The days are warming and blossom is beginning to appear - winter's coming to an end. It's at this time each year I find myself heading to the kitchen to embark on a final ditch of hearty cooking. The last weekend of winter 2011 was spent hunting for beef brisket, boning a lamb shoulder and chopping root vegetables.
I'm not sure whether it's my age or rural upbringing but I was quite surprised at how difficult it was to find the brisket I wanted to make a Matthew Evans recipe for beef and barley soup. I understand why its not popular, being the breast it is rather fatty, but trimmed the meat flakes so wonderfully when it has been slowly cooked for hours. Just perfect in soup.
Giving up on the local butchers Little Creek Cattle Company have an online service with pick up at many farmers markets so that meant I could get the other vegetables and the Swiss brown mushrooms I needed at the same time. Definitely worth the effort of procuring the brisket, the outcome, a rich flavoursome soup/stew with meatiness from the beef, barley and mushrooms.
The lamb shoulder was easier to come by but the butcher was reluctant to believe that I was going to have the ability to bone it successfully even after I explained my professional capacity. His diatribe started with 'chef's these days.....', I admit a shoulder is a little challenging and there are plenty of young cooks who would baulk at the task. However I like to 'keep my hand in' now that I spend more time in a classroom than a kitchen. The resulting diced lamb (and the bones) were then sealed in seasoned flour, added to the softened veg, bathed in dark ale and left to simmer in the oven for the afternoon. A little tomato paste, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, bay-leaf and s & p making for a sticky dense braise which as you can see was enjoyed with crispy mustard & Gruyere toasts, roasted pumpkin and steamed greens, yum. Good-bye winter and hello spring!