I have never cooked a lamb roast before. For most of my life a disliked the smell of lamb, and could not be in a house that was cooking it. I just recently, for some unknown reasons have fallen in love with lamb chops, which my husband roasts in the oven. For several months I’ve been thinking of other ways to use lamb. Greek shish kabobs came to mind, however, I haven’t found a receipt I like yet. While shopping at the store, I saw they had a lamb roast on sale, and into the basket it went.
Off to the office and to the bookshelf with my early Cookery Booke’s. I spent several days hemming and hawing over the different receipts in my books. I went online to Project Gutenberg’s and found what I wanted, “Leg of Mutton with Oysters.” This receipt is from the The English Art of Cookery, by Richard Briggs, 1788. I liked it because it would give me the opportunity to try wrapping a roast with paper and then frothing it. Also it had oyster stuffed inside and, in this household, we all love oysters.
While looking for the receipt, I received a call from the blacksmith, he had my antique andirons fixed and ready to be picked up. I found these andirons in Connecticut, thanks to good friends, and they had hooks in the front for a spit so one could roast in front of the fire. They needed to be repaired and the hooks were in bad shape.
Russell Pope did a great job of fixing them and I cannot wait to use them. You see them here, on the right, in front of the beams and wood floor that will go into the new kitchen. I bought the andirons for the new cooking fireplace. However, it won’t be done for a month (OH, PLEASE!) so why not use them in the small fireplace? Well, it turned out that there was a very good reason to not use them. My daughter was coming for dinner and she was bringing her black lab. Visions of a dog with a burnt tongue and half a roast missing ran through my head. The tin kitchen will have to do.
In many of the cookbooks, they have receipts of sauces, so I quickly looked for something to use for the lamb. I came up with To make Roasted Gravy from The Complete Practical Cook by Charles Carter, 1730. Now when it comes to gravy, Allan is the gravy master. I handed him the job. First he had to shuck the oysters for the roast, and to halve them, while we were preparing. The freezer and shelf are well-stocked with stock and anything else he might need. While I was at it, I let my daughter be in charge of the roasted asparagus.
With everyone busy, I began working on the roast. It came tied up and had fat on one side, so I larded the other side with bacon lard. I love it when I can use my larding pin; it is such a nifty kitchen tool.
With the larding complete, I cut holes into the roast to stuff the oysters in. Holey moley, oysters are slippery. Trying to push them in was a struggle. I ended up using a small melon baller to scoop them up and in then quickly wrapped the roast in paper before they slid out. I had given much thought to the paper I would use to wrap the roast. Back in the 17th and 18th Centuries, they would use something like our watercolor paper. Well, I don’t have a piece of paper that large, so I could use a brown paper bag or parchment paper. Again I had a vision; this time of a paper page in flames. Okay, parchment paper. I know that will work, and I’ll have no worries with it going up in flames. One of the reasons you use paper on a roast is to have it act like a pressure cooker to speed up cooking. Now most receipts are feeding a large amount of people, not so in my house. However, I wanted to try the technique.
Once again I enlisted Allan, as he is very good at tying a roast together. And I wanted to make sure the oysters stayed in. After it was tied we put it on the skewer in the tin oven. The fire was ready and throwing plenty of heat.
The roast was just over 2 ½ pounds and I knew it would cook quickly, I turned it every five minutes, and each time the juice poured into the bottom of the tin oven. I had a container underneath to save all the juices for adding to the sauce Allan made. After 20 minutes, we took off the paper and I began basting every few minutes as I turned the roast. By now the oysters were baked inside and not falling out. Then came the fun part, frothing. Would it work? I filled a shaker with flour and spices and put it on as I once more turned the roast. (Oh, for a spit jack.)
Yes, it did work. If I had a bigger roast I would have had more frothing. However, I was really afraid I’d ruin the roast by overcooking. Everyone here wants rare meat. You can see just a hint of froth starting on the left.
I will try this again when I have cooking classes and many more mouths to feed.
With Allan’s sauce mixed with the drippings, he carved the roast. It was done to perfection. Now, how would it taste? Well, it was spectacular; the oysters added a wonderful depth of flavor, and the basting gave crispness to the edges.
My family was delighted with the meal, and I could not have been happier with the experience of frothing.
I wonder if I can find an 18th Century receipt for shish kabobs?