Lamb’s one of my favorite meats, and (life often being unfair), it’s also one of the most expensive. I managed to get a good deal on a 3 lb leg of lamb, and spent the weekend coming up with ways to use it. Fortunately, lamb’s a popular meat in many cultures. Can you get any more separated than China and Wales?
My first experiment comes from Ken Hom’s A Taste of China: The Definitive Guide to Regional Cooking. I’d been wanting to pick up this book for a while; Ken Hom shows up in one chapter of Garlic and Sapphires and I was interested to see what his cookbook was like. I finally got my chance during a conference in Bethlehem, PA where I found it sitting neglected on the shelf at the Moravian Book Shop. There are a lot of interesting things to try in it, but this one really caught my attention – I’d never even considered steaming lamb before.
Lamb Steamed With Spice-Flavored Cornmeal (from A Taste of China: The Definitive Guide to Regional Cooking)
- 2 and 1/2 oz yellow cornmeal
- 2 tsp five-spice powder
- 2 tsp ground roasted Sichuan peppercorns
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 lb lean lamb
- 3 tsp green onions, finely chopped
- 2 tsp garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
- 1 tbs rice wine or dry sherry
- 1 tbs light soy sauce
- 2 tsp sesame oil
Combine cornmeal, five spice powder, ground Sichuan peppercorns, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Mix and set aside.
Cut lamb into thin strips (about 1/4 inches thick by 3 inches long) and combine with onions, garlic, ginger, wine, soy sauce, and sesame oil.
Coat lamb pieces with cornmeal mixture and gently steam over medium heat for 30 minutes.
This is a good recipe to use on odds and ends of lamb you might have left over, since the steaming softens them nicely. It pays to watch the amount of Sichuan peppercorns you use: they’ve got a strong flavor and they can easily overwhelm the lamb, which comes out mild and sweet. We had ours with some dumplings and dandan noodle.
My second project is from another castoff from the PA Renaissance Faire: Salmon Publishing’s Favourite Welsh Recipes. This is actually part of a three-pamphlet set: one for England, one for Scotland, and one for Wales. All have worthwhile recipes. Here in the US, we often don’t remember that Wales has a distinct cultural identity as vibrant as that of Scotland or Ireland, and as a West Coast boy raised in the shadow of the Cascades, I found its rugged landscape to boast some of the best sightseeing in the UK (especially Snowdonia). Not only that but it’s a great place for a military history buff, with plenty of well preserved castles, built by Edward I when he “added” Wales to the Kingdom of England (at Caernarvon you get a castle AND a Roman fort), and the regimental museum of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, among whose items is an officer’s coat worn at Bunker Hill in 1775.
All that rugged terrain makes for some tasty lamb (even celebrity chef and general know-it-all Dr. William Kitchiner mentions it in his 1830 magnum opus The Cook’s Oracle). When you combine it with leeks and barley, you get a good solid working class meal.
Monmouth Stew (from Favourite Welsh Recipes)
- 1 and 1/2 lbs lamb
- 1/8 cup flour
- 4-6 leeks (white parts only) washed and cut into rings
- 1/4 cup pearl barley
- 4 sprigs parsley, 1 sprig thyme, and 1 bay leaf tied together
- salt and black pepper
- 1 pint lamb stock
- butter or oil for frying
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat lamb in seasoned flour and fry in butter or oil for one minute. Add leeks, fry for 1 more minute, and then transfer everything to a casserole dish. Add barley, herbs, and seasoning. Pour stock over all. Cover, bring to the boil, and cook in oven for about 2 hours. Remove herbs before serving.
I found that this is an excellent crock pot recipe. Just pop all the ingredients in and let it cook all day while you get on with your life. It also tastes even better the second day, as Cat’s envious coworkers can attest.