Saturday, November 19, 2016

Snakebite Lamb

This is a take on an old English recipe for boiled mutton. You might think I've added an unnecessary, not to say dubiously fusion, twist with the tablespoon or so of fish sauce. But fish sauce, or nam pla in Thailand, is nothing more than anchovies and salt, with the final addition of a little sugar, left to naturally ferment for months, and sometimes years, dripping forth its pungent red-brown liquor.

It is little different to the many European fish sauces made with anchovies and salt, brought by the Romans to Albion, and known as garum and other names. Many are the robust, devilled English recipes that demanded fermented fish sauce, and later its distant niece Worcestershire sauce, and there are few finer combinations than roast lamb studded with anchovy fillets and garlic. 

Yes, rosemary if you will, but it's the salty fish and lamb/mutton taste that makes the dish, which is why saltmarsh lamb that stuff themselves on samphire and seaweeds on places like Romney Marsh and the Gower provide such wonderful feasts. 

The snakebite combination of cider and lager, of course, works well too. The lamb is first simmered in sharp scrumpy and then is improved with the bitter taste of fermented hops later on. A little mustard, thyme, and lots of garlic, and the dish is complete.

1kg boned leg of lamb
500ml scrumpy cider
250ml lager beer
10 cloves of garlic
10 whole peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 tsps English mustard
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 large onion, chopped roughly
2 medium carrots, sliced diagonally
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a pressure cooker on a medium-heat hob and fry the onions for a couple of minutes, stirring all the time. Tilt the pan and push the onions to one side then brown the joint of rolled lamb. Keep turning the joint, making sure it is brown all over, and the onions don't catch. 

Add the carrots and bay leaves and fry for another two minutes, adding a little water if the bottom begins to catch. Then add the scrumpy, peppercorns, mustard, fish sauce and five cloves of garlic. 

Put the lid on and cook under a medium pressure for 20 minutes. Then open the cooker, turn the lamb, and cook under pressure for another 20 minutes. Take the lid off and add the beer and the other five clove of garlic. 

Simmer uncovered for one hour, turning the lamb regulary, until the liquid is reduced by a third - this should take between 40 minutes and an hour, depending on the heat of the hob.

Allow the lamb to rest for 20 minutes in the pan, then carve into thick sliices and serve in a bowl. Add a couple of ladles of the lamb liquor, and serve with boiled potatoes and green vegetables.

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