lentils

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It may come as no surprise that pork products are thin on the ground in Turkey, so I was asked by an old friend to make a porky meal and I did.  Three kinds of pork in fact.

Pork in Cider
From Ripailles. A rib roast of pork cooked gently in my Raymond Loewy Le Creuset pot on the stove top in sliced onions and dry cider. Later to be joined by bits of Granny Smith apples, bulbous spring onion, potatoes, and peas. Yes I am shit at crisping crackle but the cooked vegetables were magnificent.

Asparagus and Pancetta
I’m going to tell you it was asparagus and cubed pancetta cooked in a frypan with butter and you’re going to say yeah well I could have guessed that.

Puy Lentils with Bulgarian Sheep’s Feta, Salumi, and Shaved Fennel

Fry up a chopped onion until soft, add 500g of puy lentils, cover with water and simmer for half an hour until cooked (more aldente than soft). Drain and allow to cool a little. Fry up the sliced salumi. Chop up fetta. Shave the fennel bulb. Mix it all together with a slug of olive oil and some lemon zest. You don’t need amounts.

Speaking of Bulgaria, apparently people go to Bulgaria to get their Turkish visas renewed and to buy bacon. I don’t know if this is a visa condition but am a little saddened  of any country that you must travel from to buy pork. I’m no great fan of dietary restrictions in religions. It does push my believing in Supreme Being thing that they’d take time to freelance on food hygeine but still must admit to returning to God’s other pieces on food cleanliness like  ‘ Coloured Chopping Boards – What They Mean and Why We Use Them‘ and ‘Hands – Wash Them and Wash Them Well and Often’

Evening was owned by E, now 4.5 years, who managed to set the table, create a centrepiece, make name cards, create tickets for the dinner that had to be presented before entering the dining room, demonstrate the first three ballet positions, give a ten minute presentation on why the centrepiece was a fountain, magic show, brief rendition of hot cross buns on the Casio followed by free jazz improv, and provide medical assistance to Lewis the teddy.

Nice work.

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lamb and lentil braise


Technically it’s a braise and that’s often the cooking method of choice for cheaper and tougher cuts but that doesn’t exclude other cuts. The temperature is lower than an oven but the heat conductivity of the water, which surrounds the meat, is much more efficient. The connective tissue and collagen is broken down with cooking time is transformed into gelatin. Gelatin will thicken the sauce and give it mouthfeel. Bones are also good. So for this reason I grabbed some lamb chops out of the freezer and complimented them with shanks.
Dust the meat with flour and brown them quickly after or the flour goes soggy with juices. Much is said about sealing the meat but the browning adds flavour to the meat by a process known as the Maillard reaction which is a chemical reaction that occurs with amino acids and heat (like sugars and caramelisation) . I’m not entirely sure if the same happens with the flour the meat is dusted with but the flavours will disperse with the flour and the flour acts as a thickener. I’ve also heard that with fish, a dusting of flour will ‘dry’ the exterior so the fish sears in contact with the pan rather than steams. Remove and drain off any excess fat, much of the flavour is still stuck to the pan and this can be deglazed with a little stock and some scraping.
The similarity with a stock means that there’s a flavour base of aromatics – garlic, onion, celery and carrots. This is referred to in French as a mirepoix. The mirepoix was softened gently or ‘sweated’ in olive oil until soft. The size of the mirepoix depends on the length of cooking. A brief half hour fish stock will need small cubes but a longer cooking process can allow larger pieces which add to the biteable elements in the dish – celery and onion not so much but carrots yes.
The flavour gets a boost from adding half a litre of chicken stock and then topped up with water. You could do without it but a watery taste is to no-one’s liking and ther should be something for the lentils to soak up. The other flavour comes from a traditional bouquet garni combo of thyme, bay leaf and parsley. Personally I find popping out to the herb garden a wee bit special.
Added to the mix are kipfler potatoes, which keep their shape well. Potatoes are often mixed to stews for their carbohydrates but their starch also acts as a thickener.
Bring to the boil and skim off the scum and place in a 180C oven for an hour or so. The lid will increase the efficiency of cooking by raising the boiling point in a mild facsimile of a pressure cooker. It’ll also mean that the cooking liquid doesn’t reduce but that’s OK because you’ll need it for the lentils.
Lentils have long been a source of suspicion for transgression of established barriers on protein and meat (pace tofu). Green lentils, unlike other legumes,don’t require soaking before cooking just needing a rinse and then cooking until tender. This can vary but half an hour is good balance between chewy and mush. Add the lentils and continue cooking – if there’s excess liquid you can crack the lid open to allow steam to escape and the liquid to reduce.
At the same time, the dish lacks a bit of acidity and this could be wine (didn’t have any) or lemon (ditto) so I went with tomatoes. Just some cherry tomatoes pan fried with olive oil and basil until broken down for extra taste and mixed in at the same time as the lentils.

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Been reading Richard Olney’s Simple French Food, and while he’s no Major Les he does make for a good read as an inspring blend of bile, obsession, and love. Though I’m yet to find the point where he dots the “i” and realises the common trend of appropriation, softening and santisation as culture moves upwards in the social hierarchy (see Rock, Roll and; Ball, Foot). Anyway most of the dishes started there.

Lamb

One nice looking leg of Cramphorne Edge of Civillisation Saltbush-Fed lamb. It’s always good to adjust a few things to see the effects of changing ingredients but I got out to the herb garden and went mad with the secateurs.

Trimmed most of the fat off and then made finger sized pockets in the roast. I let it marinade in some EVOO, leftover sangiovese, and a splash of sherry.

Next I filled the holes with the herb mix – finely minced rosemary, garlic, parsely, thyme, green peppercorns, and a little sage with a bit of EVOO mixed in. Rubbed a little salt and oil over the roast and then placed it on a bed of quartered leek and lavender. In it went at 190C for 20 minutes and then down to 170C. Continued to baste over the course of the cooking and adding some of the reserved marinade as necessary.

Minikins

Pumpkins the size of a baby’s fist, made a few vents in the top and chucked them in with the roast, making sure they got a good basting.

Du Puy Lentils

Previous story on these is here . Rinsed and then cooked in enough water to cover with a bacon bone, a bay leaf, and a sprig of parsley. Simmered for 25 minutes.

Braised Fennel

Stalks chopped off, quartered, gently browned in some EVOO with four unpeeled garlic cloves for 30 minutes then placed in a small saucepan with some salt and 2/3 cup of water, covered and left to simmer until the water has reduced to a caramelized syrup.

Potato Paillasson

Thinly slicing some potatoes on the slicer for this and then that feeling of having done something very wrong and looking down at my right ring finger to see a patch of skin missing. Off to the sink to lose a bit of blood and then sitting down with a nonstick dressing and a paper towel wrapped around it. Assistant chefs took over under close unnerving supervision. Potato slices washed and dried then spread in a frypan with some duck fat in it. Covered and cooked until golden underneath and then flipped.

Finishing Up

Roast took a shade under two hours and was rested for 20 minutes under some foil. A quick and easy jus made with a splash of wine and some of the liquid from the lentils. Roast carved and served.

Meat was nicely pale and subtly flavoured by the herbs and well complemented by the veges and lentils. Did the lamb a great justice and the finger will be OK.

Not forgetting drinks. Started with beers including a quite sweet Caledonian Golden Promise organic beer Had a 2001 Mc William’s Hanwood Estate Cab Sav which had a hint of dark caramelly sherbert that I love, did I detect the ghost of a sherry in there as well?

Conversation drifted inevitably to the November elections. Pork gets fork.

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