An early Easter (recipe) card
Perish the thought, in these days of celebrity chefdom, that we should forget whom to thank for reinventing the wheel. Was there ever a Christmas treat like Jamie’s Turkey, a crisper bird than Delia’s Roast Duck or a more breathtaking Swiss roll than Heston’s Yule Log? Possibly not, and bless this top triumvirate for getting the nation cooking again, but in the lower-key days of yore, no such credit was given for the genuine innovations that enhanced our daily bread. The ingenious dairy-free goo invented in the throes of rationing was never hailed as Marguerite (Patten)’s Mock Cream, nor did we speak of Elizabeth (David)’s Ways with Olive Oil, none of which involved syringing your ears with it.
In fact, some of my favourite recipes of all time are utterly anonymous, displayed on another kitchen innovation, the wipeclean card. All I can tell you about the following cracker is that it is the intellectual property of The Hamlyn Publishing Group (1977). This is a pity, as I would very much like to shake the hand that lovingly weighed the ingredients and penned the instructions. If it should be out there, attached to a Society member who is reading this, you know where I am!
There are two things I especially like about this recipe. Firstly, it’s quintessentially but not doggedly British. Garlic, rosemary and anchovy, soulmates of the Mediterranean gigot or, indeed, épaule, are conspicuous by their absence, letting the quality of the meat shine, but nor does the dish involve mint sauce which, in my (minority) view does the opposite. Secondly, the ingredients can be readily marshalled from stockcupboard, freezer and fridge. It’s tempting, as Jamie himself might say, to ‘pimp it up’ by using proper chicken stock, rather than a cube, and the sauce will be richer and more velvety. Crème fraîche, unheard of then, will give a thicker result. You could use fresh herbs, though they tend to burn to a frazzle at this temperature and it’s best to reserve them for finishing the sauce. Or you could just follow the recipe as it stands and get a perfectly good result.
Mustard, generally speaking, can be pretty wine-friendly, especially the Dijon variety (from the capital of Burgundy, after all), though if you ever come across something called Moutarde des Pompiers, just remember that a pompier is a French fireman and give it a wide berth. English mustard is demanding too, but the powder in the sauce here gives a warm buzz rather than a kick, and you could try a bold New World chardonnay or traditional white Graves with this. Red options might include Rioja, the northern Rhône, Argentine malbec, Australian shiraz - anything generous and sweetly fruited.
Lamb with Mustard and Cream SauceServes 4
1.5kg shoulder of lamb
4 tsp mustard power
4 tbsp single cream
2 tbsp dried mixed herbs
1 tbsp plain flour
1 chicken stock cube
250ml boiling water
Salt and pepper
1 tsp lemon juice
© The Hamlyn Publishing Group (1977).
- Wipe the lamb and put it into a roasting dish. Roast in a moderately hot oven (400ºF/200ºC/gas 6) for 30 mins.
- Meanwhile blend the mustard with the cream, dried herbs and 6 tbsp cold water.
- Score the surface of the lamb with a sharp knife and paint with the herb and cream mixture. There will be a lot left for the sauce to be made later.
- Continue cooking the lamb for another hour, painting it frequently with the herb mixture.
- When cooked, remove it onto a serving plate and pour off the excess fat from the roasting tin, leaving about 1 tbsp for the sauce.
- Stir the flour into the fat and cook for 1 min.
- Dissolve the stock cube in the boiling water and gradually stir it into the flour mixture.
- Bring to the boil, stirring and cook the sauce for 2 mins, then stir in the remainder of the herb mixture, salt and pepper and the lemon juice.
- Serve with the lamb alongside with a mixed salad or green beans and plain boiled potatoes as well.