YES! The big day has arrived! We are going to slow roast some lamb. This roast will have three layers of bright joyful lavender notes. Almost provencal actually as I shall also add a little rosemary and garlic. I want the scent of the herb in each different prep step of the lamb. Each separate preparation adds another note. I call this layering. Like the perfume! I am sure there is some fancy-pancy culinary term that I don’t know!!
The first layer of lavender was introduced in the field. You will remember that this roast (aka a Murphy) was grown on our own fields of fresh green clover, lambsquarters and grass. Every week they were fed garlic, cider vinegar, yoghurt and thyme for health. In the last 6 weeks I introduced piles of lavender tips to this mixture. So the first layer of seasoning comes from the field.
The next two layers of lavender are added in the RUB and then the CRUST.
THE RUB: Lamb Massage! I bought a lavender plant when I arrived in California. We used branches of it to smoke the prime rib last night and the rest will be snipped for tonight’s lamb. Poor little denuded lavender. Third son will plant it after I have gone and nurse it back to health.
Salt, pepper and chopped lavender and rosemary are massaged into the meat then I cut little slits and poke in lavender and rosemary tips. Then grab some good big unchopped hunks of the herbs and press all over the meat. Wrap the lot tightly in plastic wrap to keep all those scents inside, and sit for a few hours in the fridge.
OK after a few hours bring the roast back to room temperature, and pat dry.
My mother coated the lamb in a thick layer of salt. A similiar principle is used when roasting a whole salt encrusted fish. It holds in all the juices and creates a good crust. Lamb does love salt.
Often, I coat the skin with a crust of wholegrain mustard, peppercorns, garlic, lemon, salt and olive oil.
Today we are going to brush the lamb in a Lavender and Rosemary Mayonnaise. This will hold in all the juices and adds another lavender note. The egg in the mixture will help the crust adhere to the meat.
Make this in the food processer.
Blend egg yolks and garlic first until good and fluffy, then drizzle the oil in slowly, slowly, then pulse in the herbs, lemon, flaxseed and salt and pepper. Brush this all over the top of your roast. Keep some for later as well.
Pour a cup of water into the roasting dish. Surround your roast in whole onions and garlic and more green lavender and rosemary. Allow 25 minutes per pound. This roast is about 6 pound. So 30 minutes at 400 then down to 325 for 2 and a 1/2 hours. Keep in mind that the meat will keep cooking after you have removed it from the oven to rest. Every time you check it, throw a few more sprigs of herb in there and continue to brush with the mayonnaise to create a very popular thick crunchy crust.
About an hour before you eat, hook out all the left over burnt sticks from the herbs and add your potatoes and vegetables to the dripping. Cook with the meat for maximum taste and crunch. (After I transfer the meat to another dish to rest I also transfer the potatoes to another roasting dish so they keep crisping while I make the gravy. mmm GRAVY!.. Homer Simpson Voice)
When you can poke a carving fork into the meat and turn it easily, with no deep red juices flowing you are cooked. Lamb prefers to be cooked to a slight blush of pink. Now rest – no not you, the LAMB!
Now, we make the GRAVY! Don’t forget the sweet chilli and marmite!
As Bad Baby (Beautiful Daughter) would say “Nom Nom Nom”..
Crostini, using home made rosemary bread, demanded something special, so tonight we are starting with ChgJohn’s Baked Brie with Caramelised Onions. This was just divine. The guests just woofed this down. ChgJohn told me to make TWO!
Because Company was coming I made dessert! A very rare occurrence. Apple Tarte Tartin adapted from this gorgeous Tarte Tartin recipe. Afterwards I had to sit down and write the recipe down for everyone! They picked the plate clean.
So we have gone in search of some animals. Central California has a few animals.
This is not Daisy.
I am sure that Hairy MacLairy would be more than happy to visit here though. This one is the best indication of the air quality out here. The valley has huge ranges on either side and the smog just hangs in here. I suppose it is a combination of very dry silty soils and the industrial level of residual spray dusts on the surrounding orchards and fields. Not an easy place to breathe.
Oh and I must tell you. (you will be so proud..) I have discovered The Food Channel!!! Woohoo, Iron chef here I come!
My son’s wife, who loves good food, has been patiently waiting for me to cook a Steak and Cheese Pie. There have been jokes about me using a steel glove in the kitchen from now on. So I sat by the pool for a while. Sitting by the pool in November! When I was feeling brave enough I diced the steak very carefully.
My son has requested that we cook the meat in the crock pot as he likes the steak to be at the melt in your mouth level. So we are going to do this in a new way. I pan fried the meat first, and added Soya Sauce, Balsamic, Worcestershire and Beer. Then it cooked in the crock pot for the day!
You all know how to construct a pie. Sfter fter pouring in your meat and gravy into the pastry dot the meat with small cubes of a strong cheddar cheese, then the pastry. I will not go into details. This was served with rosemary potatoes.
Sorry John honey, but we are eating our steak and cheese pie out beside the pool. It is another stunning California day. But at least I am not bleeding!.
So I was making scalloped potatoes and using my son’s knives. Can you guess what happened next? Yes. You are right. I cut the finger. Really cut it. And I am quite the bleeder so I had to call in a Troop. Who was kind enough to be my hands. And I talked this very young fellow through making Mama’s Scalloped Potatoes.
