Monday, 13 October 2014

Lamb with Leeks & Celery

One of our other bumper crops this year, besides squash, is our leeks. The celery is not too shabby either, and they both go very well with lamb. I left the pieces of leek fairly large, in the hope they would hold together. They didn't though, so I suggest you cut them a bit smaller right from the start. It will make them easier to serve and eat. 

I have gotten to really like adding a little vinegar to many things, meat dishes in particular. It adds a subtle tang - assuming you don't overdo it - that enhances the salty qualities of the dish, without requiring more salt. If you can't get or afford really decent balsamic vinegar, it may be better to use a good sherry or wine vinegar.

4 to 6 servings
6 to 7 hours - 30 minutes prep time

Lamb with Leeks & Celery

1 2 to 3 kilogram (5 to 7 pounds) bone-in shoulder of lamb
4-6  large leeks  (2 bunches)
6 to 8 stalks of celery
3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
2 to 3 bay leaves
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup tamari or soy sauce
1 1/2 to 2 cups unsalted lamb or beef broth
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup unsalted lamb or beef broth OR red wine
3 tablespoons arrowroot or cornstarch

Check the lamb shoulder, and trim off any excess fat. Put the lamb into a large casserole dish which can be covered for baking. Preheat the oven to 250°F. If, perchance, you have a lamb shoulder with has been boned, and it has arrived in a net bag, remove and discard the bag before putting it in the baking dish.

Wash and trim the leeks. Cut them into 1" slices, and rinse them again, and drain them thoroughly. Clean and trim the celery, and cut it into 1" slices.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet, and cook 1/2 of the leeks until softened, and just a little brown in spots - don't let them get too brown: scorched leeks are not nice. Arrange them around the lamb. Repeat with the remainder of the leeks, and the celery, each as one round in the skillet.

Tuck in the bay leaves by the lamb, and pour over the vinegar, soy sauce, and broth. Season with a little pepper. Cover the casserole, with a lid or tightly fitted aluminium foil, and bake for about 6 hours, until the lamb is very tender. (Subtract about an hour for boneless lamb.)

When it is done, remove the lamb and vegetables to a serving dish using a large slotted spoon, discarding the bay leaves. The lamb should basically fall apart into pieces; if it does not, encourage it to do so. Remove and discard any bones and cartilage. Drain the broth left in the baking pan into a large saucepan. Have the remaining cold broth or wine and the arrowroot whisked together, and whisk them quickly into the hot broth in the saucepan. Cook, whisking continuously, until thickened.

Pour a little of the gravy over the lamb and vegetables, and pass the rest in a gravy boat or jug. This makes a lot of fairly thin gravy; any leftovers will make an excellent soup. Mashed or boiled potatoes, rice, polenta, or noodles will help soak it up the first time around.

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