Roasted Lamb Ragù

Roasted Lamb Ragù

Casseroles are perfect winter food: they require long, slow cooking and are warming and comforting. They are also ideal if you are cooking for a large number of people because the quantities can easily be increased. Furthermore, if you are entertaining you can make your casserole ahead so that on the day it only requires reheating and you can concentrate on spending time with your guests.

Despite knowing all of this, for me there’s a problem: I hate making casseroles because I hate the meat-browning stage of the process. My kitchen is always left with a film of grease on every surface and my hair looks like I’ve spent the day working at the local chippy.

Browning the meat for a casserole, we are told, seals in the juices and assures flavour, so it probably isn’t a stage we should skip. But what if we could? One of my Aga recipe books suggests browning the meat for a casserole in the roasting tin in the roasting oven, which seems to me to be the answer. After all, you need a high temperature and the Aga roasting oven is hotter than the highest setting of most conventional ovens.

Then the other day this recipe for roasted lamb ragù caught my eye in the Waitrose Food Magazine under the heading “A Genius New Way to Cook”; you roast literally everything together in the oven, including the meat. Waitrose says you can try it with other combinations of meat, spices and herbs, and I’m thinking of trying to make one of my favourites – boeuf bourguignon – in this way. Anyway, this ragù was absolutely delicious and I will definitely be making it again and using the same method for other combinations of ingredients. (She says, with a flick of her ungreasy hair.)

Roasted Lamb Ragù

Serves 4

(Pre-heat conventional oven to 200ºC)

Ingredients

  • 2 leeks, halved lengthways and finely sliced
  • 2 carrots, finely diced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 clove
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 bay leaves
  • A few thyme sprigs
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • 900g lamb neck fillets
  • 250ml red wine
  • 250ml chicken stock
  • 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes

Method

  • Toss the leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, spices, herbs, honey and anchoivies in the large Aga roasting tin. Season
  • Season the lamb neck fillets and lay on top
  • Place the tin on the third set of rungs in the roasting oven and roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, turning everything at least once. You want the meat to be browned and the vegetables soft and turning golden
  • Stir in the wine, stock and tomatoes and place in the simmering oven for 2 or 3 hours. You know the drill: no harm will come to it if left for longer. Mine was in the oven all afternoon
  • (Or turn a conventional oven down to 160ºC, cover the tin loosely with foil and roast for one hour and 30 minutes.)
  • Roughly shred the meat, turning it in the juices and put the tin back in the roasting oven for 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally until the meat is browned in places and the ragù is glossy and thick
  • (Or turn the conventional oven back up to 200ºC, remove the foil, shred the meat as above and roast for a further 30 minutes.)

We had ours with delicious sourdough bread, purchased that day from the wonderful Hart’s Bakery in Bristol, and a green salad dressed with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. If we hadn’t had delicious, fresh bread to hand, I’d have served the ragù with pasta. Tagliatelle would be perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

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Bread

Some of our favourite bread comes from Bordeaux Quay.  Luckily, if I don’t want to go all the way down to the harbour, I can buy it either at the butcher’s Ruby and White or at Whiteladies Road market which takes place every Saturday and is a few minutes’ walk from my house.

We were there yesterday morning, stocking up on sourdough, pain de campagne and granary bread, which I shall save for toasting.  As you can see, we should have gone a little earlier; the tables were becoming rather bare.

 

So much is written and said about food allergies these days and about wheat in particular.  Every other person one knows seems to have a wheat intolerance.  There is a case for eating good quality bread, instead of some of the factory-baked stuff and this article on sourdough bread which I read recently explains why.

Which brings me on to toast (sort of).  I wrote on my tumblr about my old-fashioned way of making toast on an Aga , and explained that naturally, the quality of the bread used to make the toast is a factor, but everything being equal, Aga toast is still the best.  Here are a couple of toasting tips for Aga owners who may not have tried doing it this way:

  • Put the Aga toaster on the hot plate for a few minutes first to let it get very hot.  This prevents the bread from sticking.
  • If some bread does stick, put the toaster back on the hotplate when you’ve finished.  This burns off any stuck bits.
  • Use the wire brush that came with your Aga to scrape away all the burnt crumbs from the hotplate.

 

 

Don’t even think about reverting to a “normal” toaster.  Why would you?  You get better toast this way and you are making the most of your Aga.  The same applies to kettles.  Once you have an Aga you don’t need an electric one.  Think how much work surface you gain by not having either a toaster or a kettle taking up space on it, and of course how much electricity you save.