Navarine of Lamb:

Navarine of Lamb:

Prep:           20 mins.

Cooking:      3 hours in two sessions (2+1), ideally with an overnight rest between.

Course:        Main

Serves:        8

Rating:         3:  Moderate, but well worth the effort and time put in, as this version is a twice-cooked dish; cooked one day, left overnight to cool and then heated through again the following day.

Navarine is a low-cost but absolutely delicious French lamb stew with various root vegetables and button onions cooked in a two-session format.

It’s called Navarine because of the turnips (Turnip = Navet in French).  Make your own decisions as to what veg should be put into it.  Turnips are not actually compulsory, even though the name might suggest so.

For 8 people, find:

  • 2 kg of some sort of cheap, boneless stewing lamb (probably boned-out neck).
  • Root veg – carrots, turnips, potatoes
  • Celery
  • Button onions – the cheapest ones from the supermarket
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • A good dollop/squeeze of tomato puree
  • A dollop (that is ‘a dollop’, not ‘a good dollop……’) of whole grain mustard.  Yeah, right….whatever!  Face…bovvered….?
  • Left-over red wine (A friend of mine has to ask…. “Is there such a thing as LEFT-OVER wine?”)
  • Two mugs of stock (see Tricks’n’Tips)
  • Some fresh thyme – if fresh is not available, use dried
  • Fresh chopped parsley if you can get hold of it – a hefty handful
  • Four tablespoons of flour of some sort
  • A large saucepan that will also go into the oven (cast iron le Creusot?) or a large oven dish and a saucepan.

Method:

  • If the meat is not already cubed, cut to 1” cubes on a chopping board. If it’s already cubed, just trim off any really large lumps of fat.  Don’t be over-fussy with trimming as the long, slow cooking will melt away most of the now-grotty-looking bits – that’s one of the beauties of this dish, it makes beautiful food from relatively cheap cuts of meat.
  • Put some olive oil and butter into the saucepan, allow it to melt and mingle, and then introduce the lamb….Lamb, this is butter and oil….Butter and oil this is Lamb……
  • Turn the heat up to high. There needs to be space in the pan for the lamb to brown.  If the lamb is too crowded in the pan, it will start to sweat, lose moisture and refuse to brown.  We want the surface to brown, to enhance the lamb flavours – give it space.  You may have to do this in several batches, adding further oil/butter as necessary, to get it all browned properly.  The browning process intensifies the wonderful taste of the relatively cheaper cut of lamb so do not miss this out!
  • Put all the lamb back into the saucepan when browned, and bung in the flour.
  • Stir it all in with the oil, butter, juices, etc so that they are all really well absorbed.
  • Put the wine into frying pan to ‘de-glaze’ it and stir/scrape all the sticky bits into the heating wine. It will SHUSH dramatically….. just pretend you’re a chef.  If using two pans, pour the contents of the (now cleaner) frying pan into the saucepan.
  • Add the stock. Boil up.
  • Add the root veg, onions, garlic and everything else except the parsley.  If the saucepan is suitable for the oven, put on the lid and pop into the oven at gas mk 2 for a couple of hours.
  • Check after an hour to ensure it is not drying out. Add more stock (or wine) if necessary.
  • If the pan is not suitable for use in the oven, tip all the contents into an oven dish and cover with foil or a lid.
  • After the two hours, check it for liquid and leave it in the now switched-off oven – overnight if possible.

It really is worth doing this dish over two days.  Honest.

  • The following day, with a fish slice or spatula or something wide and flat, carefully lift off as much of the fat layer that has now formed on the top of the stew into a cup and deal with it appropriately (see Tricks’n’Tips – dealing with fats). This makes it much nicer and, of course, lower fat!  If it was oven cooked in an oven dish, put it all now into a large saucepan – if necessary, borrow one from the rather pretty little miss that you spotted down the road the other day…. then you can ask her to dinner as repayment…..
  • Put the pan over a medium heat and bring to simmering, then turn down to the lowest heat possible. Try not to disturb the pan too much as the meat should be nice’n’tender by now….we don’t want a mushy mess.
  • Cover and leave to simmer really gently over the lowest heat possible for an hour.
  • Put in the chopped parsley but don’t stir. It is now ready.
  • Serve with Dauphinoise potatoes, French beans, Chantenay carrots and a great big smile on your smug face.

You’ll never taste lamb like it again – until you cook Navarine of Lamb again – which you most certainly will want to do. (Ideally, in a smaller batch, for you and that rather pretty little miss ….)

Whole Salmon Posh Buffet Centrepiece

Whole Salmon Posh Buffet Centrepiece

 (Dishwasher version):

Prep:           10 mins.

Cooking:      1 dishwasher cycle….

Course:        Buffet.  Posh one.

Serves:        8 – 12

Rating:         4:  Tricky, but worth a punt.

