Maybe its my age. Maybe its because I'm lazy. Or then again maybe its because I have found the secret to great cooking and eating. But one thing is for sure I'm becoming mildly obsessed by my slow cooker and slow cooked meat. Now and again as a cook you produce something truly original and delicious and to me there is no greater joy to be had from food and drink. Today has confirmed my love for the simplicity and beauty of really great food. Yes you can have your fancy techniques and Blumenthalesque gourmet creations and that has a place in gastronomy but I am genuinely stunned by the taste and texture of this honest and simple dish. The dish has 4 simple elements - meat, grain, vegetable / herb and liquid. Nothing else and I am soothed and heartened by this never ending culinary fact of life.
Because of its cheap low key ingredients it means you can try and buy the best quality. Take the lamb, its a breast of lamb which is one of the cheapest cuts and you can get it from the supermarket and it will cost around £2 - £3 for a joint, ready rolled. However, if you pay a pound or two more then you can get the best meat around - Gower salt marsh Lamb direct from the farm http://www.gowersaltmarshlamb.co.uk/ or from the best butcher in Swansea http://www.swanseaindoormarket.co.uk/content/public/stalls/55c.aspx
Using pearl barley in this case works a treat. It has a natural affinity with lamb, soaking up all the juices and releasing them slowly a forkful at a time. Peas, leeks and lettuce are a dream combination and cooking with lettuce will be a revelation - use gem lettuce and most certainly not iceburg. This is a low carb or GI dish as barley releases its energy much slower than rice, leaving you fuller longer and without it upsetting your insulin levels which leads to being overweight. A beautiful Welsh dish.
Slow cooked breast of lamb with pearl barley 'risotto'
If your lamb is ready rolled and tied then untie it and lay it skin side down on a chopping board. Drizzle a little olive oil, scatter a chopped garlic clove or two and a sprig of rosemary on the flesh, season and roll it back up and tie it. Season the outside. Cut in half lengthways and peel 6 shallots or small onions and peel 3 cloves of garlic. Make up 100ml vegetable or meat stock and have a small glass of red wine handy.
In a large non stick frying pan heat a little oil and slowly colour the shallots and garlic. Then add the lamb to the pan to colour all over. Transfer to your slow cooker or casserole dish and add the stock and wine to the hot pan to 'deglaze' and pour this in with the lamb. You can pop in a sprig of thyme if you wish. Cook for 2 hours.
Pearl barley 'risotto'
Add about 150g of pearl barley around the meat and cook for another hour - slow cooking is key here. When it is almost done add a finely chopped leek, a handful of frozen peas and a handful of shredded lettuce and cook for another hour, adding a little more liquid if it is becoming too dry. Take out the lamb and slice thickly and add a little shredded mint to the risotto. Spoon a little risotto onto the centre of the plate and add a slice of lamb on top. Alternatively, you could make the risotto separately and then have the juices from the lamb as a gravy.
Could anyone suggest a great slow cooked dish using belly or shoulder of pork?