Week Twenty Two

This week we were supposed to be going away to Yorkshire for a short break, but unfortunately due to the new lockdown it was cancelled. We had been planning on having a socially distanced reunion(!) with Felix in York, then we were going to stay in Wensleydale for four nights. I must admit I am rather gutted as I had been looking forward to discovering Wensleydale (and of course seeing Felix!), I had planned some walks, including one around the Aysgarth Falls, which are supposed to be beautiful, plus a visit to Harrogate. As always, when planning a visit, the first thing I research is places to eat, so it is no surprise that we had chosen to stay in a hotel renowned locally for its restaurant, in addition I had a ‘Wensleydale restaurant list’, which needed to be tried, tested and ‘tasted’!…I had been really excited about trying these Yorkshire restaurants with their local food menus (and sharing them with you!). Never mind, these Covid times will eventually pass and we will, I am sure, have the opportunity to visit Wensleydale in the future, and be able to try my restaurant list!
In the meantime, this week I thought I would share recipes which use some of the beautiful ingredients which I had hoped to see on the restaurant menus on my visit to the Yorkshire Dales…

Sheep farming has shaped the Dales for centuries, indeed one of the foods I was most looking forward to tasting was the Yorkshire lamb, so for Menu One, I am sharing a recipe  which celebrates the deliciousness of lamb. ‘Provençal Rack of Lamb with Crushed Peas’, is a dish that despite looking very elegant and sophisticated (it’s definitely suitable for a dinner party), is quick to cook, so is great for a midweek treat. Menu Two takes inspiration from the current gaming season; without doubt, we would have seen evidence of this, both driving around the Yorkshire Dales and on the restaurant menus, so I thought that I would share one of my favourite recipes for pheasant, ‘Roast Pheasant Breast with Whisky and Peppercorn Sauce’. If you have never cooked pheasant before, this is the perfect recipe to experiment with; often pheasant can be dry as it is easy to overcook, but I find that this recipe is foolproof, as by roasting the bird whole and then removing the breasts they don’t dry out. Finally, Menu Three, Roasted Raspberries – a dessert which admittedly has very little to do with Yorkshire, but is the perfect compliment to the previous two menus, with its pure simplicity and deliciousness!

All of this week’s recipes, in my opinion, are perfect not only for family dinners but also to serve to guests, and for this reason…dare I mention the word Christmas (?!), they are perfect to cook during the festive season, so make a note of them!

Have a great week and most of all enjoy cooking!

Menu One

Provençal Rack of Lamb with Crushed Peas (Serves 4)

This is really one of the best rack of lamb recipes I have come across. It is simple yet elegant and is quick to cook, so you could easily serve it as a mid-week treat. It is definitely special enough to serve to guests, in fact it has been a favourite dinner party dish of mine over the years. It’s ideal for dinner parties as you can prepare the majority of the recipe beforehand – the lamb once bread-crumbed will happily wait to be cooked when your guests arrive – it just needs about 15-20 minutes in the oven. For a quick option, this recipe is great with steamed new potatoes, but to make it extra special serve with Dauphinoise potatoes with Gruyére cheese, recipe below. I make Dauphinoise potatoes both with and without the Gruyére, I think this lamb dish suits the latter but if you prefer it without use my other recipe.

This recipe is from Raymond Blanc’s cookbook ‘Foolproof French Cookery’, a title which contains all my favourite words, particularly ‘foolproof’! I like to serve lamb on the pinker side, so if you prefer it more well done, cook it for a little longer. The recipe calls for fresh marjoram but this can be difficult to get so I often replace it with fresh sage, and because sage is slightly stronger in flavour I reduce it to one tablespoon instead of two (see recipe).

Ask your butcher to not only French trim the rack of lamb but also to remove the fat covering the meat, this may seem usual as the fat is normally kept to keep the lamb moist and for flavour, but in this recipe the breadcrumbs will protect the meat and give it flavour.

Gluten Free Note: Almost, all of my recipes on Menu Mistress are gluten free, or suggest substitute gluten free ingredients. Unfortunately this recipe uses breadcrumbs which cannot be substituted. If you avoid gluten but don’t have an allergy, thus can eat ‘gluten contaminated’ food, then you could eat this recipe – just scrape off the breadcrumb crust when serving the lamb, believe me it is still delicious with the crushed peas! However, if you do have an allergy to gluten unfortunately this recipe is not for you!

