A French Meal

Gigot a la Cuillere is lamb that is roasted slowly in a low oven for seven hours, the meat becoming so tender that it can be cut with a spoon. It is a rich, special dish that proves to me that there is more to lamb than curry and poorly roasted cuts. The meat tastes like a stronger, moister rib of beef but any fattiness that normally pervades lamb is cooked away. The meat is surrounded by carrots, garlic, onions and leeks, all of which helps add extra flavour to not only the meat but also to the gravy that the slow cooking produces.
Cooking something for seven hours is a romantic notion, but would work amazingly well with any cut of meat, the low temperatures breaking down the fibrous flesh to produce a creamy meat.
Gigot a la Cuillere would be a fabulous dinner party dish because you put the meat in the oven at lunchtime and by the time your guests arrive, some seven hours later, you arrange the tender lamb and flavourful vegetables on a serving dish, strain the cooking juices, boil them rapidly to make a rich gravy and, short of making an additional side dish of perhaps Petits Pois prepared Parisian style or Potatoes Dauphinoise, everything is else is worry free.

Gigot a la Cuillere
Ingredients services 2 (to serve 4-6, double the ingredients, including the size of the lamb)
Half Leg Lamb (about 1.5kg)
2 Large onions, sliced
4 Garlic Cloves, peeled but left whole
2 Carrots, quartered longwise
200ml White Wine
200ml Stock (chicken preferably but I used vegetable stock cubes in this instance)

Preheat oven to 120c.
Season the lamb very well.
Brown the lamb on all sides in a very hot frying pan, or if your baking dish is ovenproof, use this on the hotplate. The meat does not brown during the cooking process so it is important to caramelise it at this stage for colour and also this adds lots of flavour to the final dish.
Once brown, place the lamb in baking dish (if you used the frying pan method for browning) and add all the chopped vegetables, stock and white wine. Season again and bring to the boil on the hotplate. Once boiling, cover with the lid or tinfoil and place in the oven for 5-7 hours (a smaller leg will require less cooking time).
After this time, the meat will be falling from the bone and all that you are required to do is arrange it, rustically, on a plate with the surrounding vegetables.
N.B. The lamb will be fine to rest for an hour if you make the Potatoes Dauphinoise, which are cooked at a higher heat than the lamb. Just make sure to keep it well wrapped in the foil, still in the baking tin.
To make the gravy, strain the cooking liquor into a saucepan and boil rapidly. Add a splash of brandy to enrich if you like. Check for seasoning once the gravy has reduced. It may need pepper but probably not salt.

Potatoes Dauphinoise:
1kg Potatoes, peeled and sliced to the thickness of a one pound coin (about 3mm)
130ml Double Cream
130ml Full Fat Milk
1 Clove Garlic, peeled and halved
Sprig of Thyme
25g Parmesan Cheese, grated (optional)

Preheat Oven to 150c
Layer half of the sliced potatoes into a lined and buttered brownie tin (about 10” x 10”). Season each layer.
Heat the milk, cream, garlic and Thyme in a saucepan and slowly bring to the boil. Remove from heat and let steep for a few minutes for the flavours to infuse.
Strain the milk/cream mixture into a jug, grate over some nutmeg.
Pour half of the mixture over the potatoes. Repeat with the remaining half of potatoes and sauce, season once more and sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese (optional).
Bake in the oven for an hour to an hour and a half, until a knifepoint pierces the potatoes easily.
Leave to stand for five minutes, cut into slices and serve.

Petits Pois Parisian Style (serves two)
Enough frozen Petits Pois for two people
1 Little Gem Lettuce, shredded finely
1 Small onion, finely diced
Chicken/Vegetable Stock, 100ml (cubes will do)
Pinch Sugar
Olive Oil

Sauté the finely chopped onion in about a tablespoon of olive oil until softly translucent but not mushy. You want to lose the harsh crunch.
Stir the frozen peas into the onion and oil mixture, making sure that they are well coated. Pour over the stock and bring to a light simmer. Stir in the shredded lettuce, cook for a couple minutes more until wilted and the peas are cooked. The stock should have been mostly absorbed. Taste for seasoning and add a pinch of sugar to enhance the flavour of the sweet, baby peas.
Serve with anything from the Seven Hour Lamb to Mashed Potato and Fish Fingers!

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