I was celebrating (one of my adult students gained a Merit for his Grade 1), and Nick was de-stressing after a heavy week at work. We'd drunk most of the bottle of rather fine frizzante red wine I'd purchased in my local Italian deli (Girasol, on Teddington High Street, for local readers) before we sat down to supper. I made La Caldareta, a slow-roast dish from the Extremadura region of Spain. The recipe itself comes from Moro East, the third Moro cookbook, and one which I spend large amounts of time salivating over though not actually cooking much from it. I am determined to right that wrong!
I made this dish a couple of weeks ago, with a lamb shoulder joint which lends itself to very slow cooking. It's a one-pot meal, as it contains potatoes and needs only a green salad and a hunk of good bread to accompany it. According to the preamble in the cookbook, "the herbs should mimic the vegetation the Extremaduran sheep and goats graze on" (thyme and rosemary). It is a very easy dish to make and can be assembled in advance.
1 shoulder of lamb or kid, about 2kg in weight
3 tsps fine sea salt
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
5 tbsps olive oil
1 large onion, roughly sliced
18 garlic cloves, skin on
2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 smoked sweet paprika
1/2 bottle Spanish white wine
3 tbsps brandy (optional)
1 kg medium-sized firm or waxy potatoes, peeled, quartered and rubbed with 1/2 tsp salt (I use Charlotte potatoes).
Rub the meat joint with the fine sea salt and half the thyme and rosemary, and let it stand on a plate for 20 mins - 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 175C/Gas 4
Put the olive oil, garlic and onions in a large roasting dish with a pinch of salt. Fry over a medium heat until the onion softens and starts to colour. Stir in the bay leaves, fennel seeds, paprika and remaining thyme and rosemary, followed by the wine and brandy (if using). Place the meat on top, skin side up, and roast for 2.5 hours, basting regularly. Toss the potatoes in the juices in the roasting tray, increase the heat to 220C and roast for a further 40 mins, by which time the meat should be caramelised and sticky on the outside, and falling off the bone. Add a splash of water to the roasting tray if the juices have dried up. Check for seasoning and leave to rest for 10 mins before serving.
Cook's note: the first time I made this, I cooked it in my Le Creuset casserole, leaving the lid off for the first 30 mins to brown the meat, and at the end to brown the potatoes. When I made it last night, I used pig cheeks instead of a joint of lamb; if anything, the pig cheeks were more tasty than the lamb. We had a nice bundle of steamed English asparagus and lots of my homemade focaccia.
For pudding, we had strawberries hulled and sliced, tossed with icing sugar and a dash of rosewater and left to steep for a few hours. I made Barbados Cream to go with them - it sounds glamorous and exotic, but it is really very easy. It's one of Nigella's favourites, and is simply equal quantities of Greek yoghurt and cream mixed together and then sprinkled with soft dark sugar (Muscovado). Left in the fridge for a few hours, it develops a lovely fudgy topping. You can also use Mascarpone, as I did. The cat ate what was left....