A Tip:  Breadcrumbs – If you don’t have stale bread at hand for the bread crumbs use a fresh ciabatta loaf , it’s texture is naturally drier so it actually will make great breadcrumbs even if it is fresh – just slice off the crusts.

For the Crushed Peas:

600g peas, thawed if frozen

85ml extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons finely chopped marjoram, or 1 tablespoon chopped sage (see note above)

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint

Juice ½ lemon

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Provençal Breadcrumbs:

75g thickly cut stale white bread (or fresh ciabatta – see ‘tip’ above)

2 handfuls fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 teaspoon thyme, finely chopped

1 teaspoon rosemary, finely chopped

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

For the Lamb:

2 x  racks of lamb, French trimmed and trimmed of fat (see note above)

2 tablespoons olive oil

20g unsalted butter

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. First prepare the peas. Put them in a food processor and gently pulse to just crush them – you want them to retain a lot of texture, so be careful not to purée them! Transfer to a small saucepan, stir in the olive oil, chopped herbs and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. To make the breadcrumbs place the bread in the clean food processor and pulse to make coarse breadcrumbs. Transfer to a bowl, stir in the herbs, olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Season the racks of lamb with salt and pepper. Melt the butter with the oil in  frying pan and brown the meat for 3-4 minutes on each side. Transfer to a preheated oven, 190’c, for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the lamb from the oven, brush over with the mustard – avoiding the bones and ends of the meat. Press in the Provençal breadcrumbs so that the meat is coated, apart from the two ends, (you can do this a few hours in advance).
  5. Return the lamb to the oven and cook for a further 15 – 20 minutes (if you have a meat thermometer it should register 65-70’c). Rest for 5 minutes before carving.
  6. Meanwhile finish cooking the peas. Cook the crushed peas over a medium heat with the lid on for 4 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and check the seasoning.
  7. Serve the hot crushed peas on plates and top with the carved lamb cutlets.

Dauphinoise Potatoes with Gruyére Cheese (Serves 4 -6)

You may remember that I posted another recipe for Dauphinoise Potatoes a few weeks ago, that recipe was slightly simpler to make and not quite as rich (that’s if Dauphinoise Potatoes can be ‘less rich’!). This Dauphinoise Potato recipe is richer and more unctuous, it goes very well with the recipe, ‘Provençal Rack of Lamb with Crushed Peas’. I think you should try both recipes as there is a time and a place for either, depending on your mood!

I found this recipe in ‘At Home in the Provence’ by Patricia Wells, who in turn took if from renowned French chef Joël Roubuchon – so it comes well endorsed!

500ml whole milk

250ml double cream

125g grated Gruyere cheese

1 kg potatoes (such as Maris Piper), peeled and sliced very thinly

1 plump clove garlic, peeled and halved

45g unsalted butter, diced

Freshly grated nutmeg

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. In a large saucepan bring the milk to boiling point. Add the cream and three-quarters of the cheese. Stir to blend and melt the cheese. Season which salt, pepper and a grating of nutmeg. Add the potatoes and mix well with a wooden spoon. Cook over a low heat for about 20 minutes until the potatoes are soft.
  2. Rub a baking dish with the garlic. Transfer the potatoes and their liquid to the baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and the butter.
  3. Place in a preheated oven, 190’c, for about 1¼ hours.
  4. Serve immediately.