Cooking a whole salmon as a buffet centrepiece can be quite a problem as they are often too big (too long) for any container that you have in the kitchen.  You would normally have no hope without using a big fish kettle.   You would either have to cut the fish in half, chop off the head & tail or curl it round… none of which are ideal when you want to present the whole fish flat on a platter for a posh buffet.

Solution:  Use the dishwasher.

FIND:

  • Kitchen foil, double width. Either buy the double width turkey foil (expensive, even when it’s available around Christmas) or lay two or more pieces side-by-side, dull side uppermost, and make a triple-folded seam between them to produce a multi-width piece.  Amazing what technology can do these days, eh?
  • Fresh Dill is by far the best…. Go on, don’t be a cheapskate like me, be generous….
  • Parsley, preferably flat leaved – fresh – see Dill, above
  • Lemons – a couple will do
  • Olive – or half of one! A pimento stuffed one, halved, so that you can see the red in the middle of the green – it’s to replace the eye that you’ll scoop out with a teaspoon….. too much info?  Read on.
  • Salad leaves
  • Tomatoes, peppers, all sorts of other salady bits that you know all about and I’m too lazy to list
  • Butter, for inside of the parcel and to finish off the sauce
  • Platter on which it will be presented (needs to be long enough!)

Method:

  • Lay the whole gutted and cleaned fish, complete with all fins, head, tail, etc onto the foil that you have just made.
  • Lay lots of fresh dill and parsley together with a few teaspoons of water into the cavity of Sammy the salmon. Season it well and put a few blobs of butter into the cavity and also on the upper skin side of the fish. 
  • Cut slices from the lemon and lay that on top of the skin as well as inside the cavity.
  • Squeeze as much lemon juice (from the lemon you have left) into the cavity.
  • Seal up the foil really well, triple folding the seams ensuring that there are no leaks either into or out of the parcel (no, you can’t use tape).  Then wrap it up in another layer of foil to ensure that no seepage occurs at all, neither in nor out.
  • It HAS TO BE FULLY AND COMPLETELY SEALED.
  • Be careful not to pierce the foil as you lay it into the bottom tray of the dishwasher – fold the plate rack down first, if it can be done. 
  • Do not wash any dishes in the dishwasher this time – turn off/down the rinse-aid if you can (but you’ll need to remember to turn it back on again afterwards)….. and certainly don’t put in any detergent….
  • Set the dishwasher for the longest, hottest wash cycle (i.e. not a short one) and go have a cup of tea with a neighbour (or nip down the pub – probably preferable) whilst Delilah-the-delectable-dishwasher cooks Sammy-the-succulent-salmon to a turn for you.
  • When you stagger back from the pub, carefully take the package out of the dishwasher, being careful not to nick the foil on the prongs of the tray, as there will now be lots of hot fishy juice in the bottom of the foil parcel –a commodity that you are going to put to very good use later on.
  • Carefully and gently open up the parcel on a tray on a work surface (ensuring the juices don’t escape and run down your legs) and carefully lift out our lovely Sammy, probably on a long spatula or wooden spoon handle for support, ensuring that it stays in one piece. Don’t drop it.  DON’T DROP IT!
  • Tip it so that any juice runs into the foil or tray, then lay it gently onto the centre of the oval stainless steel or silver (bloody show-off!) platter, china plate or whatever you intend to present it upon.  Retain the juices in a bowl, cup or container for later.
  • So far, so good.
  • With a normal table knife, gently scrape away the skin all the way from the back of the gill opening to the root of the tail, exposing all of that one side, being careful not to damage the flesh. 
    • Give the skin to your dog or cat – they love being involved in this sort of recycling. They like to help.
  • If you are not squeamish (or even if you are), scoop the now opaque eye out of its socket with the handle of a teaspoon and replace it with the cut-off end of a pimento-stuffed olive.  If you are REALLY squeamish (coward), lay a sliver of pimento-stuffed olive on top of the eye – but it will not look so good. (Sammy should have gone to SpecSavers)
  • Lay lots of small assorted salad leaves all around the fish, together with peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, roasted pine-nuts, cashews and pecans (see ‘toasting your nuts’ in Tricks’n’Tips), tucking the leaves under a bit to make it look nice. (You don’t lay the fish onto the leaves initially because the skin still needs to be removed – and it might mess up the salad.)
  • Warm up the fishy juices (that are left in the foil and tray) in a saucepan with a little more butter and whisk as much as you possible can to add a little air, making it a little thicker, using a balloon whisk. Pour it over the exposed flesh of the fish just before being served and then sprinkle on the chopped fresh parsley.
  • Serve the salmon, still warm if possible, onto the plates of your guests in large chunks, removing the flesh from the bones by pulling the flesh down from the spine to the underside of the fish, with two forks, sliding it off the bones.     And dead impressive!
  • Don’t let ‘em in on the dishwasher secret till they’ve finished, and complemented you on y’cooking…..