Our home for the weekend was a field in Malvern, a little encampment centred around an enormous round marquee. Friday night brought tent pitching, chickpea and spinach stew cooked on the fire ... beer, more beer and heart to hearts. By the time tea arrived on Saturday morning work was a mere twinkle in my eye.
But on the the important stuff. The lamb was cooked over a huge fire spread into a halved oil drum. The spit was elegantly crafted from scaffolding poles ... which were inelegantly rammed into the lambs with a sledge hammer and pure effort of will.
I get told off for saying things like this, but cooking lamb stew which could feed thirty is really really not that much more difficult to cooking it for four of you. The principle remains the same ... make stock with the bones of the lamb, remove them, reduce it ... and add lentils, spices, chopped tomatoes and diced cold lamb, then bring the thing slowly up to a simmer again and serve it with hunks of bread.
More details then ...
2 lamb carcasses
2 heads celery roughly chopped
4 onions roughly chopped
Bulb of garlic peeled and chopped
2 kg red lentils
4 cans chopped tomatoes
Into a very large pot place one of your stripped lamb carcasses, add the onions, celery, carrots and garlic, cover with water and place on the fire for around 90 mins – it should be on a good rolling boil for the last 30. It’s worth mentioning here that our ‘stripped’ carcass in fact included the whole haunch of one of our lambs which had been a little too pink for comfort the previous night.
Set about the rest of the cold lamb from the night before. Our ravening hoards had been less than thorough, and I managed to rescue a very large mixing bowl full of diced meat to add to the stew.
Once the stock is ready, the hard part – removing the bones. On a small scale this is a relatively simple task, involving perhaps some straining, maybe a colander or a slotted spoon ... and perhaps even a second pot. On a large scale it involved four people, a washing up bowl, two cheap kitchen knives and a set of 99p bbq tools form Asda. And a ladle. It’s a miracle we emerged unscathed.
Into the stock then went the lentils, the diced lamb, the chopped tomatoes and the spices. I turned my attention to stripping the stewed haunches of all the remaining meat, before adding this to the pot. If I’m honest there was an awful lot more meat to be had, but the numbers and the awkwardness of dealing with the lamb with very few tools ... not to mention the effects of the previous evening slightly dampened my enthusiasm.