts with a narrow little knife, shoved the garlic sticks in, rolled the Gitane into the other corner of her mouth and sautéd the lamb roll. In the garden a raging dwarf massacred the fuchsia hedge.
5. Now the roast came on the baking tray , the remaining stuffing somewhere next to it and everything disappeared into the preheated oven (convection oven 180°C° , baking time: 10cm meat height=60 minutes). From time to time Irène poured gravy over the roast and/or cooled it with water.
6. 35 minutes before the end, the potatoes were put on the grill rack above the roast and the stuffing on the rack was turned over. In the last 10 minutes, the tomatoes were allowed to join the potatoes and the roast did not get any more liquid poured over the crust.
And when the time came, Irène, amid French, German, English and Welsh exclamations of admiration, arranged everything on the baking tray, poured salt over potatoes and tomatoes and heaped the tray on the table.
Then she strangled her final Gitane in an ashtray, patted her maladjusted darling on the cheek and the party was on.
Tip 1: If rolling the roast doesn’t come easy to you, don’t despair. Be unorthodox and put all the stuffing next to the meat 40 minutes before the end of the roast.
Tip 2: Place the meat with the suet side up. This will give a crust that people will fight over.
If you don’t know how to spend the time when the lamb is patiently awaiting its completion in the oven, think of the Pesce Bollito Con Maionese. Doesn’t mean anything to you? Read up on it here. But mind, you’ll need some German.