Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Family dinner

I've just returned from a family trip to Queenstown. With five of us there, I decided it would be a good chance to make one of the dishes that are less suitable for a single person: apricot-stuffed forequarter (p123). So I stayed behind last night as the others went off for a swim, working in the kitchen to have dinner ready when they got back.

I didn't actually use forequarter; since I didn't know of a butcher in Queenstown, I had to rely on what was available in the local New World. There were no boned lamb forequarters, so I ended up with a couple of boned shoulder roasts instead.

The unit we were staying in in Frankton is well-supplied with basic kitchen utensils, but I guess they don't anticipate that you'll be cooking big roast dinners while you're on holiday, so I didn't have all the equipment I'd have had at home.

This didn't present any major difficulties, though. I prepared some veges, placed them in an assortment of dishes, and got them into the oven to begin roasting. This done, I turned to the apricot stuffing.

It's a very simple stuffing - just breadcrumbs, chopped dried apricots and a little grated ginger. It would have taken only a few moments if I'd had my food processor, but even using a grater for the breadcrumbs and chopping the apricots with kitchen scissors, it didn't take too long to mix up.

Since there's no egg or anything to bind the stuffing mixture, I wondered how well it would hold together. It seemed ok though, as I opened up the shoulder roasts and spread the apricot mixture over, before rolling the roasts up like a sponge roll and tying them in place with string.

I've never been very good at any kind of cooking that requires you to be tie things up in neat little parcels. I'm not really sure of the proper way to do it, so I just kept adding more string until my roasts looked reasonably tidy and likely to hold together.

I placed each roast in an oven bag, (to avoid dirtying an oven I had no intention of cleaning) and placed them on a tray in the oven, rearranging the various veges to make everything fit, and turning the temperature down to 160 degrees.

The recipe indicates a one-hour cooking time for a 1kg forequarter roast. I had two shoulder roasts, one around 700g, one about 850g. I figured cooking them for an hour would probably be long enough.

By the time my hour was up, everyone was back from the pool and very hungry. I placed the roast vege on the table and began slicing the larger of the two roasts. The end pieces were just slightly pink, and as I cut further into the roast, (completely mutilating it with a crappy knife) the lamb became pinker and pinker. I like a little pink on my lamb, but the centre was still raw. I put this piece aside to go back in the oven.

The second roast was edible right through - though a bit pink for Dad's liking - so only the very centre of the larger roast went back in the oven. The rest I sawed into rough pieces as best I could and piled it onto a plate for everyone to help themselves.

My dinner was a mixed success really. Everyone was happy enough with their meal, but the vegetables were not particularly successful, having been cooked at a much lower heat than usual, and the potatoes in particular were very dry. As for the meat: pieces of it were very good, but not all of it. The cut I got seemed to be a bit gristly, so some of what was on my plate wasn't that pleasant. Any pieces without the gristle were moist and delicious, and the apricot stuffing was very tasty.

If you're going to have a go at this one, get the right cut of meat (you might have to go to the butcher for it). The rarer pieces of meat were nicest, in my opinion, but that's a matter of taste, so adjust the cooking time to suit what you like. Mine was well-done on the outside and underdone in the middle - I suppose at least that way you can accommodate everyone's preferences!

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