Spring Kitchen – Roasts
Ever since humans started to record history, the sharing of food has been central to celebrations of special events. And in so many places around this world, roasted meat is ubiquitous in this feasting. Whether done in ovens, embers, directly over fire, or pot roasted, cooking of joints of meat, and whole birds as a means of feeding large numbers of people continues the world over. I’ve never been one to engage in the ‘Sunday roast’ tradition; I’d far rather cook on a Saturday evening, and then enjoy the leftovers the following day. But for many people a weekend roast dinner is seen as central to the family week. Beef, lamb, pork, chicken, venison and game, everyone has their favourite showpiece to highlight their culinary skills.
Here I’ve included some of the roast dishes I like to cook, I’m something of a pot roast fan, especially if I can do it over a fire. So for my roast beef dish I’ve deliberately not included traditional oven roasted meat here, as it’s something I never cook, I like it very rare, prompting the inevitable debate of how you satisfy everyone at the table. Instead I’ve opted for brisket pot roasted in broth, it takes hours to break down the fat and interconnecting tissue into a joyful sweetness that melts in the mouth and is perfect for early spring.
While roasting meat can be delicious simply by the addition of salt, pepper, and fire, for me it has become more of an exploration of the cuisines of the world. Mutton or lamb takes on an umami quality with the classic Roman addition of anchovies, just as lemon, tomatoes, and parsley bring rose veal to life. Goat is something that’s very new to me, only really discovering it when I got to know Ruth Harris out at Harris Farm Meats in Strathaven, and it’s been a bit of a revelation; allspice and a little rum is a natural nod to the Caribbean love of goat.
However if you want something more traditional then lamb with rosemary is about as classic as it gets, the sweetness of the rendering fat giving a wonderful backdrop to the astringency of that hardiest of herbs. Another classic dish is pork with mustard and an added degree of sweetness. I’ve used rolled shoulder with wholegrain mustard and heather honey, but you could use maple syrup, or even Scottish birch syrup. If you prefer your pork to have crackling then pork belly is ideal, marinated for 24 hours to get a depth of flavour and then cooked very low, and very slow to melt in the mouth softness.
It would be impossible to consider spring roasts and not include roast chicken. Even my chicken gets the pot roast treatment, basically it becomes a one-pot meal as you can make a delicious soup with the cooking liquor, and serve the braised vegetables alongside. It’s also very forgiving of timings I find, a little over isn’t the end of the world, just make sure to take the lid off towards the end to get that fabulous crispy skin.
Third article in my Scottish Daily Mail ‘Spring Kitchen’ series