Saturday, 10 October 2009

Lamb and flagolet beans

Plagiarism is a great thing when it comes to food. Although now and then chefs come up with amazing discoveries of new flavour combinations or techniques (I wonder if there was ever a time when strawberries and cream or beef and mustard was ever considered new and daring?), I think generally food evolves by taking someone else's creation and tweaking it.

For this reason I find other peoples' recpies, especially handwritten ones fascinating. I love looking at other peoples' cookery books and gueassing what they have made from it (if they're messy) by which pages are most splattered, or by comments written in the margins. These can trigger such strong memories, for example when, after my grandmother died, my mum found a piece of paper with what she had cooked for her 21st birthday party tucked into a cookery book.

This recipe came from my housemate Agnes, who copied it from somewhere else. The fact that the sheet it's written on is reassuring crumpled from being used so often, and that I've tasted it before - and it was amazing, hearty and comforting - made me want to try the recipe myself.

2 large onions (the recipe I used called for shallots as well but I didn't have any)
12 cloves of garlic
A couple of finger length pieces of fresh rosemary, or a teaspoon dried
2 bay leaves
A small shoulder of lamb
6 tinned anchovy fillets
A tin of chopped tomatoes
2 glasses of wine, both red or white work well
A tin of flagolet, cannelini or butter beans

Slice the onions into 1cm wide strips and peel the garlic. Put the onions and ten of the garlic close into a roasting tray large enough to take the lamb later. Pull the rosemary leaves of the stems - I love doing this, and it makes your hands smell wonderful - and sprinkle them, along with the bay leaves over the onions. Add a bit of salt and a good grinding of pepper.

Cut the remaining garlic into little chards and roughly chop the anchovies. Using a small knife stab holes all over the lamb and poke a piece of garlic and some anchovy into each. Smear any remaining anchovies over the top of the lamb.

Put the anchovied lamb in the pan on top of the onions then pour the tinned tomatoes and wine around the meat. Cover with tin foil and roast at 180°C for four hours, by which time your kitchen shuld smell like a French farmhouse kitchen, the meat should be beginning to come away from the bone, and the tomatoes, wine and lamb fat should have amalgamated into pungent, slighly oily sauce. Remove the lamb, stir the beans into this, put the lamb back on top and roast for a further 30 minutes, this time without the foil, until the lamb is bronzed and screaming 'eat me' at you.

This should serve four, just, although the piece of lamb I used was really quite small. Despite the beans if I was serving this to other poeple I would probably make something potato-ey, maybe mash or sliced potatoes baked in stock, to go with it. As it was I ate it greedily on my own, for dinner one evening and lunch the next day and froze the rest for a clod evening when I suddenly need a lamb and bean hit.

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