The online magazine
dedicated to the
discussion & revival
of British foodways.

NO.55
WINTER2017

A dish of boiled lamb from Pint Shop in Cambridge, England.

They like to roast meat on a spit over coals at Pint Shop, and we like them for that. They also like to sustain their broader British bona fides in the kitchen and therefore chose to boil lamb as their submission to The Cambridgeshire Cook Book , a compilation of recipes from restaurants or their chefs from all around the county.

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Boiling lamb, and more traditionally mutton, is a time honored British technique for good reason. The meat emerges from the pot with a shocking concentration of savor and velveteen texture that roasting cannot achieve.

Pint Shop’s version looks a lot more complicated than the old iconic dish of boiled lamb with caper sauce, and the long list of constituents could create an inference that the recipe is but a crazed contemporary concoction, a marker thrown to overawe the reader rather than a dish for actual cooking at home. The Pint Shop kitchen, however, would not stoop so low, and their update on the classic gets our unconditional endorsement.

Appearance often deceives, and despite its long list the recipe is not in the least difficult, although like make good things in England and elsewhere it does take time. In typically terse style, Pint Shop calls this dish “Lamb, Peas & Bread.” The pea of course is another traditional spouse for lamb. They share the traditional association with Spring and an affinity for mint, although the exasperating herb does not appear in this recipe. Four generous servings.


For the lamb:

  • about 3 lb lamb shoulder on the bone ( see the Notes)
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • 2 stalks celery cut into 1 inch crescents
  • a leek cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 7 shallots, peeled and halved
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 6 rosemary sprigs
  • 1 Tablespoon coriander seeds, coarsely ground or crushed with a mortar and pestle
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin seeds, also coarsely ground or crushed
  • 1½ quarts lamb or chicken stock ( see the Notes)
  • heaped ¼ teaspoon mace

For the peas:

  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 shallots, peeled and sliced into rings
  • good salt (like Maldon)
  • 1 lb frozen or extremely fresh peas

For finishing the dish:

  • toast
  • zest of a lemon
  • a bunch of watercress or pea shoots if you can find them
  • a hard English sheeps’ cheese like Berkwell, or Pecorino in a pinch, to grate

Preheat the oven to 250°.

  1. Season the lamb with generous doses of salt and pepper.
  2. Get the oil hot in a heavy pot (you will need a lid later) over high heat and sear the entire surface of the lamb. Remove the lamb from the pot.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium and scatter the vegetables, bay and rosemary around the meat. Cook the mix until the vegetables begin to brown.
  4. Throw the three spices into the pot and let them cook for about a minute, no more.
  5. Return the lamb to the pot, pour on the stock, bring it to a boil, then cover the pot with a sheet of parchment or silicone paper and its lid.
  6. Cook the meat until it pulls away from the bone, usually in anywhere from 3 to 4 hours.
  7. Take the meat and vegetables from the pot and let them cool.
  8. Meanwhile strain the stock, discarding the bay and rosemary, and reduce it over high heat by about two thirds, skimming off any fat and scum.
  9. Add the mace and check the seasoning.
  10. Pull the meat from the bone in chunks a little bigger than an inch square, then return it to the pot with the vegetables and allow everything to simmer while you prepare the peas.
  11. Set a heavy skillet over medium heat and melt the butter, then add the shallot rings with a thro of salt. Fry them until they soften.
  12. Blast the peas in a food processer to rough them up, stir them into the shallots and check the seasoning.
  13. To serve the dish, spread the peas on the toast, top them with some lamb, scatter the zest across the meat, add some watercress and grate some cheese to top it all off.

 

Notes:

-As the original recipe notes of the cooked lamb and vegetable mixture; “If you have time, it’s best left to mature overnight.” That also makes it easier to skim off the surface fat.

-The original recipe does call for chicken stock but lamb stock is easy enough to make. In a pinch, at least in the United Kingdom where they are widely available, you also could make lamb stock with a cube from either Oxo or Knorr’s.

-A whole lamb shoulder can be hard to find in the United States but you could substitute a like weight of leg on the bone or a few shoulder chops.

-Pint Shop considers the dish “a starter or light dinner.” They have hearty appetites at Pint Shop.

-Mashed potatoes would be as equally appropriate as the bread.

-The original recipe uses nutmeg, not mace.

-The spicing of coriander and cumin may not seem particularly English to novices, but both flavorings appear early on in manuscripts and cookbooks.