It's a indecently gross thing to admit but there's something quite pleasurable about planning your next meal whilst evacuating your last and I have gained much inspiration whilst sitting on the throne. I would never admit this to my guests but lots of my dinner party menus have been formulated in the bathroom. Friends and family who read this now may have second thoughts about ever eating in my house again but I can assure you, I am scrupulously clean. When washing my hands, I use a nail brush and everything! One of my favourite books I like to take in with me is Stefan Gates' The Gastronaut which is not only a recipe book but also a compendium of adventures in food with some rather bizarre information and facts. It is also very funny albeit with a certain schoolboy humour, especially when he focuses on bodily functions which might not be everyone's cup of tea. However, as you might gather from the overall theme of this post so far, I find him hilarious.
There are many outlandish projects and recipes in the book that I would like to try out such as staging a Hawaiian Imu in my back garden for which Gates provides detailed instructions. This very basically entails digging a massive hole in the ground and then throwing a tonne of wood and heavy scrap metal into it and setting the lot on fire. Once the flames have died down and the embers are glowing red hot, you can then place huge cuts of meat or even a whole animal (pig, lamb etc) wrapped in damp sheets into the pit, cover with earth. You then return hours later, dig the lot up and gorge yourself on a carnivorous feast. This is just a brief overview but like I said, it's definitely something I want to do for a birthday or anniversary in the future. In the meantime, I recently decided to have a go at one of his more manageable projects which was his recipe for Ten Hour Roast Lamb.
The premise is very simple, take one leg of lamb, place in roasting tin with some chopped carrots, onions, garlic and water, cover and then bung in oven at a very very low temperature for 10 hours. I did stumble over two little points though, the first being at what temperature should I set the oven, how low exactly? Mr Gates didn't specify so I threw out the question to the twitterverse and the general consensus came back with 100c. Hoorah for the internet! The second point that caused me to frown was Mr Gates assertion that to get the best from this technique of slow cooking, you should baste the joint every half hour, using an alarm clock if you had to. "Sod that" I thought, I've got better things to be doing so I opted for an hourly baste. This then left plenty of gaps to chase little people around the house, do the washing, feed little people, mow the lawn, change little people's nappies and grab some quality time in the loo before my parents came over for Sunday dinner. What follows is a pictorial representation of one leg of lamb's journey roasting gently throughout the day. The lamb was English West Country, part-boned from Waitrose by the way.
7:00AM - just before going in
12PM - gravy forming nicely, kitchen smells heavenly, mouth starts to water
2PM - getting tangoed now (wouldn't look out of place at Lakeside), dribble starts to run down chin
So what was the verdict after all that effort and considerable torment? Well to be honest I have to say that the lamb didn't come out as tender as I expected. Yes it smelt fantastic, orgasmic even but after shovelling the first forkful into my mouth, an audible wet balloon fart went off in the back of my head. Everyone else at the table said it was beautiful but I was expecting a melting tender texture in the meat, like what you get from a good kleftiko for instance. And well, this lamb to me just seemed too tight given the very long cook. Nevertheless, we all polished off our plates anyway. I was so hungry that you could have put Charlie Chaplin's boot in front of me and it would have been scoffed in an instant. Then, later on in the evening a funny thing happened. I went back out into the kitchen and reached under foil which was covering the remnants of the lamb and placed a piece in my mouth, just to make sure. And well it pretty much dissolved on my tongue. Then it dawned on me, just how long did I let the leg rest for? Er for about a minute I think and there lies the rub. Never underestimate the importance of leaving meat alone to relax once you've taken it out of the oven, no matter how ravenous you may be. A joint this size would have probably benefited from 20 mins resting time at least. After 10 hours of cooking and drooling, it must take someone with great will power and resolve to manage that. I am no such man. I am weak. I hide in the toilet.