Butchery: Nose to Tail Lamb

IMG_6779Last night saw another great collaboration with local artisan butcher Steve Rossiter, as Loaf ran it’s first lamb butchery workshop. We started off the evening with a grand tour of the locally reared organic Texel lamb that Steve had brought along, pointing out the familiar and the unfamiliar cuts. Steve then got to work on one side of the lamb, showing us the traditional butchers cuts. Under his expert guidance, he then passed over his knives and saws to the students, who got to work on the other side of the lamb, taking off first the leg, then the breast, chump, loin, rack, shoulder, and finally the neck – all done very skillfully!

We then had a break to eat our starter – chump chops with cannelini beans and salsa verde, washed down with a nice Cote du Rhone. It was back to the butchery soon though as Steve demonstrated how to bone out all of the joints we’d created, giving us lots of tips on knife skills. He then demonstrated stuffing and rolling on the breast of lamb joint (stuffed with a nice dry spiced chickpea stuffing), and taught us all how to tie proper butchers knots. The students then picked the joint they’d like to take home, and stuffed and rolled it themselves. IMG_6801Finally we sat down to a beautiful slow cooked neck of lamb curry with basmati rice and cucumber raita. All in all it was a fantastic evening, and I learnt just as much as the students. Steve is an incredibly talented butcher who shares his huge knowledge and passion with gladness and patience. It makes me realise just how important it is to cherish the artisans we have around us, in any area, but especially in food.

Our next Butchery: Nose to Tail Lamb is on the 10th November, 6.30-9.30pm, and there’s still spaces – book now by emailing cookeryschool@loafonline.co.uk

A Tale of Two Roasts

I don’t know about you but I associate family weddings with many things – quaint village churches, posh marquees, champagne, trying to remember the names of your cousins, tipsy uncles, and oddly, the smell of pork fat dripping into an open fire. I think I was about 6 when I first saw a whole dead pig, and it was not in a happy state, a pole inserted all the way painfully through it’s body, gently turning as flames licked it’s glistening skin. A strange sight for a young city boy like me, but one I was going to have to get used to. Over the years I’ve seen many a pig roast (mainly orchestrated by my uncle Graham, a proper man of the countryside), at weddings, birthdays, anniversary’s and the like. Until now I’ve been merely a spectator (though I ‘commissioned’ one for my own wedding), but over the last two weeks I’ve got a bit more hands-on, to say the least.

IMG_0959Last weekend was my cousins 25th wedding anniversary , and they threw a spectacular weekend long country garden party, with the centerpiece being, you guessed it, a pig roast. This was no small roast thought, it was an epic 45kg, 10 hour long, 3.30am starting pig roast. As we relaxed around the fire on the Friday night with beer, sheesha, a digeridoo that no-one knew how to play, and anticipating tomorrow’s epic feast, I quizzed my cousin David and uncle Graham about the finer details of how they had affixed the poor swine to the spit, how long it would take, what kind of wood they were burning, and exactly how many spit-roasts they had done. ┬áThese questions weren’t just polite chitter-chatter though, I was secretly petrified about the following weekend – I had agreed to roast a whole lamb on a spit for my brothers 30th birthday, and wanted to know every last detail.

IMG_0971My cousin David had volunteered to do the early shift and got the pig on at 3.30am. As campers awoke from slumber, the pig turning duty was passed around the party-goers. I eventually got my shift at about 10.30am. After 10 hours on the spit, the pig was finally removed at 1.30pm. Together with David and Graham, I dived in to the carving enthusiastically, taking Grahams lead of course. The pork was served with heaps of salads, homemade apple sauce and bread rolls, and easily fed the 60 or so people in attendance, with heaps of leftovers.


Onto this weekend then and my first start-to-finish, nose-to-tail spit-roast. My brother and I picked up our ‘beyond organic’ devonshire lamb from the Real Meat Company at 7.30am, and headed straight out to rural Berkshire to get our fire started. IMG_1065Sadly it wasn’t quite nose-to-tail as they apparently remove the head as standard. When the fire was roaring, brother and I set about affixing the 20kg beast onto an ash pole. The spit went through the abdominal cavity and out through the anus – the pelvic bone gripping the pole nice and tight (so tight in fact, we needed a club hammer to force the pole through!). IMG_1073We then forced the hind legs under some battening that was fixed to the spit, and nailed each leg to the battening, followed by binding round some metal wire as extra security. The same was done with the fore legs, and the neck was screwed onto the spit. Finally we inserted a metal pipe through the rib cage on either side and wired this to the spit, and wired the back of the lamb to the pipe to keep it nice and close to the pole throughout, avoiding as much movement as possible as the spit turns.IMG_1082 I scored the lamb all over and then massaged it with olive oil, rosemary, and loads of Maldon sea salt. At 10.10 it finally went on the spit, slightly to the side of the fire, it’s belly covered in foil to prevent over-cooking. And there it stayed, turning slowly by hand (mainly mine, but also my mum’s, wife’s and my brother’s father-in-law), until 5.30pm when it was due to be served up. We’d taken off the foil around the belly at about 3.30 to colour up it’s middle and by the end it was looking proper tasty. My brother and I got stuck in with our carving knives and it easily fed the 40 or so guests, accompanying the new potatoes, abundant salad, and homemade mint sauce. It’s a great experience to have done it from start to finish, and I can’t wait for the next big family event so I can do it all over again!

The lamb soon after putting over the fire

Me (right) and my brother with the cooked lamb.

Lovely succulent lamb being carved