As he was dealing with the garlic, I reached for the mandolin to cut the potatoes, I have never used a mandolin before. Surely I could do this one-handed. Wow, what a gadget! They are so sharp and make short work of the potatoes AND another finger on the other hand. Next time I am going to bring my own knives. By now I had both hands bandaged and needed more help.
To assemble the scalloped potatoes. Grease your dish, and wipe with a sliced piece of garlic. Layer thinly sliced potato, onion and cheese and pepper ending with potato and cheese. Half fill the dish with cream.
Cook in a moderate oven for about two hours, slowly, until tender and tasty.
Ava wants a taste.
We had the Scalloped Potatoes with grilled lamb chops that had been lightly sprinkled with sea salt. Bowls of Mama Coleslaw. Now, my darlings, I am talking with limited fingers! Taking off the tips of your fingers is not a comfortable style. Ow. So I write again tomorrow.
A broken window in California.
So, I have relocated. I am out in orchard country now. Soon we will plant the cuttings I brought from my garden for Third Sons herb garden. Then I am taking on another supermarket, with a better list. I am getting good at this. My son is a great cook too so he is fun to shop with. The chilli bin/cooler, that travelled across America ahead of me, has been opened and we will be grilling lamb chops this evening. Sorry John, I know it is below freezing and has been snowing out there and you and Daisy are in a winter routine but out here in California it is a beautiful, calm, clear and sunny day!
College Girls with Scabby Knees.
That was yesterday and this morning I have a tired brain. Soon Third Son will come and collect me and carry me off to the Central Valley. It is a four hour drive and he is one of those drivers who you have to bribe to stop along the way for photos! He likes to get into his car and drive to where he is going without stopping!
Tonight we shall commence to COOK!
I have reached SACRAMENTO and have been gently transported to the Big House somewhere up in the hills.
But today it is quiet and I will soon crank the big empty kitchen into gear. You will be thrilled to learn that I have joined the masses and am forced to BUY my own food. No gardens and freezers and cupboards brimming with home grown food. Now I shall have to go out and shoulder my way up a Californian supermarket aisle and find some food in there. Yesterday was not a big eating day. This morning has dawned clear and bright and I am in the mood to make a Monster Mama Salad.
So as soon as one of these sleepy buggers gets their sorry arses out of bed (I am still in a different time zone in my little Paddington Bear Brain.) I shall request a driver and a super market and then we will make a Monster Mama Salad with Omelettes and caramelised onions for brunch. Tomorrow is the wedding! So I want everyone well fed and ready for the big day.
The garden here is all trees. Beautiful.
It interests me that so many people do not cook. In fact there is a whole generation of people who do not cook. How they sustain themselves I do not know! However the kitchen in this house in the hills is huge and purring quietly, in anticipation of a big wake up!
Actually it is me who is going out West. On Wednesday. The Matriarch and I (in my favourite role as the Handmaiden) are flying out to California to attend her eldest son’s wedding and then I am sloping off to visit my son and his family. Would you like to come along? Oh? Really?! Cool. There are some lovely images I want to collect for you on the travels. Plus visiting my Third Son and his lovely wife will be all about the food and the garden. I am FedExing lamb overnight to their place, with honey and lavender jelly. So we will be cooking Mama food every day. And I will have a team there so we can blog much more efficiently.
As you know I prefer not to eat processed foods and travel is always a whole day – we have a two hour bus ride to the airport in Chicago, then a 4 hour wait for the plane, then we fly to Denver then on to Sacramento. After all that bananas get kind of boring. So you and I can research the airport food and Celi Diet options. (I tried on The Dress – a Vintage crochet silk, hope I don’t pull a thread!!- and it is still just a teensy bit snug).
I actually love airports and planes and travel. I love the anonymity of the crowds. The bustle fades off into white noise and I do some of my best work in the cafes, restaurants (and OK – bars!) in those dark corners of airports. The Matriarch is a great reader and can sit for hours with a book so we are perfect travel companions. So Wednesday if all goes well I will be writing to you from the airport.
Secondly I am still writing The Big Work and I think it is important that I do keep adding to it every day, so I am working on ways to write on the move. Taking the lap top is only one part of it. I have to take my scene by scene worksheets and my notes. So much for travelling light. But taking the laptop means I can take you on my travels. We will see about the packing tomorrow.
The third thing, and probably the first thing you thought of, is leaving the animals. This takes some organisation. I am not irreplaceable and John will take over. So I am busy making sure that everything is at hand for him, and especially that Daisy is very secure. I have separated the calves from Hairy M’Clairy so he cannot bully them and steal their food. I have organised it so that they all drink from one big central tank placed in a shared corner of the fields and the barn, which will be easier for John to fill with the new hose. All their entrances and exits are logical and secure. I have been feeding them on John’s time scale for a while now, so they are used to a very early feed and a very late one. The birds are all free range with an emphasis on free, so they are easy. TonTon and Big Dog get a dog-walker. She will come every lunch time to take them for a big walk. As long as she carries his frisbee TonTon will follow her anywhere. Who knows what Big Dog will do. John will do the morning and evening walks after feeding out. Hope he can keep up.
So there you are. You are in the loop! TonTon knows something is afoot..