Let me set out my stall nice and early here. I subscribe to the ‘Craft’ school of cookery. Please don’t confuse this with the similarly named conglomerate, I don’t subscribe to them. My ‘subscription’ to craft rather than science is based on my own laziness rather than any dark art that I have evolved or inherited over the years. As any regular reader will know, I tend to throw things together based on what I think should work. The results are not always perfect. In fact, the results are often pretty disappointing. My supportive family sits around the table lying to me. “No, it really is pretty good.” “I love the chewy texture of the meat.” “Actually, I like my vegetables nice and watery.”
It’s time to put science to the test. Can it really help me create a better class of Spiced Leg of Lamb? I have been forced into this test by my friend Stefan over at Stefan Gourmet. He sent me a gift of a food thermometer along with a couple of challenges. The first being to cook some meat using the device. Where’s the craft in that? I suppose the craft comes from the spice mixing and marinading.
Here’s the ingredients
- 1 leg of Wicklow lamb
- 3 single bulbs of garlic or a complete bulb of regular garlic
- 6 to 8 slices of ginger
- 1 teaspoon of cardamom (after podding)
- 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon of turmeric
- 1 stick of cinnamon
- Juice of a lime
- 2 chilis (your call on the heat levels / variety of chili)
- 250 ml of goats’ yoghurt (or regular cows’ if you prefer)
- 4 onions (optional) for roasting
First get the cardamom out of the pods.
Then toast the cumin and fennel seeds until the house is full with the aromas.
Put the cumin, mustard and fennel seeds, the cardamom and the cinnamon into a mortar and apply the pestle until ground. Slice the chilis, keeping or discarding the seeds depending upon your desire for heat.
Chop the ginger.
Put the ginger, chili, yoghurt, turmeric, lime juice and the ground spices into a blender. Blend until blended.
Put some deep slashes in the meat. Take time to photograph this step.
Put the leg of lamb into a big plastic bag. Pour the mixture over the lamb, keeping it inside the bag.
Tie a knot in the bag and ease the mixture into every crevice (of the meat). Leave the lamb in the bag and place it in the fridge for at least 4 hours. Overnight would be better. No science here. Take the lamb out of the bag and put it on an oven rack, over the now roughly chopped (optional) onions.
Now comes the science bit. Stick the probe into the meat. set the dial to alarm at 60º C.
The meat took about an hour and a quarter to reach the desired temperature in a 200º C oven. I let it rest for ten minutes before carving.
This little experiment in the appliance of science to cooking has given me pause for thought. The meat was perfectly cooked. No guesswork needed. No having to explain to family that it needs to go back in for 20 minutes to ‘finish off’. Maybe there is something to this science lark after all.
I served it with homemade naan breads, spinach cooked with garlic and balsamic vinegar and those oven onions that cooked below the lamb. I have learned that the crafty thing to do is to apply the science to the cooking. What do you think?