Menu Two

Roast Pheasant Breast with Whisky and Peppercorn Sauce (Serves 4)

If you have never cooked pheasant before, I urge you to cook this recipe, it is super easy. Pheasant meat can easily dry out during cooking, but by cooking bird whole and then removing the breasts, the meat remains juicy. I like to serve this with buttered savoy cabbage and roast potatoes (recipes below)

2 pheasants

1 onion cut into 4 wedges

Small bunch of thyme

40g butter, softened

800ml chicken stock

150ml whisky

300ml whipping cream

3 teaspoons finely chopped green peppercorns

1 tablespoon finely chopped flat leaf parsley

  1. Place the pheasants in a roasting tin large enough to have at least 4 cm between them. Stuff each cavity with a wedge of onion and a few sprigs of thyme. Smear the butter over the breasts and legs and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Roast in a preheated oven, 190’c, for 45 minutes, basting twice during cooking.
  3. While the pheasants are roasting,  pour the stock into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce by a third – you need about 500ml.
  4. Pour the whisky into a large frying pan, warm through and then carefully light with a match – flambé to allow the alcohol to burn off. Pour in the reduced stock, followed by the cream and leave the sauce to simmer gently until it is reduced and just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Finally stir in the chopped peppercorns and check the seasoning.
  5. Meanwhile when the pheasants are cooked, cover with foil and leave to rest for 10-15minutes.
  6. To remove the breasts from the bone, carefully run a sharp knife down one side of the breastbone and ease off the whole breast.
  7. Place each breast on a plate, sprinkle with the chopped parsley and pour over the whiskey and peppercorn sauce, and serve with buttered cabbage and roast potatoes. (as you will notice from the photo, I often place the legs on the plates too, more for decoration than for taste as there isn’t much meat on them).

Buttered Savoy Cabbage (Serves 4)

Such an easy and useful recipe to have…

1 Savoy cabbage, trimmed and finely sliced

25g unsalted butter

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Place the finely sliced cabbage in a saucepan of boiling water for 2 minutes to blanch it. If you are not using straightaway, immediately refresh with cold water and drain well.
  2. When you are ready to serve the cabbage, melt the butter in a large frying pan, add the drained cabbage and season well with salt and pepper. Toss over a medium heat for 1-2 minutes until the cabbage is just tender. Serve at once.

Perfect Roast Potatoes (Serves 4)

Perfect Roast Potatoes

Everybody has their favourite roast potato recipe. I must admit that having tried various recipes, I have always returned to the one I found years ago in Delia Smith’s ‘Winter Collection Cookbook’ – you can’t beat it in my opinion. I use either olive oil or goose fat (I buy it in jars), depending on my mood. The olive oil gives a lighter, cleaner taste, whereas the goose fat has a richer flavour – both crisp up the potatoes equally well.

1.8kg Maris Piper or other floury, roasting potatoes

110g olive oil or goose fat (see note above)

Sea salt

  1. Place the fat in the roasting tin and place in the oven, 190’c, on the highest shelf so that the oil preheats whilst you prepare the potatoes.
  2. Peel the potatoes and cut into evenly sized pieces.
  3. Place the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with boiling water and add the salt. Simmer for 10 minutes until the outer edge of the potatoes is fluffy – test with the points of a fork.
  4. Drain the potatoes well and return to the saucepan. Place a lid over the pan and shake it vigorously. By shaking the potatoes in the saucepan in this way the cooked edges will become floury and fluffy – perfect for crisping up in the oven.
  5. Remove the roasting tin from the oven and place the potatoes in the hot fat – careful as the oil may spit! Baste them well and return to the oven for about 40 minutes until they are golden brown and crisped.
  6. Sprinkle with salt and serve straightaway – do not allow them to sit around otherwise they will loose their crunch (if they are cooked before you are ready, turn off the oven and leave them inside – but with caution, they don’t like to wait!)

Menu Three

Roasted Raspberries with Vanilla Ice Cream (Serves 4)

You will thank me for this simple recipe!! It’s such an obvious idea, I wonder why I never thought of it until I saw the recipe in a magazine some years ago. Winter raspberries often lack flavour, but by roasting them you can intensify the flavour and produce a lovely warming treat at the same time!

400g raspberries

2 tablespoons caster sugar

A dusting of icing sugar (2-3 teaspoons)

4 scoops of vanilla ice-cream

  1. Put the raspberries in an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle over the caster sugar. Cook in a preheated oven, 200’c, for about 15 minutes until the juices have come out of the raspberries but they are still keeping their shape.
  2. Remove from the oven, either serve at the table in the oven proof dish or transfer to individual bowls – either way sprinkle with icing sugar before serving.
  3. Serve with vanilla ice-cream.

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