Sunday 10 April 2016

Slow Food: Braised Lamb in Cider with Apple and Pear

This is a recipe I was asked to create as part of a campaign around “living slow”. This campaign couldn’t have come at a better time as I really do need to take time to slow down.
I’m always busy at work – my workload has at least doubled in the past year for various reasons -  I have a long and stressful commute (thank you, Southern Trains) and when I’m at home I'm running the house. I’m lucky to be able to afford a cleaner but between meal planning food shopping, cooking, tidying up, laundry, dishwasher, and all the little things – sending someone a birthday card, replying to emails, choosing a restaurant to go out to etc – I never seem to have any time to relax. On top of all that we are planning a wedding (there are so many additional things for the bride to think about than the groom!)- and linked to that, I’m now getting up even earlier before work to go for a run as I’m trying to lose weight for the wedding.
I’ve also found out recently that I have high blood pressure – some days it’s been extremely high. So I’m looking into ways to deal with that (including possibly medication) – but one thing that I know is important to reduce high blood pressure is to eat healthily, in particular eating less salt, and to do more exercise.
I took part in a ‘mindfulness’ session recently which was very relaxing – mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress and even mean employees take fewer sick days off work. But since then I haven’t felt like I’ve got the time to sit down and be mindful, even just for ten minutes – I am literally constantly on the go, and even when I am watching TV in the evening with my fiancé I am multi-tasking replying to emails or cutting out paper hearts for our wedding.
So before I keel over from stress I think it definitely is time that I ‘slow down and smell the roses’. I was asked by Simply Beef and Lamb to create a recipe for either beef or lamb, on the theme of ‘live slow’. You might already be familiar with their Red Tractor logo, which means you can find quality assured beef and lamb in the supermarket.

This doesn’t simply mean cooking something in a slow cooker – as well as being easy, one pot meals, it should be value for money and affordable, and reflect the ethos of ‘live slow’: stop living life in the fast lane and take it slow for a change.
That can relate to all aspects of our lives, whether that’s not rushing around trying to fit a million things in; spending time in nature or with friends; working on something handcrafted; travelling closer to home and enjoying the journey itself; sewing to repair or make your own clothing or being creative; and even spending your money wisely on things that really matter.
When I do feel able to push the ‘to do’ list to one side, I love to handmake greeting cards. I think (or hope) people really appreciate receiving something handmade as they know time and effort has gone into it. I also find it helps me switch off as I’m focused on cutting or stamping, and I enjoy feeling creative.
I also travel by train a lot – to work as I already mentioned, and when I’m lucky enough to get a seat I always read. Losing yourself in a good book is a great way to start the day or unwind after a day of work. I’m still a relatively new and pretty nervous driver, so when I have to travel longer distances on my own, I prefer to take the train. So again that gives me a lot of time to read; mobile reception is sometimes patchy so I resist the temptation to go on Facebook or reply to emails and instead pick up a decent-sized book I’ve been meaning to read but don’t want to carry on my daily commute (I do have a Kindle as well, but prefer actual books!). Recently I’ve been going to Salisbury by train a lot as it’s where my family live and also the nearest station to our wedding venue, and I always feel happy and relaxed to see the rolling Wiltshire countryside and the lovely views as we pull into Salisbury station. I’m sure that does help my blood pressure!

What does #slowliving mean to you and your family and what do you do to relax?
So finally onto the recipe. I was thinking about what slow living might mean in terms of cooking and came across the Slow Food movement, which promotes using local produce and eating less but better quality meat.
Image result for red tractorThinking about what was local, I started with my own garden. I’m hoping to get a small vegetable patch started (I was growing peppers last year but slugs ate them all) but at the moment don’t have anything other than herbs. But what a good starting point for a recipe – I have rosemary and a lot of mint, and mint is of course well known as a pairing for lamb.
So that was my starting point: making a recipe with lamb and mint. I decided to braise the lamb, as that is a slow method of cooking that is fuss-free, but obviously there had to be more to it than that. Apples are abundant in a lot of areas – my late grandmother had apple and pear trees in her garden – and cider is very English (and to some, slow living might mean relaxing in the garden with a beer or cider…). Apple and mint does apparently go together – I found several mojito recipes online using those flavours! So my recipe was starting to take shape: spring lamb, mint, rosemary, apples and pears, cider. I used Pear cider in this recipe, and decided that because lamb is quite expensive I would go with a cheaper, bulking out ingredient: pearl barley. So you don't even need to serve this with potatoes as it's really filling and tasty.

Making the apples and pears at the start takes a little while but you don't need to do much; then you bung everything else into one casserole dish, put it in the oven and that's it - leaving you more time to relax and take it easy! This is what I came up with: I hope you enjoy it.

Braised lamb in cider with apple and pear - an original recipe by Caroline Makes

To serve 2, you need:

1 tbsp. butter
2 apples, peeled and chopped
1 large or 2 small pears, peeled and chopped
3 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. raisins or sultanas

4 lamb rump steaks
500ml cider
half an onion, peeled and cut into chunks
100g pearl barley
half a leek, trimmed and sliced
sprig of fresh rosemary
handful of fresh mint

First make the apple and pear accompaniment and pre-heat the oven to 180C. Melt the butter in a pan, add the apple and stir. Cook for 5 minutes until it has started to soften then add the pear and the raisins. Add the sugar and 50ml water; stew, stirring occasionally, until the water has evaporated and the fruit has softened. This can be made in advance and kept in the fridge or made at the same time as the meal.

Rub the bottom of a casserole dish with a little oil and place the lamb in the dish. Cover with cider and add the onion and leek, pearl barley and herbs. Put the lid on the casserole dish and put in the oven for 1-1.5 hours, until the liquid has been absorbed and the lamb is cooked through.

Serve with the apple and pear mixture on the side.

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The apple, pear and raisin mixture

The ingredients for the casserole

Ready to go in the oven

Just cooked


Served with the apple and pear on the side

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