Sunday, 3 July 2011

Mutton in Port

Often it's not big things that can really make your day, like being proposed to, getting a new job that will allow you to maybe actually tell your shitty bastard boss to Fuck Off on your last day, finding out you haven't got that life-threatening disease you thought you had, or waking up thinking it's Monday and then remembering that it's Saturday.

Sometimes, it's the little things. Finding in your drawer a spare weirdly-shaped battery for that clock whose second hand has been twitching backwards and forwards for two months, for example. Or going to the shops to buy a microwave and finding that it fits exactly in the space you need it to, despite having forgotten to take any measurements. Or getting in the car to find that someone else has filled it up with petrol.

Or finding something to do with the clattery collection of vegetables that have been staring at you accusingly for the last week.

We are inundated with vegetables at the moment because my husband has become obsessed with the Saturday farmer's market at Parliament Hill. We used to go together and he would skulk about behind me saying "What about a cabbage? What about some tomatoes? What about some mussels?" all of which I'd say no to, because all I wanted to do was buy a chicken, get a sausage sandwich from the sausage sandwich van and go home. (Sometimes I see people at the market pretend to come and do their weekly shop, but actually all they've really come for is a sausage sandwich.)

Now I send my husband off on Saturday mornings by himself and he loves it. With no limits on his enthusiasm or spending he goes perfectly nuts and buys everything. He once took Kitty and came back with her slung over his shoulder like a sack of carrots because the buggy was full to brim with haunches of venison, racks of lamb and eighteen different kinds of vegetables.

It's all very marvellous, but the vegetables don't half sit about looking glum after a week or two. My inclination is to throw the whole lot in the compost, put it down to bad judgment and swear never to buy kohlrabi again, but my husband decided that this was the wrong attitude, and instead turned the whole lot into a stew using a leg of mutton he had purchased from someone at the market. We're not eating lamb anymore. We've decided that it stinks the house out. And lambs are cute. Although I know that's pathetic.

Anyway so here we go, an entirely original recipe, by Giles. This is excellent, although it takes 4 hours to cook.

Mutton in Port

Pre-heat your oven to 130C

1 leg of mutton. Purchasable, probably, at your local farmer's market or at a nearby butcher. Not sure if Waitrose does it
2 onions, chopped
2 bulbs garlic, chopped
4 sticks of celery, chopped
1 kohlrabi, or turnip, or celeriac or swede or any other root vegetable giving you the eye from the corner of your veg box
3 small carrots, left whole
1/2 a bottle of the cheapest port you can find. Real piss. You can sub red wine
1 mugful of stock, packet is fine
oil for sauteeing, salt, pepper
As many herbs as you can lay your hands on: bay, parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano (not mint) tied up together with string. Any combination of these, or none at all, is fine.

1 In a large casserole brown the mutton all over thoroughly, for about 20 minutes, over a medium flame, in some veg oil. Sunflower or groundnut will do. Please not olive oil because it will burn and taste horrible. Set to one side on a plate

2 In the same casserole sweat over a low flame the onions and celery for about ten minutes. Sprinkle over a good pinch of salt to stop the onions from burning. Towards the end of the cooking time, add the garlic and the herbs so they, too, don't burn and taste bitter.

3 Pour in your half bottle of pissy plonk and mug of stock. Cook off the alcohol but don't worry about reducing it right down. About 2 minutes fast simmering ought to do the trick. Then add in the mutton, carrots and any other root veg. Cook in your oven with a lid on for 4 hours.

4 When it's done, remove the whole vegetables and the joint and strain the cooking water of the herbs, onions, garlic and celery. Then leave the cooking liquid to settle for half an hour and skim off the good 1/2 inch of fat that will appear. If you're making this to eat the next day (which is a good idea, because it's superb re-heated) leave the cooking liquid in the fridge overnight and scoop out the fat even more easily.

We ate this with a lot of buttery macaroni, which sounds like a weird thing to have with it but it worked very well.


  1. Hello Esther! It's me, Supersizer1. The recipe sounds really good! And I totally love macaroni, so for me, this would be delicious! Good to see you are still blogging, and using words like 'pissy', which make me laugh.

  2. Well, that's made my juices flow. I must investigate the possibility of buying mutton, I do so agree with you about lamb making the house smell.

  3. Little jumpy lanbs frolicking about are cute, but if it helps the lamb tht you eat is up to a year old and just looks like a normal non-cute sheep.

    Do you think this would work in a slow cooker, for people who can't stand being in a house for 4 hours while it slowly fills with the smell of food-that-you-can't-yet-eat?

  4. What a great recipe! Actually drooling. Well done Giles ( whom I've just been informed by my good friend George that he's moved into an office adjoining his.... So we can keep a beady eye on him!)

  5. I have so much pissy plonk for cooking sitting in the cupboard getting more and more pissy. You have saved it from the drain. Hurrah!

  6. I can very much see myself in the image of Giles bringing home a buggy full of market spoils. I have no restraint.

    Does mutton not make the house smell too?

  7. When I was pregnant I opened the fridge and there was a fresh, raw leg of lamb in there. I took one look at it, threw up everywhere and havent eaten it since.

    I'm so with you on the stinking thing.

    At first sight I thought this recipe sounded like the rankest thing, but it seems I am alone in thinking this and so shall try. After the truimph of the spanish omlette and the Nigella's chicken, fingers crossed!

  8. I've never been a fan of lamb and you're right it does stink the house out. At least you found a good way to use all the veggies up though

  9. Well I must say you are vey brave letting a husband do the shopping, rarely an option I choose to take.
    But, if it makes you come up with damn good recipes then I suppose it's ok.
    Meat & booze make a fine combination especially when slow cooked, so thank you!