Now we all know I’ve been venturing into this cooking malarkey, usually with the help of a recipe, but this Easter I decided to go it alone and try that whole creative thing. And in a crazy stroke of luck (and a bit of help from Mr Manning) it wasn’t a complete disaster.
The main ingredient for said success was lamb neck. Before Christmas, we took the plunge and ordered half a lamb from a local farm. We both love it, and it worked out quite an economical way to keep the freezer full of our favourite meat for months and months. We’ve had chops, leg, shoulder, but now we’re getting to the slightly less common cuts – hence the neck. With a bit of reading, I learned that neck is a cut that needs cooking long and slow, to melt down all the fat and make the bits of meat fall off the bone and sinew and other gunkey bits that you don’t really want to eat. If it was just me and the mister, I’d have been tempted to just slow cook the lot then have a dirty-fingers-feast where we picked the meat off ourselves. But I decided that since we’d invited a few family members to share it, it would have to be something a bit more civilised.
So, the slow-cooking was a must, we know that. I popped the neck into the slow cooker with bucketloads of stock, chopped onion and some seasoning, then left it while we went off for a good old ramble (round the Battle of Bosworth, site of King Richard III’s death, in case you wondered).
Seven hours later and the meat was falling off the bone, sending out yummy smells, but looking distinctly unappetising and leaving us wondering what to do with it next. I’d got hooked on the idea of doing something Moroccan or Indian inspired, full of deep spices to complement the richness of the lamb. We decided on the latter, helped by the fact that the whole Manning clan are hardcore fans of curry.
We started by stripping all the meat off the bones and sinews, leaving us with quite a generous portion of tender, fall apart lamb, almost the texture of pulled pork. We fried over more chopped onions, along with some of the onions from the slow cooker, as well as crushed garlic and chopped root ginger. In went the lamb, along with some madras curry paste. We’re not a massive fan of curry sauces in jars, but find that the Pataks spice pastes are actually great bases for curries and perfect to have on hand if you haven’t got time to make a curry paste from scratch.
The meat broke down even more, combining with the spice mix and onions to make a pungent, intense lamb mixture that I would happily have chucked into a bread roll and eaten, again similar to pulled pork. In the meantime we had roasted some pepper in the oven (Mr M’s idea, to bring out the sweetness). Once these were done, we chopped them up and added them, as well as tinned chopped tomatoes, tomato purée, and then some madras curry powder and some sugar to sweeten it. Simmer for 10-20 minutes and there you have it, a slow-cooked lamb madras-style curry – I imagine if I call it a madras someone somewhere will tell me it’s not an authentic madras. And no, maybe it wasn’t, but what it WAS was a spicy, rich and tasty lamb curry. Tender meat that literally melted in your mouth, but still with that distinctive lamb taste that I personally love in a curry.
Mr M did us some of his trademark turmeric-flavoured basmati rice, and we were all highly impressed by the lamb neck creation. It even got good feedback from the guests which has got to be a good thing. It may have been a lengthy process cooking the meat, but not difficult (especially if I can do it), and a great way of getting the best out of a largely ignored cut of meat.
So, confidence bolstered, expect to see a few more recipes as I spread my wings for the flight that is cooking. We’ve still got some hearts in the freezer – any suggestions?