Sunday, 31 July 2011

New menu fun/Shepherds Pie recipe

Almost from the moment we implemented the current menu in the restaurant we began discussions around ideas for the next one. There are few things more exciting than talking about food, planning dishes, coming up with ingredients and combinations, thinking about how logistics in service or prep will work, considering crockery, working out how to get the maximum flavour out of any one component (possibly just me...) and we have spent a fair bit of our quieter times in the kitchen doing just that over the past few months.

Talking is fun. Doing is way more fun. This week we have begun to put into practice the ideas and theories, putting physical form to them, figuring out the recipes and playing with presentation. We have now begun putting on some of the new dishes as weekend specials to give them a test drive.

First up in the batting order is a trio of lamb that was one of the very first concepts that we discussed. The idea behind making this a trio is pretty much fuelled by greed, we love lamb in all its forms so why settle for cooking it in just one way when we can do three!? This particular version includes a roasted rump served medium rare, a slow braised shoulder croquette, a mini shepherd’s pie, mint jelly, celeriac puree and spinach. A variety of textures, tastes and techniques combined to make a dish greater than the sum of its parts.

It’s not all about the ideas and the recipes though. As a busy restaurant serving anything up to 150 covers in a night it is equally important that we are able to replicate the dish time and time again regardless of how busy we are. This is why the opportunity of a test run is so useful. Any change to routine or procedure can cause a hold up, as can taking time to figure out how exactly to do something. In this particular case we had a pretty good idea of how we would cook the rump, shoulder and garnish but we ended up experimenting with three different ways of heating up the shepherd’s pie (including a particularly explosive, ill-advised foray into the microwave) before deciding on the best method. This is relatively easy with just one new dish, we are pretty well dialled in on the rest of the menu as it has been on for a few months now, an entire new menu in one go is a pretty big push though.

We are in an exciting period right now and I’m looking forward to next weekend and another new dish or two to play with

Shepherd’s Pie

This is our take on a classic. While we use it as part of a taster plate of lamb but it could easily be a meal in itself. The basic recipe has been around since Victorian times and is traditionally a quick an easy way of using up leftovers from the Sunday Roast. This version though is one to take your time over and the pie is a worthy goal in its own right.

If you’re not a fan of offal then don’t be put off by the kidney and liver, they melt in at the beginning and add richness and depth to the whole dish without being discernable in the finished pie.

For the Lamb Stock
-          5kg lamb bones
-          4 large onions
-          6 carrots
-          1 head celery
-          2 leeks
-          750ml red wine
For the mash
-          Potatoes
-          Double cream
For the filling
-          2kg lamb mince
-          2 lamb’s kidney
-          1 lamb’s liver
-          3 carrots
-          2 sticks celery
-          2 onions
-          4 cloves garlic
-          2 tbsps Tomato puree
-          500 ml red wine
-          Bouquet Garni consisting of rosemary, thyme, bay

·         Make the lamb stock the day before – roast the lamb bones at 160C for about 40mins. Also roast the veg off for about 20 mins. Reduce the red wine by 1/3 then put all together in a pot and cover with water. Bring up to just under a simmer (ie. a trembling rather than bubbling surface) and leave on overnight.
·         Pass the lamb stock through a fine sieve and then reduce by about a ½
·         For the pie, first blanch the mince by covering in cold water and bringing up to the boil then taking off and draining. This will render off some of the fat and make the end result less greasy (we omitted this stage first time around and ended up warming the mix and hanging it in a muslin bag to drain off excess fat).
·         Sear the mince in a hot pan large enough to hold all of the filling in batches and remove to hold until later, lower the temperature on the pan.
·         Dice all of the veg (it’s worth taking some time over this, particularly with the carrots as they will show in the final result) and sweat them off.
·         Trim the liver and kidney and chop in a food processor. Add this to the vegetables with the tomato puree and cook off.
·         Add back in the seared mince and the red wine, reduce until nearly all absorbed then add half of the stock and the bouquet garni.
·         Cook slowly over several hours until sauce has reduced to almost nothing. Season with salt, pepper and a dash of balsamic vinegar.
·         While the filling is cooking reduce the rest of the stock to about half again.
·         Bake the potatoes on a baking tray with lots of salt until cooked through. Push through a drum sieve (or use a potato ricer) and beat in cream and seasoning until taste and consistency is correct.
·         To construct the pie – stir in some of the reduced stock to the hot pie mix to loosen it up and put into the pie dish. Top with hot mashed potato and place under a grill until browned.

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